Series: Red Queen Trilogy #1
Published by HarperTeen on February 10, 2015
Genres: dystopian, fantasy
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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?
I am sad to say that Red Queen is yet another bland and wholly unexceptional entry in YA fantasy. What starts out with potential is ultimately unable to fulfill the promise of its premise. Here you have the story of a common girl, Mare, a Red, who finds herself in a position to make an actual impact against the brutal oppression of the supernaturally powered Silvers, and yet the story is one long slog fest of tired trope after another.
The writing is competent, yet far from stunning. But it was the convenience of the plot that first got my hackles raised. In the space of a single day Mare:
- is selected from obscurity to get a job serving in the castle after a chance run in with one of the princes (he is obviously instantly enamored of her)
- is sent out to serve the most important families in the realm, at one of the most important events that occur in the country, with no training and on her first day
- falls tragically to her certain death except–what?! She’s Divergent I mean, her special powers she didn’t know about until this day have saved her
- is betrothed to the younger prince, and is decided by the powers that be to be presented to the court as the long lost daughter of a Silver war hero who had been raised by a Red family and heretofore been unaware of her power.
This happens in one 24 hour period. While, yes, there may be politics we are not privy to at play here, no one seems to take any of this as a surprise or even a slightly strange course of action. “Here is this Red with inexplicable powers! We shall hide her in plain sight by betrothing her to the younger prince and probably no complications will ever arise from this plan. I suppose she has also never bled in her life and noticed she has red blood, not silver. Okay. This is reasonable. And it’s reasonable that we’ll ask the entire country to believe this.”
No. Perhaps if you are the type of reader who can get over such conveniences for the sake of a story’s enjoyment you will be much less bothered by this book than I was. Sadly, though, I could not shake that ludicrousness.
The characters are flat and unmemorable. By the end of the book, I had barely a better grasp on who Mare is than I had on page one. The ensemble characters are similarly blank. Both princes fulfill the stereotype of fantasy prince/brother dynamics. Elder Cal is serious and responsible, already carrying the weight of his future kingdom. Younger brother Maven is gentle and understanding, and hates living in his older brother’s shadow. What else is there to know about them? Who knows? The book doesn’t tell you. Mare’s loyal childhood friend Gale Kilorn had some promising sparks of personality and endearment but our time spent with him was sadly rather few.
Oh and that does remind me! Forget love triangles. This book has a love rectangle. Mare dreams of being able to run away with Kilorn from the oppression of Norta. Trust me, she thinks about the flashing of his emerald eyes a lot. Yet responsible Cal fished her out of a life of poverty and brought her to the castle. That’s certainly worth something! Then again, Maven is her betrothed. And, aw shucks, he is a really nice guy. What’s a gal to do? How can her heart decide?
Amazingly, all of the men in this book have an instant and intense liking of Mare. All of the women hate her. Which is funny because the two characters I enjoyed most were the scheming queen and Cal’s betrothed. But they were the most interesting! They were deliciously bad and had actual personalities. Or perhaps I just enjoy seeing ladies know what they want (power) and seizing that with no hesitations.
I did occasionally have flashes of near enjoyment in this story. Somewhere around the 60% mark there is a scene of chaos and action packed brutality that actually managed to rivet me to the page to see the outcome. Also, at one point a Silver with the power to freeze tortures a captured Red by freezing the blood in her veins so that it punctures through her skin in spikes(No this doesn’t make any sense, but much like the rest of the book you just have to go with it.) This is the sort of creepy gruesomeness that makes me smile like the Cheshire Cat. Make what you will about the disturbance of my soul, but those were the only scenes in the book that managed to make me feel, well, anything.
Aveyard tries to pull of a wham!bam!shocker! ending. Unfortunately, all of the twists can be seen from a mile away. A mantra of the book, one that is told to Mare often, and that she repeats to herself, again often, is, “Anyone can betray anyone.” Well, okay. This, combined with the many hints and warnings about the eventual betrayer, make it obvious that it’s going to be whoever Mare is putting her trust in most. The foreshadowing and clues are not light handed.
Red Queen has a strong premise but ultimately couldn’t live up to its potential. Don’t fall for that beautiful cover. This one tries to be an interesting and unique entry into YA fantasy/dystopia, but its flat characters, slow pacing, predictable twists, and groan worthy love rectangle all ground it firmly in the realm of one to forget.
An advance copy was provided by the publisher for this review.