Review of The Red Queen – Book 1 of The Red Queen series by Victoria Aveyard

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I’d heard the buzz surrounding this book, so scooped it off the shelves as soon as I spotted it. Would it live up to all the excited hype?

theredqueenReds are commoners, ruled by a Silver elite in possession of god-like superpowers. And to Mare Barrow, a seventeen-year-old Red girl from the poverty-stricken Stilts, it seems like nothing will ever change. That is, until a twist of fate brings her before the Silver court. Here, surrounded by the people she hates the most, Mare discovers that despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly ability of her own. But will she survive in amongst her enemies?

I’ve tweaked the rather chatty blurb, because while the initial premise isn’t particularly ground-breaking, what this book does have going for it are the constant twists and turns. Aveyard isn’t afraid to take the plot and give it a thorough shaking every so often, so you suddenly find yourself in quite a different place from where you thought the narrative was going. Furthermore, she manages to accomplish the sudden twists with sufficient skill and smoothness that I didn’t find it remotely annoying or jarring – a trick that is harder to pull off than Aveyard makes it look.

It doesn’t hurt that Mare Barrow is a thoroughly enjoyable protagonist. While her edgy attitude at times reminded me of Katniss Everdeen, that didn’t overly interfere with my enjoyment of the story or the world. Another dystopian world with a cowed underclass and dominating, entitled ruling elite, this divide is pre-ordained at birth. If you are lucky enough to have silver blood, you’re automatically given opportunities and privileges the red-blooded can only dream of.

However, there are important differences. While Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games series focused on the dangers of ultra-consumerism, particularly our increasing habit of treating other people’s experiences and reactions as reasonable entertainment in an ever-growing slew of reality shows, Aveyard’s world has a more feudal feel. Her major theme is more about the nature of power – who possesses it, who snatches it, who longs for it and how that plays out both in the conflict between the silvers and reds, as well as the constant jostling for position among the courtiers surrounding the king and his family. And one of the consequences of all that jostling is betrayal. Who is betrayed, how it happens and where it leaves the main characters – particularly Mare.

I became engrossed in this world, and I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the series to see where Aveyard takes it.
8/10

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5 responses »

  1. Hmmmmmmm. This is one of those books that caught my attention around release time, but the wide divide in reactions persuaded me away from reading it. A lot of people weren’t keen on the love triangle / square, which drives me crazy most of the time. (I also didn’t like the author’s attitude on Twitter, but that’s a different story…) Did that have any bearing on your final opinion of Red Queen?

    • I saw the wide spread of reactions – it seems a lot of folks felt the world and the initial set-up was very derivative of other YA dystopian recent best-sellers. If the writing hadn’t been so strong and the scene setting really solidly done, I might have had more of a problem with it. As regards the love triangle – it is absolutely necessary to the plot and ISN’T the heroine swithering between 2 hapless smitten protagonists, which also has me exasperated. So that wasn’t such an issue – and it very much resolves itself before the end of the book, anyway… I really enjoyed it and I’ll certainly be looking out for the next book in the series.

      • OK. I think I’ll wait and see how things shape up for Book 2 before I decide to check it out. I’m always wary of new books that receive a lot of hype, as they don’t often live up to those expectations for me. (An Ember In The Ashes by Sabaa Tahir being the latest example… A very frustrating read.)

  2. To be honest, when I saw the cover, I thought I’m about to read a romance book review, and you surprised me. You also got me interested, so I’m adding it to my hopelessly growing “to be read” list. I really need to take a year off work to catch up with my reading!

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