Saturday, 25 February 2017

Red Queen, Victoria Aveyard

"What good will it do? Nothing will change." "For hundreds of years the Silvers have walked the earth as living gods and the Reds have been slaves at their feet, until you. If that isn't change, I don't know what is"

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.

* * * 
3 / 5

I was ready to rate this a 2.5 star book for being well written with a main character and supporting cast that I liked paired with an acceptable plot that incorporates a lot of young adult cliches and is lacking in originality. I bumped it up half a star for the cracking ending where the novel finally starts to show the glimmers of promise. It wasn't a particularly surprising twist that dominates the last 10% of the book, but it was bold and made me order the next one the moment I finished. Red Queen is nothing you haven't read before (if you read a lot of Young Adult) but it is fun.

Mare Barrow, seventeen and born into poverty is thrust into the midst of her enemies and finds a revolution. It's a familiar tale. This book has received comparisons to Red Rising, a wonderfully written novel featuring a young man, Darrow, a lowly Red forced to work in the mines for his betters before becoming the heart of an uprising. It's eerily close, though upon reading Red Queen I wouldn't say they are particularly similar, to be perfectly honest. After all, its not a particularly original idea on behalf of either Red Queen or Red Rising: a society split into castes, one more special than the other, asserting their superiority. Its something that we've read hundreds on times before; in fact I read Gilded Cage last week which is essentially founded upon the same principle. I merely think Aveyard was unfortunately unaware of Red Rising when she made her lower cast the Reds. 

The gods rule us still. They have come down from the stars. And they are no longer kind.

Red Rising is much more an adult novel, much more brutal and bloodthirsty and devoid of courts and princes. This is not to say that Red Queen is a lesser book. It's just a different one, and it is most firmly and absolutely planted in the Young Adult territory. So long as you don't pick this up expecting something like Red Rising, then I see no problem. If I were to make a comparison at all, I would be more likely to compare Red Queen with The Hunger Games for the women striving to pull her family out of poverty any way that she can, becoming the face of a revolution that she cannot control.

They've pulled me inside out, swapping Mare for Mareena, a thief for a crown, rags for silk, Red for Silver. This morning I was a servant, tonight I'm a princess. How much more will change? What else will I lose?

Mare herself and her character arc reminds me very much of Alina Starkov of the Grisha trilogy: a woman who ought not to have powers discovers them in a moment of fear and crisis, whereafter she is taken from her home and family to a palace to assume a role she dislikes and partake in training and lessons. There's also a mean girl, magic, and a prince/lord who isn't what he seems. And an uprising. The writing is also rather similar.

As a character, I found Mare reasonably likeable, and if not likeable then at least I understood her decisions and sympathised with her. She's angry at society, at the Silvers because of the pain her and her people have suffered at their hands. She is wounded, reeling at the sudden distortion in her reality, and trusts the first person to be kind to her, who feels safe despite warnings to the contrary. I find, perhaps surprisingly, that as I grow older I have more sympathy for characters like Mare, lost and unsure of who they are and what they are supposed to become, and think that I might have found her foolish and reckless if I had read this when I was younger.

It seems to burn against his inky black hair flecked with gray. How fitting, for the king is a burner, as was his father, and his father before him

The supporting cast is rather dull: there's the sister that is interesting and then never reappears, the brothers who are barely in it, the rather flat and dull childhood friend, and the two princes Cal and Maven who are ~powerful~ and ~handsome~ and equally attractive to Mare. Cal, Crown Prince and elder brother is boring. He's a soldier, beholden by duty and love for his country and father. I much preferred Maven.

The truth is what I make it. I could set this world on fire and call it rain

Red Queen has a rather typical start and middle. There's a woman pulled from poverty because she is special, she wears ballgowns and goes to lessons, and there's a country on the edge of war with itself and its own injustice. It's well written, the characters are interesting and likeable if a bit flat, but it isn't original. If you don't mind something easy to read that adds a fresh lick of paint to well-loved young adult tropes, then Red Queen is a delightful read. Just don't expect to be astounded.  


  1. Love the series. Are you planning on reading the other parts? :)

    1. Yep! I have Glass Sword lined up to read after A Conjuring of Light :)