My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I am all in when it comes to Red Queen. Sign me up and give me more because the world and the characters created here are just so delictable that I didn’t want the book to end. I won’t pretend as though there weren’t elements of the story that didn’t entirely irk me. In fact, there are so many things that bothered me, but what Victoria Aveyard did so well was make the problems I had with character’s behavior’s and not the story as well. While at first glance, this story feels vaguely reminiscent of a number of stories about Class which have colors defining position(Red Rising) or people with varying powers (The Young Elites), Red Queen manages to stand successfully on it’s own.
The story centers around Mare Barrow, a red girl who is fast approaching conscription age. When her previously safe from conscription best friend loses his apprenticeship and will be forced to go to war like the three brothers she’s already lost she decides it’s time she saves them both. Through a confluence of events that highlights the major differences between the commoner red live and the privileged silver life, she’s swept up into a new silver lifestyle. Now parading around as Mareena Titanos, a silver to explain her new found ability, she enters a world where she is way over her head.
Mare is a take charge girl when she was on the streets as a red. The city was hers for the taking, but her arrival into the silver court strips her of that. More than once I found myself completely enamored with mare and her determination. However, midway through the novel I began to second guess her decision making. Time and time again Mare is presented a situation. After weighing her options and acknowledging the potential danger, she often chose the path of the revolutionary even though it meant more problems for her. I can understand wanting the change, however, it seemed she made poor decision after poor decision. Often times she didn’t even agree with the acts being done, but she went along because it could potentially lead to the revolution she so wanted. When that kept happening again and again, it grew tiresome. I wanted Mare to think of herself for once, think of the trouble she may cause. That said, I positively loved her character.
Cal is presented as charismatic and intense. He’s a good prince, a good man with a good heart. He however is a Prince, with loyalty to the kingdom. He wants change, but not if it will jeopardize the kingdom. He’s logical. Painfully so. It is this incredibly realistic portrayal of a man born into nobility, but still could empathize with problems in the kingdom. Heck, he even acknowledged that he couldn’t fix it and didn’t want to be tarnished by being the one who let all of Norta fall. He was hot, he was cold, and he felt like a genuine person rather than a character.
In fact, many of the characters in the story felt like people rather than figments. Maven was so fleshed out, hiding his inner cruelty to the point that those closest to him didn’t see it coming. Queen Elara was so wonderfully evil that it was easy to get sucked into her charm. Lucas was sweet. Kilorn was foolish and indignant. They felt real. That said, there were some characters that felt more like paintings. Farley is this leader, but I see nothing in her. She’s a face, she’s dangerous, yet if she lives or dies I couldn’t care. For the spoiler filled mini-rant check out my review on goodreads.
One issue I had with the book was the relationship between Mare and Cal. The two shared a quick chemistry. It seemed abundantly clear that Cal was to be the one Mare ended with. Despite this knowledge it never felt earned. I spent more time wondering why she still flocked to Cal when in his presence. So much time was spent humanizing Cal and acknowledging his faults that I lost some of the spark between them. Even Mare recognized how terrible and dangerous Cal could be. Ultimately, I don’t feel invested in the relationship between the two. They barely seem to truly like each other. It seems more like a genuine friendship that could emerge, but not a romantic relationship. There needs to be quite a bit more to make it work because right now it seems as though Mare tolerates and lusts after him.
The twists and turns in the book truly came out of left field. However, they were so well seeded that they were not shocking, save for one of the moments early in the book. You could see everything that was coming if you paid even a little bit of attention, but the tension and dire situation Mare was in made it compelling. While it was painful to know that she was in those awful situations entirely of her own doing, it was interesting to see how she would fight to find a way out. Granted, I would have taken a different route to solve her problems that wouldn’t have had such a ripple effect, but at least she acted.
I can’t wait to read the next installment of this series, if only to delve back into a world of reds and silvers.