Title: Red Queen (Red Queen #1)
Author: Victoria Aveyard
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Genre: Fantasy, Science Fiction
Format Read: Paperback, 383 pages
Publication Date: 10th February 2014 by Orion (Hachette Australia)
Synopsis: “This is a world divided by blood – red or silver.
The poverty-stricken Reds are commoners, living in the shadow of the Silvers, elite warriors with god-like powers.
To Mare Barrow, a 17-year-old Red girl from the Stilts, it looks like nothing will ever change.
Then Mare finds herself working at the Silver palace, in the midst of those she hates the most. She quickly discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy Silver control.”
Red Queen did a lot of things – it disappointed me and impressed me all at once. I’m totally aware that makes no sense at all but bare with me here. I was disappointed because I expected a unique story that would push aside all the cliches I’ve read in YA fantasy novels. Unfortunately it did not. But here’s the thing – once I came to terms with the knowledge that Red Queen may be a little cliche, I lowered my expectations, started to enjoy it a lot more and realised it was actually a great story. And it was a great story because it took all the usual cliched tropes from novels I’ve read previously and made it better. All the issues I’ve found within the books that Red Queen reminds me of were fixed in this book. It was like Aveyard took all these issues to mind and made sure she improved upon it in her own novel.
Mare Barrow is from the Stilts, a poor red blooded town near the summer palace of the royal family. The world she lives in is divided by the colour of ones blood – with red being normal and silver being the upper class. Over the course of history, the silver blooded had evolved and gained powers along the way, making them a formidable ruling party that the reds fear. The unlucky ones born into red blood are basically the lower class workers hired to do the silver’s bidding, and ones without a job when they turn eighteen are conscripted into the war waged between silvers. Mare was one of these reds heading to the war, until she finds herself with powers of her own. Having exposed her impossible powers in front of all the high silver families, the queen and king decides to hide Mare in plain sight by announcing her as a lost silver heir and betrothing her to their second son, Maven. But it’s not all fun and games for Mare, everyone at court is hiding a secret and everyone is fighting for power.
During the first half of the book, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’ve read this story before. When I thought about it, it felt like a mesh up of The Queen of the Tearling (world), The Selection (vying for the prince’s hand in marriage), Red Rising (society divided by blood) and The Darkest Minds (powers). Oh and there’s some pretty awesome powers that remind me of X-Men. I couldn’t enjoy myself when until I realised that while the novel was very similar to other books, most of the issues I had previously were vastly improved. I went into the second half of the book with a much more open-mind and found myself loving the story.
Mare is your typical heroine – she’s tough, she’s stubborn and loves her family fiercely. When she finds herself as the silver’s puppet, Mare doesn’t just sit still but she works to double cross them by joining a rebel group set out to liberate the reds from silver rule. Her personality is very reminiscent of Katniss in the way that she’s strong willed and willing to do something to better the course of life for her people. She never lost sight of who she was, even when she’s surrounded by powerful people watching her every move. I really enjoyed her character – she’s cliched but you know what – it worked!
The romance…it was odd and I would say it could have potentially been a love square? Most of the time I didn’t know where Mare was heading with her heart, but let me just say not once did I want to scream in frustration because of her indecisiveness. That’s because romance wasn’t exactly at the forefront of the story at all. Mare’s decision between the two princes was actually chosen pretty logically, and her rival may be cliched but it was not based on ‘love’, which was a nice surprise. I’m ashamed to say that I was rooting for Mare’s choice…and that twist…I DID NOT SEE IT COMING. I only have myself to blame for that because when I said I went into the second half with a very open mind, I meant I went in with a VERY open mind. Seriously, I wasn’t even thinking clearly and that twist at the end completely floored me.
The only thing I had a problem with was the history of this world. Red Queen is similar to The Queen of the Tearling. It’s set in the future but the world has regressed and taken up a monarchy once more. However, many technological impacts of our current world can be found there too. This was never fully explored and I would have liked more information about how the silvers developed their blood and powers.
Overall, I had my doubts with Red Queen, but ended up loving it! If you can look past the similarities and cliched tropes, then you’ll find yourself liking this book as well. I cannot WAIT to find out what happens next.
Thank you to Hachette Australia for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review.