I work in the young adult section at Dymocks in Sydney (the largest bookstore in the southern hemisphere, hell yeah) and for weeks, Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard has sat on the shelf calling to me. The cover is beautiful (I’m a sucker for anything that has crowns and blood on it) and the hype around this book was insane (and heightened with the release of the third book in the series, King’s Cage).
But my overall opinion of this book was this: Yes, it was entertaining, but it was way over-hyped.
Mare Barrow’s world is divided by blood – red or silver – where the Red’s are commoners ruled by the Silver elite who possess unique powers. After living her whole life in poverty as a Red, Mare believes that nothing will ever change. However, she finds herself working at the Silver Palace, surrounded by the people she hates the most, and discovers that despite her red blood, she possesses a unique power of her own. One that threatens to overthrow the balance of power. The Silvers, afraid of her, hide her in plain sight under the guise of a long-lost Silver princess, now engaged to a Silver prince. But a resistance called the Red Guard is rising, and Mare will do whatever it takes to save her people. Even if it means going against her own heart.
1) The Writing Style
The story is told in the first person through the eyes of Mare Barrow. I wasn’t sure whether I actually liked Mare’s character, but I knew that I liked her voice – the kind of sarcastic, cynical, angry tone that infuses her thoughts. Aveyard’s style of writing seems at a glance to be quite simple, however, there are various subtleties that really make Mare’s character rise just a little bit above that stereotypical dystopian character who wants to overthrow the government.
2) The Super Powers
My interest for dystopian novels has passed, and reading this book has definitely reminded me just how much I over-read dystopians when it was the hit thing. But, the Silver’s super powers, though a little cliche, definitely added a refreshing element to the heavily dystopian world. It almost became a hybrid of fantasy and dystopian. The types of powers and how they worked were interesting and also added suspense, so they were well done.
3) The Beginning
The opening chapters of this book were the second-to-best part of this book. They were well written, the character introductions and the establishment of the world weren’t forced, and it definitely hooked me into wanting to overthrow the Silver’s alongside Mare and the resistance.
4) The Ending
This is a spoiler-free review so I won’t say much… But after a laborious middle, the last couple chapters of the book were so intense, I went from slouching on my bed waiting for something to happen, to sitting bolt upright, saying “What the hell?!”
1) Yes, Mare. We understand that you want revenge. WE GET IT.
There are times where the writing is ridiculously repetitive, and this is usually where the author tries to get across the reasoning behind Mare’s decisions or actions. It’s as if she thinks that by repeating, “The contrast between the Silver city and the Red slums sets my teeth on edge,” in different variations every few pages, she feels content that at least the readers know why she wants to overthrow the government. It’s always annoying when people tell writers to show, not tell, and yet it really does have a huge impact on the reader. Victoria definitely shows, but she also tells alongside that, just in case the reader missed it, and it makes the story feel slow and quite boring. Also, another pet peeve for me was at the end of the majority of the chapters where Mare would always have something really dramatic to say and it’d usually be italicised: “Too late“, or “Not yet.” That was just something that got on my nerves. Chapter endings, in my opinion, are usually naturally dramatic when it ends on an action or dialogue, not pointless (and repeated) declarations of revenge.
2) The Unoriginality
You’re probably thinking, “But it’s about a world where people have different coloured blood to act as a metaphor for discrimination and capitalism in our own society. How is that unoriginal?” And when I first read the synopsis for this book, my reaction was “OoOoOo, interesting.” But this story had SO MUCH POTENTIAL, and it was the most generic dystopian novel I’ve read so far. Apart from the powers, it was textbook dystopian. It was difficult to read when every time I turned the page, I felt like I had read it all before. Mix into that an even more hyped-up version of ‘the chosen one’ who inspires a whole (surprisingly inactive) population into action, and I could feel myself pulling away.
3) The Pacing
I don’t know what else to say here. The book begins with a bang and sucks you in, then draws on and on and on and on and on and on… Then smacks you in the face with thrill and excitement for about three chapters, then drags on and on and on again.
4) The Map
I’m not sure if it was just my version of the book, but when I saw the map of Norta at the front, I burst into laughter. “What is this?” The writing was insanely small and illegible against the grey and black backdrop, which honestly looked like someone had spilt water on a page and the ink had run.
I rate this book:
Honestly, the little moment of shock at the end made the long journey somewhat worthwhile. Again, it wasn’t bad, but it really wasn’t anything special.
Let me know what you thought of this book!
Thanks for reading,