Thursday, July 9, 2015

Review: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Title: Red Queen
Author: Victoria Aveyard
Series: Red Queen, Book One
Publisher: HarperTeen
Published Date: 10 February 2015
Buy: Amazon | The Book Depository | Dymocks Australia

Graceling meets The Selection in debut novelist Victoria Aveyard's sweeping tale of seventeen-year-old Mare, a common girl whose once-latent magical power draws her into the dangerous intrigue of the king's palace. Will her power save her or condemn her?

Mare Barrow's world is divided by blood—those with common, Red blood serve the Silver- blooded elite, who are gifted with superhuman abilities. Mare is a Red, scraping by as a thief in a poor, rural village, until a twist of fate throws her in front of the Silver court. Before the king, princes, and all the nobles, she discovers she has an ability of her own.

To cover up this impossibility, the king forces her to play the role of a lost Silver princess and betroths her to one of his own sons. As Mare is drawn further into the Silver world, she risks everything and uses her new position to help the Scarlet Guard—a growing Red rebellion—even as her heart tugs her in an impossible direction. One wrong move can lead to her death, but in the dangerous game she plays, the only certainty is betrayal.
(summary from Goodreads)

Red Queen is a tense and entertaining read, though its storylines are sometimes too obvious.

Red Queen has a lot going for it. A mix of fantasy and dystopian, it's full of political intrigue, rebellion, action, a touch of romance, and magic - though here it's called 'abilities'. I enjoyed all of these elements, especially theses abilities. From manipulating fire, metal and water to reading minds and controlling another person, to being able to turn your skin to stone or freeze with a touch; there are many and varied abilities described throughout Aveyard's book and each is portrayed in deadly ways. There's a lot to take in reading Red Queen and the story is fast-paced, though the action is contained. Aveyard has definitely created some solid world building, but I think the rest of the series will benefit getting out of the bounds of the capital. A lot of glimpses into the wider world are given and the action can only increase as the story experiences the war first hand and the truths regarding it and the secrets of the Red and Silvers are delved into further. In true first book of a series fashion, Red Queen gives us just enough to go 'ooh' before it ends. Most of that 'ooh' is in regard to Aveyard's characters for me. I wasn't hugely impressed by Mare, who is much too oblivious and gullible for my tastes, but with anger and betrayal fueling her now I'm hopeful she'll become the kind of kickass heroine I'll cheerfully root for. In much the same way, I was not moved by Cal and Maven, as their roles were too predictable, but there's definitely hints of more than meets the eye with both of them and so they're still ones to watch as the series continues. For me, it's the Scarlet Guard I'm most looking forward to learning more about. The rebellion has the potential to kickstart Glass Sword, the second book in the series, into higher gear, so I'm hopeful for a lot more action, badass moves and surprising abilities.

I didn't love Red Queen, and that's mostly because I've read enough books like it previously that too many of its plotlines were predictable. The first 100 pages or so, I was enthralled by the world building. By the 200 page mark though my interest started to wane, and by page 300 I'd actually started to want to skim read so I could finish it quicker. It was much too easy to see where the story was going, and though there was some good action and intrigue to keep the story moving, it wasn't enough to have me ending this book on a high. Mare honestly became too annoying too quickly for me. Here's the thing - if you mention an initial gut reaction of trust or distrust, and then have your character disregard that feeling entirely for the rest of the book because of some 'surprising' actions (read: manipulation), that's like flashing a huge neon sign, and your twist when it's inevitably revealed? Not shocking. Unfortunately, that one moment pretty much defined the rest of Red Queen for me. I could enjoy Aveyard's world building, as I said earlier, but I could not wholly connect with the story because it wasn't as compelling as I'd hoped. It definitely clouded my judgement of Mare, whose declaration of being no one's fool actually had me snorting incredibly loudly and inelegantly in a fairly quiet, very packed waiting room. Erm, sorry strangers. But yes, Mare, you really are, more's the pity. I'm trying not to be too harsh because elements like these - characters having to learn the hard way, I guess - are necessary to fuel conflict, I know, but just once I'd like to see a character actually remain wary when they're thrust into a world and/or situation unlike any they've experienced before. But despite all of this, I am still willing to give Glass Sword a chance. I have a feeling things can only get better. Hopefully. I guess we'll see. In the meantime, I'll keep my fingers crossed. 

Aveyard has created a mostly good read with Red Queen, full of some interesting elements, though ultimately it's not entirely new or exciting. Still, if you like this sort of fantasy, Red Queen is worth a read - at least to say that you've done so!



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