Book: Red Queen (Red Queen #1)
Author: Victoria Aveyard
I was quite nervous about reading this book, first off because it had been quite hyped but also because I had heard from some bloggers that it didn’t live up to the hype. I’m quite glad that I heard that though, because it meant that my expectations were lowered and so I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the book. I’m not going to say it was one of my favourites, because it wasn’t but I feel like it was a solid start to the series and has definitely left me excited for reading the second book in the series, which is basically what I’m looking for in a series starter. Here is a short synopsis of the book:
This is a world divided by blood – red or silver.
The Reds are commoners, ruled by a Silver elite in possession of god-like superpowers. And to Mare Barrow, a seventeen-year-old Red girl from the poverty-stricken Stilts, it seems like nothing will ever change.
That is, until she finds herself working in the Silver Palace. Here, surrounded by the people she hates the most, Mare discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy the balance of power.
Fearful of Mare’s potential, the Silvers hide her in plain view, declaring her a long-lost Silver princess, now engaged to a Silver prince. Despite knowing that one misstep would mean her death, Mare works silently to help the Red Guard, a militant resistance group, and bring down the Silver regime.
But this is a world of betrayal and lies, and Mare has entered a dangerous dance – Reds against Silvers, prince against prince, and Mare against her own heart …
First off, I would like to say that this book is definitely a slow starter. It took me a few chapters (at least 5 or 6) before I really got into the book and it wasn’t helped by the fact that some of the chapters were a little overly long, but once I got into it I really enjoyed it and the last few chapters were so twisty and decidedly left me on the edge of my seat.
I liked Mare, although I hate her name, all I could think about when I saw her name was the female horse! Still I liked her sharp mouth, it’s one of the things I love in a heroine, I also liked that she was quite feisty and seemed quite ordinary aside from her silver power, she’s not the smartest, she’s not overly beautiful, she’s morally dubious as a thief and it was refreshing to read about a heroine that wasn’t perfect. I did find her inner monologues could be a little repetitive though, she had a tendency to repeat the same phrases over and over again and she had a lot of indecisive tendencies, which could get a little annoying but overall I did like her and I thought her silver power of controlling electricity was really cool. I wasn’t keen on the fact that she always seemed to rely on other people to save her, she gets herself into trouble and instead of being able to take care of it herself, she relies on other people (usually Cal or Maven to save her), I’m hoping this changes in the next book and she becomes more self-sufficient. I did like how much she loved her family and how much she sacrificed for them.
I thought the Queen was a great villain and the fact that her power was being able to get inside people’s minds just added to her creepiness, I thought that was a really cool power and a great choice of power for a villain. I’m looking forward to hopefully seeing more of her in the sequel.
I loved the silver abilities, that was one of my favourite parts of this book, because they were all so cool, you had people who could control water, fire, minds, metal, people with telekinesis, people who could control plants…..the list goes on, there were so many cool powers in this book and I loved that! I did find though that it was quite difficult to remember all of the High Houses and the different abilities they had and I had to keep flicking back to remind myself of what a certain High House’s power was, I could have done with a chart or something to keep track!
I also loved that Mare had a present family, so often in YA fiction, especially in fantasy, the hero is either an orphan or their family is just absent most of the time, so it was really nice that we got to see all of Mare’s family and her interactions with them.
Red Queen is definitely not the most unique book ever, there are definite similarities to other YA books, I could definitely spot a few similarities to The Hunger Games, with the arenas and the forced conscription at 17 and the whole Mare being the face of the Scarlet Guard’s rebellion thing, plus there were aspects of Mare’s personality that kind of reminded me of Katniss. I’ve never read The Selection, but the whole Queenstrial thing kind of seemed like it was inspired by that, all of the High Houses seemed kind of Game of Thrones-esque, basically it didn’t seem wholly original, but to be honest, I didn’t really mind all that much because the elements which seemed similar to other YA books were all elements that I liked, so whilst it bothered some people, I can’t say it bothered me all that much. All fantasy/dystopian books nowadays have similarities with each other so if it bothered me every time I saw similarities in those books then I’d probably never read any of them and that would be a shame because there are so many great books out there in those genres, so who cares if they share some similarities?
I wasn’t all that keen on the romance, there seemed to be a sort of love quadrangle going on here, with Mare’s friend from home Kilorn appearing to have feelings for her (though you can kind of tell that he doesn’t really have a chance in hell and it is so cliche the male best friend secretly having feelings for the main female) and her being betrothed to Maven (the younger prince) and having feelings for Cal, it was all kind of confusing and to be honest, I didn’t really feel any connection between Mare and any of her guys. Also I hate the whole two brothers in a love triangle with the same girl trope, I think it’s really cliche, and I didn’t really like that all three of these guys were in love with Mare when there didn’t seem to be any particular reason why. However, despite my dislike for the romance in the book, I did enjoy the dance scene with Cal and Mare and I thought that was quite sweet. I’m hoping that perhaps the romance might be better done in the next book. I mean you would think that with three potential love interests, I would ship something, but I shipped nothing! I hope that this changes in the next book. I did however like that romance didn’t take over the book as it does in some YA books and was more in the background, that I very much appreciated! Plus I loved that in the end she decided that there were more important things to her than romance and didn’t chose anyone, I know it’s not going to last and she will probably eventually be paired off with someone but I liked that here at least, she decided that some things are more important than guys.
I also wasn’t keen on all the girl-on-girl hate in this book. I so much prefer it when I see strong female friendships in my YA books, but there wasn’t really a strong female friendship in this book. The two main girls Mare and Evangeline hate each other and whilst I understand this must be for plot purposes, I find it so much better when two powerful girls band together, rather than going at each other’s throats (though I do have to admit, I really enjoyed the scene where they fought each other, that was really cool). I feel like there could be potential for a friendship between Mare and Farley, so I hope this explored in the next book. I’d also like it if Evangeline’s character was expanded on, so that we could understand better why she is the way she is and why she hates Mare so much.
I feel like the world building could have been better, we don’t really get much explanation as to how the world came to be, or how come the Silvers have the abilities they do and the Reds don’t, I feel like it may have something to do with a genetic mutation but I’m not really sure and it wasn’t explained very well. Or how come Mare’s ability somehow makes her special? How is it that her having red blood but silver abilities makes her stronger than them? I’m hoping some of these questions will be answered in the next book.
I felt like the revolution aspect could have been done better. For a revolutionary group, The Scarlet Guard weren’t exactly very well organised and you couldn’t exactly tell if they were a real threat or not because they were portrayed as both small and helpless and a big threat and the same time, which is kind of contradictory. I’m hoping that in the next book The Scarlet Guard will have more of an impact than they did in this book, their rebellion didn’t seem very well planned, so I’m hoping in the next book, they will be better organised and make more of an impact. I’d like to see more of Farley in the next book, from the little we saw of her character, she intrigued me and I like to see her be more developed in the next book.
I did like that all of the characters were morally grey in some way, you couldn’t exactly tell what any of their motivations were and as Mare repeats over and over again “anyone can betray anyone”(although despite repeating this over and over again, she never seems to learn her lesson until right at the end), so you’re never quite sure which characters you can trust and I have to admit the ending was a big surprise. I did not see it coming at all and I liked that because some of the other plot twists were a little predictable.
The setting was a little weird to me, if only because it seemed like a medieval world at first and then they had all this technology, like the fancy video screens and the cameras and Cal’s motorbike and trains and yet the world still has an old style monarchy with balls and kings and queens and castles, but it worked quite well and I liked the inclusion of technology into a fantasy world as you don’t often see that in fantasy, so it was quite refreshing.
I enjoyed the political and moral aspects of this story such as exploring the role of war and whether or not we really need war and the division between the oppressed Reds and the ruling silvers can easily been seen in our society, in issues such as racism, homophobia or gender inequality and I liked that because it’s great when you can see issues of your own society reflected in the books you read.
I wasn’t really sure what to think of either Cal or Maven, I don’t feel like I got a real sense of either one’s personality, but I have to say that Maven intrigued me more, as he seemed more mysterious and you could tell that there was more to him than met the eye, whereas Cal seemed more like the stereotypical prince. I liked the relationship between the two brothers though, it was interesting and I thought Aveyard did well showing the tension between the two of them. I actually preferred Kilorn to either Cal or Maven, but he wasn’t as much of a presence in the book as they were, which was a shame, I’d like to see more of him in the next book.
I really liked Mare’s mentor Julian, he was the old, wise, scholarly figure that all fantasy books had and he was one of the few kind Silvers in the book. I loved his Silver ability, I thought it was really cool, if slightly scary that he was basically able to hypnotize people into doing what he wanted. It’s not really clear what happens to him in the end, but I hope he survives and will appear in the next book.
I liked Aveyard’s writing, it was nice and easy to read and there are some very beautiful quotes to be picked out from this book and there was also quite a bit of snarky dialogue which I liked. There were also some very engaging action sequences that kept me hooked, though I wish these had been spread more evenly through the novel rather than mostly at the end because I feel like that would have made me enjoy the book more. I also felt like some of the chapters were a little long sometimes and this slightly hampered my enjoyment of the book as I would occasionally have to leave off in the middle of a chapter, which I don’t like as it means I lose my flow.
I can tell that the author is very trigger happy as lots of characters die in this book, which I feel like worked for this book given the context of war and rebellion and I never really got all that attached to the characters that died, but it’s something to be aware of for future books I guess, since I reckon more characters will probably be killed off and in later books it will probably be ones that we are more attached to.
Overall, whilst I may have had some issues with the book, I generally did really enjoy it, especially the last 30% or so was really riveting and I liked the writing and the general premise and as a first book, it was solid and whilst the world development and some of the character development may have been weak, it was enough to keep me interested and wanting to read the next book, in which I’m hoping the characters will be fleshed out more and the world will be developed more, but after that ending, I’m definitely excited to see what happens next!
My Rating: 3.5/5
The next book I will be reviewing is Rebel of The Sands by Alwyn Hamilton, which I’m really enjoying so far!