Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

 Victoria Aveyard
Series: Red Queen Trilogy (#1)
Read: February 10th
Publisher: Orion
Release Date: February 10th, 2015
Genre: sci-fi, dystopian
Rating: ★★★☆

 In short: equal parts boring and interesting, and a first half I loathed. The ending managed to pull it around… but I’d still recommend Red Rising over it.

Goodreads: The poverty stricken Reds are commoners, living under the rule 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.

Mare finds herself working in the Silver Palace, at the centre 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.

But power is a dangerous game. And in this world divided by blood, who will win?

Does this sound familiar to you? Well, unless you’ve been living under a rock, the blurb for Red Queen will remind you of the blurb for Red Rising. This in itself was enough to make me unsure about this book. Not to mention the fact that it has a love triangle. Not my thing. And for the first half of the book, I was certain this would be a two-star, or worse.

Our heroine Mare has a rough life. She’s a petty thief destined for conscription when she turns eighteen—she’ll have to join other soldiers that are little more than slaves fighting against the kingdom’s enemies. Unless she can get a job. Mare is determined not to end up like her three older brothers, and as fate would have it, she lands a surprise job at the palace, working for the people she hates. These people—Silvers—lord over her caste, the Reds, and they have superhuman powers to boot. In a freak incident, though, Mare discovers powers of her own. The king and queen are quick to snatch her up and pretend that she is a Silver, afraid of the consequences if people found out that Reds could have powers too. So Mare is engaged to one of the two princes and begins walking the tightrope between the life of a noble and the plots of Red rebels. (I know, very Red Rising.)

Quite honestly, I don’t know why Mare didn’t just try to get a job instead of whining about her lack of talent—which she does by subtly comparing herself to her seamstress sister. She doesn’t even make an effort! But that notwithstanding, I wasn’t quite sure where to stand with Mare. Most main characters are either a win or lose for me from the very beginning. But Mare stayed firmly in between. She was smart sometimes, stupid sometimes, and especially irritating when it came to the stupid love triangle. I didn’t know if I liked her or not.

And coming to the love triangle. I loathed it for the entire length of the novel. I mean, you have Maven, who’s kind to her, believes in the things she believes in, and who I could actually see working with her. And then Cal, who’s just…there. Honestly, what happened to chemistry? Because there is nothing between Mare and Cal. Even in the most annoying of relationships I can usually feel some kind of spark, but I felt nada for these two. Also:

“Julian says you’re like her,” he [Cal] says quietly, eyes thoughtful. “Like she used to be.”
Coriane. His mother.

That’s right, Cal compares Mare to his dead mother. And this is not any less weird in context, because it comes right after he tells her he wishes things were different and that they could be together. Ha. Not creepy at all. But even if the love triangle makes more sense in hindsight, I think the Cal/Mare part of it was terribly done. Even the scenes where they danced in a dimly-lit room felt tame.

Another problem I had is that the plot line felt a bit disconnected. It didn’t feel like the events were leading gradually up to the ending, and the first half felt pretty irrelevant to me—but maybe that’s because the love triangle annoyed me so much. Not to mention the absolutely two-dimensional view we have of Evangeline, which I hope is fleshed out in the later books. Because I’d much rather have read her story.

I know things are looking mostly negative so far, but the climax and that plot twist? Blew me away. It genuinely made me sit up straighter and filled me with righteous indignation on Mare’s part. Mare! Whom I barely like! Yup, that ending—perhaps the last quarter or so—completely turned things around.

I’d say overall, my enthusiasm for this book is lukewarm. I don’t think I’d recommend it, but if you can stomach the first half, it’s worth staying on for the ending. If you don’t think you can…stick to Red Rising, which is fantastic in every way that Red Queen is mediocre.


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