Review: Red Queen

I have to admit I was first drawn to the cover of Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard – crown dripping blood? Ok, I’ll bite – what’s it about?

A world divided by power and blood – the Silvers are the elite, they posses actual powers like super strength/speed, mind control, healing, (it’s like the X-men) and they rule over the powerless Reds. The Reds are their servants, they are the downtrodden and in a poor Red village not far from the Silver King’s summer home lives a girl who picks pockets and is due to be conscripted to the 100 year war on her 18th birthday. Her name is Mare Barrow. After some foolish decisions that lead to her sister getting hurt, Mare meets a stranger and picks his pockets. Ends up spilling her story. And the next day she is offered a job as a servant at the summer palace. Guess what, the guy she met? He’s the prince. She discovers this at the Queenstrial – an elaborate showcase of powers for the women of the noble houses to find the heir to the throne (affectionately known as Cal) a wife.

An accident at the Queenstrial leads to the revelation that Mare, simple little thieving Red, actually has a very strong power. Because it was such a public discovery, the royal family hide Mare in plain site, keeping her close. They announce her as a long lost Silver lady, heir to a powerful (and dead) family to account for her power and announce that she will be a Princess. Mare has to navigate the bitchy vipers nest of the Silver court, taking etiquette lessons and learning all the political stuff of court like who not to annoy (guess who she annoys?).

Angry at the Silvers for all the pain they caused the Reds (and actually, each other, they are not a nice lot), Mare decides to try and pull the regime down from the inside by getting herself caught up with the militant Red group. All while trying to keep her Red blood a secret, and also stop herself from fancying her betrothed’s older brother – Cal. It’s a political game. You can’t trust anyone.

As you might be able to tell from my summary, I wasn’t that enthralled. The magic powers was a pretty cool twist but the characters all felt quite similar. Mare is incredibly impulsive and gets herself into trouble then goes all woe is me when it comes back to bite her on the ass. She does this a lot. But then, if she wasn’t an idiot she would never have wound up serving at Queenstrial and discovering her Silver-like power. I think Maven (the younger prince) actually might be the most interesting character despite the fact I don’t like him very much.

It’s a YA read and you can tell – it’s full of YA tropes. You’ve got the poor girl being dragged up to be a princess, and taking the system down from the inside by joining a rebellion. Sniff out the Hunger Games, it won’t take long. The world is incredibly basic – it is literally an elitist monarchy ruling over a working class. That is the world. It’s not very complex. Mare isn’t very complex either. She is quite selfish, very impulsive and has no concept of cause-effect, or if she does it’s an abstract concept to her. Oh, Cal is the quintessential Prince Charming with a necessary ruthless streak because he is a soldier and she isn’t. Maven is the ultimate second son – living in the shadow (I think he calls himself “the shadow to the flame” or something like that at one point) and sulky about it. And guess what! There’s a love triangle. I’m pretty sure its more than a triangle as well, because there’s a boy from home who joins a rebellion for her – so… yeah. Apparently that’s drama.

I have to admit, I saw the polarised opinions of RQ since it hit the 2015 Times Bestseller list. And while I can see why some girls may like it, it seems a lot like the premise of The Selection really – you know, normal girl elevated to royalty by sheer coincidence and trying to change someone/thing. It seems like such a great idea, but I don’t think it was… developed enough. It’s not quite finished. It’s ok, it could have been great.

So, Red Queen, while having so much potential, has been designated a light read. I don’t think it is awful, even if I have no intention of reading it again. I mean, its not good – it’s an afternoon, don’t need my brain switched on kind of read. I will probably read the sequels, but I have to admit that I’m not going to rush out to find them. If I come across them in the library I may read them – depending on how short my TBR list gets.

 

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