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Red Queen Hardcover – February 10, 2015
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From School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Seventeen-year-old Mare Barrow lives in a world where one's lot in life is determined by the color of one's blood. She was born a Red and has to make a living by pickpocketing and trying to dodge "the conscription" and being sent off to fight an ongoing war. Mare's resigned herself to the fact that she'll always serve the Silver, a genetically gifted group of people with supernatural abilities. A chance encounter with the prince causes Mare to suddenly find herself at the royal palace as a servant, where she discovers in front of everyone that she also has a unique gift. She is Red and Silver, and could be just the spark the Reds need to rise up against the oppressive Silvers. The king and queen quickly cover up Mare's anomaly by presenting her to the rest of the Silvers as a long-lost princess and betroth her to their second-born son. Now Mare is torn between playing the part of a Silver, and helping out the Scarlet Guard rebellion. The story has touches of the usual dystopian suspects. However, it's formulaic elements are far outweighed by the breakneck pace and engaging characters. There's a bit of teen romance, but luckily the characters are self-aware enough to realize its frivolity among the story's more important plot points. A solid debut from Aveyard and a welcome addition to the plethora of speculative teen lit.—Kimberly Castle-Alberts, Hudson Library & Historical Society, OH
“A sizzling, imaginative thriller, where romance and revolution collide, where power and justice duel. It’s exhilarating. Compelling. Action-packed. Unputdownable.” (USA Today)
“Aveyard weaves a compelling new world of action-packed surprises... inventive, character-driven.” (Kirkus)
“A volatile world with a dynamic heroine.” (Booklist)
“Breakneck pace and engaging characters.” (School Library Journal)
“ [Aveyard] sets her audience up for a gaspworthy twist that reconfigures nearly every character’s role and leaves Mare with no one to trust but herself... This blend of fantasy and dystopia will be an unexpected and worthy addition to many genre fans’ reading list.” (Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books)
“Fascinating world building... Readers will be intrigued by a world that reflects today’s troubling issues concerning ethnic inequality, unfair distribution of wealth, pollution, warfare, political corruption, and the frightening power of the media.” (Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA))
Top customer reviews
When circumstances for Mare send her right into the path of royals, she ends up discovering that she has magic abilities - and thus, is made a noble who is set to marry the second of two princes so that the reigning royal family can keep an eye on her. Meanwhile, an uprising is gathering through the country, and Mare has to figure out who she is and where her loyalties lie.
This one was hard to review because on one hand, I found the story very compelling, but on the other hand, there were lots of little things that I just couldn't get into. I've broken them down below.
Things That Frustrated Me:
The heroine: my biggest frustration with this book was the lack of character development in Mare. I didn't feel like I went on a journey with her as a character at all - she was kind of sassy and funny, and she clearly had some cool abilities...but that was it for me. I didn't feel like I knew her at all by the end of the book because she was the same person the entire way through. That was hard for me to connect with.
The romance: There were (count 'em) THREE love interests for Mare in this book. None of them really go anywhere big, but it just felt like every friggin guy in the book was into her. The hardest part about that is that there is an obvious choice - I genuinely thought that one guy was better than the others, and that just makes for a love triangle (or square?) that's unsatisfying.
The writing and the "I've Read This Before" feeling: There would be moments that I was really into the writing and then I would get pulled out of it by just a few too many cliches. Here are some examples:
"I'm standing on the balcony a full ten seconds before I realize it's raining, washing me clean of my boiling anger."
To me, this is just obvious writing - because there could have been a better description of the character's anger or the rain or just the fact that she was being cooled down by the rain...but it just ends up lost in cliche.
"This is the world I'm trying to bring down, the world trying to kill me and everything I care about...I've never felt smaller than I do now, with the great bridge looming above us. It looks ready to swallow me whole."
Again, the writing feels very obvious. I feel like I've read this line before - "bring down" "never felt smaller" "swallow me whole" - it feels a little tired.
The tropes: The problem with obvious writing is that if you have a story hat relies on a lot of tropes (poor girl who's special and different; prince who is not thrilled about being prince and just wants to be normal, world that is separated into classes that needs to be overthrown), you can guess what's going to happen, and your mind tends to wander. And because of that, every scene starts to feel predictable, and you notice every trope for what it is, instead of the trope extending beyond just a trope. It's frustrating because I couldn't help but notice and compare this book to a ton of other YA books (I thought of The Selection, Divergent, Hunger Games, even Harry Potter while I was reading), and the book never went beyond or did anything better or different with those tropes.
Things I Liked:
The world-building and concept: I liked how the Silvers and Reds were divided and how there was hierarchy even among the Silvers - there were higher and lower houses and they each had distinctive features. I enjoyed getting into this world through Mare's eyes - as a Red, she really doesn't know much about it, and it's both interesting to see it develop and to see her thoughts on it in her unique position.
The princes: There are two, and they are both interested in Mare romantically. To me it felt very obvious who the superior prince was, but I liked that they were well-rounded and different enough that they kept me guessing on their true natures. I felt like I knew more about them than I did about Mare by the end of the book.
Julian, the elderly wizard Silver who has Mare's best interests at heart and is awesome: This is a classic fantasy trope, but damned if I didn't really like Aveyard's version of the mentor. I especially liked the detail of how his skin was like the parchment that he read so much of, his abilities, and his secretiveness about his own life.
The villains and layered secondary characters: I'm not going to tell you who the villains are because that's complicated, but I liked how many of them there were, and how much they all influenced and encroached on Mare's life. I also liked how a lot of the characters in the novel weren't all black-and-white - some of the people who were supposed to be "good" weren't exactly the nicest or best people, and EVERYONE in the novel lied in order to get what they wanted. It's a dark view of life, but it worked.
The fast pace and the action: This is probably the first fantasy book I've read in a long time that I haven't put down because it had too much exposition or description and not enough action. The action scenes are pretty explosive, and the pacing moves quickly to bring the action to head.
The Final Word:
Red Queen is a very enjoyable, if derivative, fantasy read. Brimming with action and classic speculative fiction tropes, this is a good book for younger teens new to fantasy or looking for a book with magic to devour like popcorn. I wanted more depth in writing and character, but there's no doubt that I had fun while reading.
The story follows a girl who is a “Red” in a world where people are separated into classes by their blood type, those with red blood and those with silver blood. The main difference between the two groups is that Silvers have powers where they can control elements and materials around them (based on their specific abilities) whereas Reds hold no powers and are therefore treated as a lower-class. The book is referred to as Young Adult Fantasy and Dystopian but I felt like that dystopian categorization is quite a stretch for this book. While it does show dystopian elements I think it barely classifies as dystopian.
My biggest disappointment with the book was the lack of explanations given and how many things I was left wondering about. I am hoping that this was done on purpose and that things will be explained in more detail in the upcoming books in the series. My second issue, which didn’t really bother me too much, is what I stated in the beginning of this review when I said a lot of the story was predictable. In the first half of the book I figured out a lot of things that were going to happen quite easily, but when it came to later in the book when I thought I had everything figured out, then Aveyard surprised me with twists that I did not see coming. I cannot help but wonder if she made certain elements predictable on purpose to make the reader think that they knew what was happening, like a false sense of security, and then went outside the box she created to catch the reader off-guard.
Issues aside, I have to admit that I could not stop reading this book and found myself constantly thinking about it because I really did enjoy it. In my opinion, the Red Queen is definitely a book that will suck you in and that you will not want to put down until you finish. Aveyard created characters that you love and hate and created a world that you really do feel a part of as you read. The book is at times Reminiscent of the Mistborn series and the Hunger Games series but overall it does hold its own and immerses the reader in a captivating world and story.
Up until the last few chapters of the book I was sure that I would give it five star review, however I found myself slightly disappointed by the ending. I felt that the final resolution felt almost rushed and that it fell a little flat after the climactic points that led to it. That is what made me decide on a four star review in the end. I do know that I will continue on with the series and that I am looking forward to it. Aveyard ended the book in a satisfying way, not with a huge cliffhanger, but still in a way that makes the reader anticipate the next book. Overall, The Red Queen is a book I would recommend to anyway who likes YA Fantasy.
However, somewhere in the middle of the book I feel like Aveyard sort of overbalances. I won't give details for obvious reasons, but there's a point where an author tries so hard to put up hurdles for their characters that they take the sting out of the dilemma.
I will say that if you are looking to buy this for a younger person (maybe early to mid teens) or are that age yourself some of my criticism should probably be ignored. I think there's some "teen angst" in there that I'm just too old to get on board with. So take what I say with a grain of salt if you're middle school / high school aged :)