Review: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
Graceling meets The Selection in debut novelist Victoria Aveyard's sweeping tale of seventeen-year-old Mare, a common girl whose once-latent magical power draws her into the dangerous intrigue of the king's palace. Will her power save her or condemn her?
Mare Barrow's world is divided by blood—those with common, Red blood serve the Silver- blooded elite, who are gifted with superhuman abilities. Mare is a Red, scraping by as a thief in a poor, rural village, until a twist of fate throws her in front of the Silver court. Before the king, princes, and all the nobles, she discovers she has an ability of her own.
To cover up this impossibility, the king forces her to play the role of a lost Silver princess and betroths her to one of his own sons. As Mare is drawn further into the Silver world, she risks everything and uses her new position to help the Scarlet Guard—a growing Red rebellion—even as her heart tugs her in an impossible direction. One wrong move can lead to her death, but in the dangerous game she plays, the only certainty is betrayal.
Red Queen had been in my TBR for a long time, and I'd first downloaded it in March of 2015 to read on a beach trip. It had gotten pushed further and further down the list, but I finally picked it up in early January as part of a Twitter book-club read-along type thing. As it turned out, many of the others in the group had a similar experience: the book had been languishing on the shelves for a long time and they welcomed the opportunity to finally get it knocked out.
And maybe that should have been the thing I paid attention to, that this was a book I was trying to get knocked out of the way. Honestly, I almost DNFd Red Queen. It felt plodding and messy. After all its hype, especially with the excitement over the upcoming third book, I just expected so much more. Mare does not feel like a heroine. She's not very bright, she's just a girl who happens to be more special than everyone else. Who cares?
I felt like the book did pick up a little after that halfway mark, but ultimately it all felt so messy. The world building, characterization, and plot development is there, but it's just all over the place--very strong in some parts, and confusing and muddled in others.
Early on the in the book Mare suddenly displays powers that she, as a Red (someone with red blood) is not supposed to have. She is spared by the king and queen, who tell everyone that she's actually a long-lost Silver who was just raised to believe she was a Red. She's given a new identity and betrothed to the younger prince. She is also told that the only reason she's not being murdered yet is because she displayed her powers publicly and they don't want anyone asking any questions about her. But they also keep her around threatening people who have special powers to read minds or suss out deception. Why?
She also keeps thinking she can keep secrets around people who can literally jump inside her mind and walk through all of her thoughts and memories at any time. Why?
I need to know!
Still and all, there is lots of drama, especially in that last half. Mare is torn between two brothers, both princes--the younger half-brother she is betrothed to by virtue of her power who is winning her over with kindness, and the one who saved her from her village but is both engaged to someone else and turning out to be a ruthless ruler. I was never sure who I was supposed to cheer for--they both feel like lousy choices. There is a super nasty villainous queen mother. Everyone has a power they can use against Mare if given the opportunity. Mare is being pulled in a million directions and doesn't know who she can trust. Unfortunately, it becomes pretty clear to the reader who she should trust, so that's kind of boring.
With that said, I did enjoy the end. Like the very end. But you have to slog through a lot to get there.
If you're one of the twelve people who haven't read this yet and are crazy about dystopian fiction, you'll probably love Red Queen! It hits all the major points you expect from the genre, and maybe the story telling gets tighter in the second and third books. I would probably pick up the next in the series, but only if the ebook is one of the Kindle Daily Deals or something.
(rated out of 5)
Published February 10, 2015 by HarperTeen