This review may contain slight spoilers.
‘Red Queen’ by Victoria Aveyard has been one of the most hyped young adult books so far this year. It follows Mare Barrow a ‘Red’ who winds up engaged to a ‘Silver’ prince after discovering she has a rare gift that no one understand. As a princess, she must battle through the court intrigues, keeping her secret from the prying eyes of others and become embroiled in a revolution that seeks to destroy the world she knows.
I had the misfortune of reading this book straight after finishing ‘The Sin Eater’s Daughter’ by Melinda Salisbury. Both have very similar stories and so ‘Red Queen’, unfortunately, felt a bit boring, like I had read it before. This was not helped by the fact I was both tired and ill while reading. That being said, the premise of the novel was intriguing and, while the novel did feel rushed at times, the theme of betrayal that ran throughout with all the twists and turns made me want to keep on reading.
The world Aveyard developed was one that I had not come across before – it married together fantasy and magic with technology and modern-day developments. This was a concept that I had trouble getting used to at the beginning, but it did add work as the story moved on. The coexistence of the two paralleled nicely with the Silvers (the rulers/magic) and the Reds (the workers/technology). I loved that the Silvers had actual silver blood, which gave a physical division between the two peoples and increased the tension with Mare having to conceal her identity. I did have slight issues with the idea that powers are passed from the males to their children, with mothers very rarely, if ever, passing their gift on. My basic knowledge of genetics seems to contradict this, so if someone with a more advance understanding could explain it to me, I would greatly appreciate it.
Character-wise, I found Aveyard’s use of characters to be a mix. I loved Mare as a character – she was fun to read but I wish her thievery and street skills could have been put to more use in the last part of the book. I also felt that she lost some of her charm and personality once she entered the palace (understandably though, given the situation). The princes were characters that I had issues with. I could never quite pin down their personalities or goals, so it was difficult getting to know them – Maven I could understand given the ending, but Cal was difficult to place. I think, with regards to the other characters, that Aveyard just had too many. There were so many characters with so much potential, but hardly any of them, such as Lucas, got enough development to make investment into their character worthwhile. Many seemed to be forgotten as well, for example The Panther. I really wish I could have seen more about these characters, especially given what happened to some of them – I didn’t care enough to feel much for them.
The romance. There always seems to be romance. And this romance paralleled so much with the triangle in ‘The Sin Eaters Daughter’, I felt like I was reading the same book. Essentially, Mare finds herself with two suitors – the prince she is betrothed to and his older brother. I found both romances to be very forced, especially the one with Cal – I saw no evidence why Cal liked Mare beyond being told so. Maven and Mare was a bit more understandable but a little stiff, and with everything else going on, I felt the whole romance kind of detracted from the story. The only purpose it served was the make the betrayal at the end all the more dramatic (and what a betrayal that was, although I still have hope for the betrayer to redeem themselves).
I did enjoy this story but I did not quite enjoy it as much as I had hoped I would. As I said, I did read it while feeling ill which did probably detract from the quality of reading. I am planning to read it again when I am feeling better and have not read a similar story beforehand just to see what it is like under those circumstances. There were some fantastically written passages (the dance scene for one) with some great twists and turns. There is a lot of promise for the next book and I am really looking forward to reading that.
Rating: 3.5 stars.