Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
- Release Date: February 10th, 2015
- Origins: HarperTeen
- No. of pages: 401
- POV: 1st person present
- Recommended Age: 13+
- Genres/Themes: YA fantasy, science fiction. dystopian, romance
- My rating: 3 1/2 stars
This is a world divided by blood - Red or Silver.
Reds are commoners, ruled by the Silver elite, kept in check by their god-like powers. Enter Mare Barrow: a Red by nature and a thief by necessity, living in the poverty-stricken Stilts, on the verge of conscription... Until she finds herself working in the Silver Palace. An unexpected twist of fate reveals that despite her red blood, she somehow possesses a deadly Silver ability of her own. One that threatens to destroy the balance of power.
Fearful of this anomaly, the Silvers hide her in plain view, declaring her a long-lost Silver noblewoman, now engaged to a Silver prince. At the risk of her life (and the lives of her family left behind in the Stilts), Mare works secretly to help the Scarlet Guard bring down the Silver regime.
But this is a world of betrayal and lies, and Mare has entered a dangerous dance - Reds against Silvers, prince against prince, and Mare against her own heart...
This book has been advertised as "Graceling meets Selection". I DISAGREE. Allow me to explain. Recipe is as follows:
- 2 cups of Hunger Games sass
- 3/4 cup of X-men powers
- Generous handful of Cersei Lannister-crazy
- A dash of world building
- One angst-filled love triangle...
Combine ingredients. Shake vigorously (not stirred!) until... VOILA! Book begets mega-trilogy, movie option deal with Harper Collins. Which is pretty damn incredible, considering it was written only a year after Aveyard graduated from the University of Southern California with her bachelors in screenwriting!
Her degree obviously has had a major impact on her writing style, as much of the Red Queen reads like a movie script, with seamless transitions from one scene to the next, sharpened with minute details and caprices that will translate effortlessly onto the big screen.
The characters in particular are so vivid, so real that I found myself visualizing certain movie personas in their place who were eerily similar:
Queen Elara - Cersei Lannister from Game of Thrones
"Ash-blond hair, blue eyes, and a pointed smile, making her look like a wild-predatory animal..." Cold, ruthless, she is always one step ahead of her adversaries, born with the terrifying ability to reach into your mind and twist you like a hand-puppet to her iron will.
Maven Calore, Prince of Norta - Loki from Thor
The forgotten son of a second marriage, the shadow to his brother's flame, what he lacks in brawn he makes up for with sharp eyes and a cunning mind...
Mare Barrow, the Lightning Girl - Katniss Everdeen, the Girl on Fire from Hunger Games
The accidental revolutionary symbol of her oppressed people, roughened by years of supporting her family through pickpocketing and thievery, thrown into political intrigue with only her wits and new-found powers to save her.
Kilorn Warren - Gale Hawthorne from Hunger Games
The "what-if" in Mare's life... "Who would I have chosen... Green-eyed children with my quick feet and Kilorn's last name. That future was almost impossible before; now it's nonexistant."
Julian - Dumbledore from Harry Potter
You're lovable wizened mentor who directs Mare toward the path of an enlightened activist, rather then an unwitting protagonist.
There are certain factors that automatically bump a book into an automatic 3-star rating for me:
1. A kick-ass hero/heroine who, for all intensive purposes, possesses grit: the ability to pick themselves up when adversity strikes. AKA Not a Mary-Sue. CHECK
2. An intriguing antagonst. Enter Cersei Lann-*cough* I mean Queen Elara. DOUBLE CHECK
3. A deliciously wicked plot twist. One with no preamble, no warning... Kicking the feet out from under me so hard that I have to force myself not to hurdle my book into a bottomless chasm. MEGA-CHECK!
This book 100% met these criteria. What made it exceptionally interesting were the concepts of socioeconomic divisions of class caused by the addition of the Silver abilities... powers that gave them unprecedented jurisdiction over the commonwealth of Red "untouchables". Aveyard paints us a wide spectrum of powers, all tied to a family's dominant genetic traits: telekinesis, mind-control, elementals (fire, water, weather, plants), superhuman strength, metal manipulation... These alone made for a highly entertaining, action-packed read!
What kept it from being a literary goldmine came down to one simple fact: overused tropes/clichés. At times, this book resembled a hodgepodge pot of cliché stew, one where the chef closes their eyes, digs into the fantasy/science-fiction pantry, pulls out something benign, and flings it into the pot. I felt like I was reading a stitched-together love child of Hunger Games, Divergent, and Red Rising.
A young woman who:
- rises out of destitution
- lives in a post-apocolyptic state
- discovers she has incredible, life-altering powers
- trips into love-triangles left and right
These concepts run rampant in Young-Adult Literature. A few are fine. All at once is a bit overwhelming.
What would have pushed it over the precipice? Stark contrast from its competitors through originality! This is something I'm hoping we'll see more of in the second book, Glass Sword. There are several questions left unanswered in Red Queen:
What are the origins of the Silvers powers?
When did the oppression of the Reds begin?
And what caused the genetic mutations that resulted in hybrids such as Mare??
I've created a Spotify playlist to listen to while reading Red Queen. Click HERE to listen!
Please leave me a comment with your thoughts about the first book in this series! I'm eager to hear your thoughts!!