Thursday 12 November 2015

Review: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

 Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard book cover

Title: Red Queen
Author: Victoria Aveyard
Series: Red Queen, #1
Format: Hardback, owned
My rating: 2 / 5

Add to Goodreads

This is a world divided by blood - red or silver.

The Reds 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 she finds herself working in the Silver Palace. Here, surrounded by the people she hates the most, Mare discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy the balance of power.

Fearful of Mare's potential, the Silvers hide her in plain view, declaring her a long-lost Silver princess, now engaged to a Silver prince. Despite knowing that one misstep would mean her death, Mare works silently to help the Red Guard, a militant resistance group, and 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...

-- As seen on Goodreads

My Thoughts

Red Queen was one of my most anticipated reads of 2015, and it also happened to be one of the most hyped new releases of the year. My expectations were through the roof, and I was expecting it to deliver so many awesome and unique things. I should know by now to approach really hyped books with lots of caution as I’ve been bitten by the hype bug one too many times. Sadly, I didn’t think Red Queen lived up to any of the hype, and I don’t feel any of my expectations were matched.

Red Queen felt like a recycled version of dozens of books I’ve read in the past, and most notably for me, there were A LOT of Hunger Games vibes. While a little familiarity can be a nice thing occasionally, too much similarity bugs the hell out of me. It was like I was playing a game of ‘this reminds me of X-Book-That-I-Love’. It’s so frustrating! There was SO MUCH potential for a truly awesome story, but I feel it’s been boiled down to mass-palatability, rather than branching out and trying something a bit more unique and risky.

Initially, I started out liking the book, so it was quite surprising how much I grew to dislike the story and become indifferent toward the characters. The world-building in general felt a bit sketchy, and I didn’t manage to get that clear a picture of the dynamics between each of the neighbouring lands, or their history. I began questioning what the point of the story was very early on, and I don’t feel like I got any answers after I’d finished reading. The society is defined by blood, and the Silvers are the oppressors, and the Reds are the oppressed. So, naturally, a rebellion is on the cards, and the Reds have formed a secret resistance called The Scarlet Guard with the intent of infiltrating the Silver’s lavish court, and causing a bit of havoc. While all of this is grand, I can’t help feeling like it’s a rebellion for the sake of having a rebellion. Yes, the reds are the suppressed class and they’re pretty fed up and want some changes, but what was the catalyst, the spark… or the straw that broke the camel’s back, so to speak? What did the Silvers do to push some of the Reds over the edge to want to rebel, and to actually form an entire group? Way too much vital world-building was skipped over, certainly from the Reds perspective, and things moved forward to establishing the Silvers far too quickly. I didn’t have enough time to care about the Reds before we’re immersed in Silver culture.

Unfortunately, I didn’t really like any of the characters, either. Mare Barrow is the main character and narrator, and I have to admit, she’s one of the weakest heroines I’ve read about in quite a while. She’s trying so hard to be fearless and badass, but honestly, she’s just a whiny, na├»ve brat. Her reaction to some of the things that happened was simply laughable at times. She actively sought out The Scarlet Guard, and offered to help them without giving it a second thought. Then, she begins whinging when people start dying. Umm… what did you think a rebellion would lead to?! People sitting around singing Kumbaya until the governing people get sick of all the noise and they surrender? I’m sorry, but I ended up having zero sympathy for her. Also, Mare has powers that Reds aren’t supposed to have. She can control electricity, and I’m assuming this is meant to create the image of a fearless, badass, power wielding rebellion leader in the making… but, erm, well… *cough*… all I could picture was Pikachu.

My opinion of the male characters didn’t fare much better. Kiloran is pretty much a pseudo-Gale, and between Cal and Maven we have 50 Shades of Every Bland YA Male You Can Possibly Think Of. Since Mare is such a special little snowflake, naturally all three guys are in love with her. I felt their individual development as characters was sacrificed in favour of creating a love square, and it really didn’t appeal to me at all. If I ended up liking one of the characters more than the others, then I’d at least have had something to root for, but as it stands from my neutrals perspective, it seemed a bit unnecessary.

By a mile, the ending was my favourite part of the book, and the action sequences were awesome. But by the time we’d gotten to the ending, my opinions had already been set in stone, and it was a case of too little too late. If you try too hard to convince me of something, it’s usually not true, and the more you hammer on about one point, the more resistant I’ll be to believing you. I kind of saw what happened coming a long way off, so most of the surprise was lost on me.

I really wish I enjoyed Red Queen more than I did. I was sure I would love it and it sucks when things don’t work out quite as expected. It’s a shame, as there was so much potential, but I didn’t find it anywhere near as unique, awe-inspiring or clever as the hype had lead me to believe. A lot of what happens in this book has been done before – and done much better. Oh well, can’t love them all, I guess. :(

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