Red Queen – Victoria Aveyard: A Review
At this point, dystopian YA needs something different, and I’m not sure Red Queen was quite different enough.
Mare Barrow is a Red. Being a Red means certain things for Mare. All people are divided by their blood: Red or Silver. Those with Silver Blood are the elite, they are royals or nobles, they look down on Reds. Why? Because those with silver blood have special abilities: different, depending on your family, or ‘house’. Think Heroes but everyone knows about them and there are many more.
Red blooded people (the majority of the population) are workers. They live in poverty or near enough to it. If a red doesn’t have a job at 18, they are sent off to war – to fight (and die) under the command of the Silvers. Mare is 17 and does not have a job – she lives off stealing: pickpocket-ting her way through life, until she is sent away to war. One evening she comes across a stranger outside a tavern who notices her trying to steal from him and ends up walking her home. The stranger (Cal) says he works at the palace, for the royal family, who are, of course, Silvers.
The next day, Mare gets a visit from a Palace worker who takes her to the Palace for a job. Low and behold, the person who she met at the Tavern is actually a prince and today is the day he will be choosing his future queen. Mare watches as the Silver girls compete for Cal’s affections by showing off their stills: controlling fire, controlling earth and water, seeing the future, moving fast, fighting with metal…etc. Then an accident happens and it is revealed that Mare also has a power she didn’t know she had: creating and controlling electricity.
The King and Queen (who can control minds) hide Mare in plain sight, thinking that a Red with abilities would be a disaster to the nation: they tell the world she is actually a Silver and she will be married to Maven, the younger prince. Mare accepts her fate but also has an inner desire to overthrow the Silver rule.
Mare joins forces with the Red Guard, a resistance group. She learns more about who she is. She falls for both princes as well as harbouring feelings for an old flame etc etc. Big twist. Big fight scene. Fin.
What I Thought
As you might be able to tell from the plot description above, I got bored of the Red Queen by the end. Though, saying that, it wasn’t the ending that bored me.
It is hard to enter an already over-saturated market such as Dystopian/Alternative Future Young Adult and to do so you need something very unique. I’ve heard a lot about the Red Queen series from social media and I’ve ‘seen it around’ in bookstores. I adore the Selection series and it was put to me as a Selection meets Hunger Games style book. I liked the concept, it was a good way of class division, almost a racial divide, but I did feel like it had been done before… but then again, maybe I’m just reading too much YA.
I loved the opening – Aveyard has a really great way of describing things. She lays the world out really effectively and had me really excited to read more. Similarly, the ending was also great – the last fight scene was detailed as well as not un-believable, there were things I didn’t expect and there was enough left unsaid that did make me want to find out what happens next. However, the middle was the part that bothered me. I felt parts dragged and those that weren’t dragging were glossed over. I understand the struggle with this: editing my own book, I have found the middle part is that which I like the least. I just wanted something more to happen, instead of a big build up to the ending.
The main character, Mare, wasn’t exactly likeable and I still don’t know how to feel about her. She was a strong character and built up well, she knew who she was and what she wanted (mostly) but I didn’t like her. She wasn’t especially nice or loving, even really towards her family or friends. I suppose that’s what Aveyard was going for: a fighter, but I didn’t believe it. I didn’t believe that anyone would be that calm in a situation where your life is changing forever.
Lastly, the love…square? There are a lot of love triangles in YA. There’s one in Hunger Games, there’s one in the Selection, there’s one in Uglies, hey, there’s even one in my own book, but in the Red Queen, I wasn’t sure who was after who and in what capacity. Mare seemed to have three suitors: Cal and Maven (the princes) and Kilron (her friend from home). Mare didn’t seem to ponder this very much (as a normal 17 year old would) and went with her gut on most things, kissing whoever was there at the time or thinking about this person or that. I still don’t know who I want Mare to be with or who she herself wants to be with or who, in fact, wants to be with her. I wanted a little more clarity on the goes on of her heart so I could align myself to a side.
In a Sentence
Sure, it was an interesting read, but if you’re looking for something to live up to everything else out there, I’m not so sure this does; I hope the sequels bring a bit more wow factor.