February 27, 2015

Review: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

In the fairy tales, the poor girl smiles when she becomes a princess. Right now, I don't know if I'll ever smile again.

The Book Rest - Book Review of Red Queen by Victoria AveyardTitle: Red Queen
Author: Victoria Aveyard
Genre:YA Fantasy/Dystopian
Rating: B
Recommended For: Fans of The Young Elites, Shadow and Bone
Source: Own a copy

One-sentence review: Victoria Aveyard's debut is fast-paced, exciting and will keep you at the edge of your seat even if the romantic elements fall flat and the story-telling is decisively nothing extraordinary for its teen audience.

TBR It: Goodreads
Buy It: Amazon

Victoria Aveyard's debut novel, Red Queen, follows the story of Mare Barrow, a red-blooded Red commoner living in the shadow of the Silvers, silver-blooded people with super powers who live luxurious lives at the expense of the oppressed Reds. Mare finds herself working in the palace and eventually discovers that despite her red blood, she has a power of her own. When the king and queen discover that she's an anomaly, they work to control Mare in the castle while battling a rebel Red group. Can Mare use her position in the castle to help the rebels rid themselves of oppression? Or will the politics within the castle destroy her first?

I think this book was somewhat over-hyped, but in a way I'm glad it was because I probably wouldn't have read it otherwise and I did enjoy it. The storyline is fairly common: a plain, poor girl finds out she has a super power and it becomes a very dramatic, often politically potent, rags-to-riches story that more often than not involves a love triangle and is spread out over three books. So what sets Red Queen apart and makes it worth the read?

For one, the super powers are pretty interesting, mostly abilities to manipulate things like fire, water, metal, and minds. Mare's ability to manipulate electricity is something unlike many have ever seen. The world-building was very well-crafted and I enjoyed the characters, especially Mare's dynamic with her family. She is always the hot-headed troublemaker, stealing when she can't work and living in the shadow of her talented younger sister. Similarly, the complexities of the princes were equally fascinating to follow, especially in relation to and in comparison to Mare's experiences as a Red.

The caste system based on blood color was also outside the norm and probably the most notable part of this story. I couldn't help but equate it with labeling people based on the color of their skin. While reading I considered a lot of the racially focused news stories and compared it to the message of the story. I think this book could be a good talking point about race and/or segregation and/or oppression whether in present day or past histories.

What I didn't like is how the characters always found their way out of sticky situations fairly easily. This aspect made it feel very YA/teen to me. While I know it is YA/teen, my favorite books are those that are written for that genre but can be enjoyed thoroughly by any level of reader (think Harry Potter). This book had so many predictable twists and obvious foreshadowing that I was really disappointed when I predicted correctly.

Similarly immature-feeling was the (necessary-YA-evil) love triangle. There wasn't enough interaction or background for me to care about who Mare picked, I felt indifferent to both candidates. While I liked them, I didn't "fall in reader love" with them and that is definitely something the author needs to accomplish if a love triangle is going to be effective.

Overall I really did enjoy Red Queen, but if I were the author or editor I might have put it through another round of edits or re-writes to work out the kinks. I do look forward to the next book and have definitely become a fan of Victoria Aveyard! In fact, I was able to attend a book discussion about Red Queen the week it came out. Victoria was wonderful to meet and speak with. I was satisfied to learn that she was first a screenwriter before a book writer which made me come to realize Red Queen would probably translate even better to screen and I look forward to the hope that it will someday!

The Book Rest - Victoria Aveyard Book Signing
For a video from the event visit my Instagram @TheBookRest

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