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Red Queen Paperback – June 7, 2016
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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 --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
“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))
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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 idea of societal classes being delineated by color of blood was pretty cool and different. The only somewhat similar story line I could come up with was Brandon Sanderson's Steelheart series. The Silvers have silver blood and a wide range of super powers. The Reds are average people who are ruled and made slaves by the Silvers. I think idea could have been more fully developed however in the world building. Which brings me to that subject.
So there's weird inconsistencies with the world building. At first I thought it was sort of a medieval world, but then there were things introduced like "transports" (with no accompanying description), "airships" (also not described), electricity, forcefields, guns, etc. So then I thought it was sort of an alternate reality world or maybe a post-apocalyptic world set in the future. Or maybe a Star Wars-type world. Except, Cal, one of the main characters invents a motorcycle... Wait, what?? And the Silvers travel in ships. On a river. And there's no phones. Soooo... then I thought maybe it's sort of a steam punk type world like the Spirit Walker Trilogy except the world doesn't really fit that category either. Then there's these Reds called techies that are never fully described except to say they build all technology and weapons and live in polluted, smog-filled slums with tons of manufacturing plants. You'd think with the knowledge and ability to build the technology and weapons that they'd be the first to rise up and mutiny. But they don't and there's nothing else said about them.
So, on to the characters... Mare (TERRIBLE name btw) is an insolent irritating codependent brat. And she doesn't experience any character growth throughout the book either. There's this strange love square going on that drives me a little nuts. The whole love triangle cliche is completely and utterly overdone and unrealistic, and to add another romantic interest to make it a love square just makes the whole thing worse. Mare's got a childhood friend named Kilorn who is an immature jerk. On top of that there's this theme in their relationship of Mare consistently "rescuing" him because he's an idiot. That whole "female rescuing male" theme in YA literature has GOT TO GO. Teaching our kids (especially our daughters) to have no healthy boundaries and take responsibility for other's idiotic decisions just perpetuates codependent relationships in society. I have no idea why Kilorn is attracted to Mare, nor she to him, other than because they've been together their whole lives. And then there's the 2 princes who randomly and suddenly are also attracted to Mare. Again, I have no idea why. The attraction to all 3 guys feels very forced and fake or very sudden on Mare's part. Mare's power of electricity is really cool but with one big inconsistency: the reader learns she can actually *create* electricity versus just pulling it from the environment like other Silvers, yet the idea is never developed in any action scenes. She only ever pulls electricity from the environment. Also, she goes from a complete beginner as far as ability with her power, to suddenly training with other teenagers who have been training for years with their powers and being able to keep up with them. There's no build up in ability with her power. She goes from beginner directly to master. Lastly, after she's pulled into the Silver world, she has to walk around with Silver makeup on to disguise her skin tone. But she stands out in the rain at one point and the makeup magically stays put.
As for Cal, the older Prince and King-to-be, I *think* he's supposed to be the good and virtuous one who stands by his values except he chases after and kisses his brother's betrothed... Wait, what?? And it's clearly not real love so I don't know why he would suddenly put his relationship with his brother (whom he loves) on the line like that. To be a person of character but suddenly be ok with something like that is not logical.
Maven- the other prince- kind of interesting except the plot twist he's involved in should have been better written. The reader gets pulled into believing he's a good guy really convincingly, only for him to turn into an evil power-hungry maniac. Soooo, if the author is going to do something like that, there needs to be subtle clues that maybe he's not all he's cracked up to be. Only clues we are given is that another character warns Mare that Maven is "his mother's son".
Other than Julian, the supporting characters are very flat. A lot more character development could have gone into some of them. The Silver Queen has the ability to read people's minds, but for some reason she rarely does. The leaders of the Scarlet Guard are flat and uninteresting. The Silver King is supposed to be a strong character, but he comes across as weak. I really felt like Julian- one of Mare's teachers- was the most interesting and fully dimensional.
The writing is very obvious. The characters make obvious observations and decisions which leads me to question their supposed intelligence. There's no subtlety, and little depth. I'm willing to forgive that since it seems this is one of the author's first books. I'm hoping she'll improve with the next books in this trilogy (or series). I would very much recommend she learn to write better (and healthier) romantic relationships with a better and more realistic build up to true love, versus infatuation or lust. I think the action scenes were pretty good minus the inconsistency with Mare's power. I hope Mare experiences some character growth in the next books and becomes a truly mature and wise person. I hope the love triangle/square is well and truly ditched. The pacing of the story is good, and the action scenes are good. I will go ahead and read the second book when it comes out, but if it follows in the same vein of this book, I probably won't buy any following books of this author's.
The ending of this still blew my mind even knowing what was going to happen. This is one of the few books that although I did kinda think what happened was going to happen. It didn't have me sold on the idea. So in the end it was still a really good/bad surprise. (sorry trying not to spoil anything)
I really can't wait for book two which I'm starting right after I post this. (currently its May 26th if your wondering)
This is a must read!
Book in a Pinch
Magical powers and the fey take on a new twist!
And as always ill leave you with this
RISE RED AS THE DAWN!