YA Fantasy, YA romance

My Review: Red Queen (Red Queen #1): by Victoria Aveyard

Publish Date: February 10th 2015
Number of Pages: 383 Pages
Publisher: HarperTeen
Genre(s): YA Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Dystopian, Romance

Total Star Rating: 3 Stars

This book was like all those pretty, smiling, happy, fabulous girls who are social media influencers on Instagram…sparkly, bubbly, shiny, fabulous, but with hardly any actual substance or flavor. Hmm…maybe it was more like drinking a White Claw…

Anyways, I’d been seeing this series pop up quite a lot all over the internet: lists of popular YA Fantasy titles, those gorgeous covers all over Bookstagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, etc., and seeing a lot of glowing reviews from fellow readers who’ve loved them, so to me, that meant I’d had to give them a try and see what all the hype was about.

It had everything needed in order to go down as something great: fabulous marketing, other author’s and booklover’s recommendations, beautiful aesthetics with the covers alone, and even an interesting sounding premise…Unfortunately, while the plan was golden (or silver?), the execution left a little more to be desired, and I just don’t feel like sugar coating my disappointment…I don’t owe it to anyone to beat around the bush on my reviews any longer…

What It’s About:

The Official Blurb:

A world that is divided by blood; Red and Silver.

Reds are the common-folk, the laborers, the lower class, and the oppressed. The silvers have god-like abilities who rule with a powerful fist over all those they deem below them. The story revolves around Mare Barrow, a 17 year-old red living in the poverty-stricken land known as the Stilts, who doesn’t like the way things are, but has no choice but to accept it. Challenged by a handsome stranger, she goes to the silver palace and begins to work as a maid for the royal family.

By total accident, Mare is put in a life or death situation that reveals to herself, and all the silvers in attendance, that she too possesses a great power that can threaten the status quo of everything. Never before had it been known that someone with Red Blood has ever had a special ability like the Silvers, and to avoid panic and hysteria, the royal family takes her in and claims that she’s a long lost Silver princess that has returned home. No one but her and the royal family know the real truth.

Mare becomes engaged to a royal prince, but enemies find cracks within the seemingly pristine walls, and Mare inadvertently becomes a spy for the Red Guard, a covert militant group of rebels hoping to end the Silver Tyranny. Mare begins to feel the pressure from both sides and one wrong step could mean not only her own death, but all those she cares about…

What I Liked:

  1. The Cover Design! Whoever designed the covers for this series was a freakin’ genius, because I will say that the aesthetic of the books is absolutely magnificent! The glossy, silver background with the upside down crown with red blood flowing down from it is a simple, yet effective design, and the whole series look so gorgeous side by side on your shelf as the spines darken with shades of blue, just like an incoming storm.
  2. Mare’s Attitude! Like a certain blonde heroine from the mind of Sarah J. Maas, Mare Barrow has some sass to her personality, some spicy attitude that made me like her as the heroine of the story. She’s strong willed, incredibly brave and determined all while being separated from her family and thrown into a pit of vipers with special abilities of the silver court.
  3. That Surprising Climatic Twist! Honestly, it was the saving point of the whole book, but man, did it deliver! It shocked a new life into the book much like Mare’s ability to manipulate lightning that left me entertained, yet curious enough to keep reading on.
  4. The Developing Romance! Like a typical angsty teen novel/series, there’s a love triangle that brews between Mare and the two royal siblings. Tiberias “Cal” Calore VII and his half brother, Maven, both try to win over her affection throughout the story, the former being engaged to someone else to add more drama to the mix. Cal and Mare were much more interesting to me, and becomes a huge part of my overall interest of the whole story.

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Too Many Clichés…It’s extremely difficult to find a book with absolutely no clichés, but I can draw the line when there’s so many aspects that feel overused in a single book: One, there’s the fact that Mare feels like she’s not that pretty, yet has two guys pining for her. Two, she is brought to a school-like setting to train and hone in on her craft. Three, there’s the sexier, mean girl who instantly hates Mare and makes her life a living hell with her posse of other bitches. Four, there’s the wise mentor who’s definitely got more going on underneath the surface. Five, there’s the love triangle. Six, there’s the dystopian world with oppression and rebellion brewing, and war on the horizon…like I said, it’s fine when there’s one or two major clichés in a single book, but this many just feels ridiculous and makes the story boring and not as enjoyable.
  2. Lacking Originality…Along the same thoughts with the many clichés , it felt like this book has taken small chunks from many other successful stories to make it into something that feels new, but really isn’t. Certain stories that come to mind as examples are The Hunger Games, Red Rising, Throne of Glass, The Selection, Game of Thrones, and plenty of others that you could probably think of. It may feel new to certain readers: those who haven’t read any of the mentioned books prior to this one, but for me it felt like a bunch of recycled material.
  3. It Was So Slow Moving…This book has some incredibly slow pacing… I think the author spent a little too much time on attempting their version of worldbuilding, but even that wasn’t all that satisfying because of too many info dumps that weren’t relevant to the story, or to simply be used as plot convenience later on. Seriously, there were so many houses listed with their sigils, colors, and abilities but they actually hardly do anything in the story, and I found it hard to actually remember all of them later on, probably because I didn’t care enough. There was way too much emphasis on it that wasn’t necessary. It may have been more interesting had the story focused more on the revolution aspect of the plot, but instead focused more on the romance and the mean girl antics instigated by the fact of the protagonist is flirting with the HBIC’s betrothed.
  4. There’s No Flipping Map…It’s a teen fantasy/dystopian novel, with tons of cities and regions mentioned in this world that the author created, but there’s no map of the land to give us any reference to fully understand what the author’s talking about. I feel like this is such a big faux pas; a big no-no when it comes to any sort of fantasy novel with a fictional world. It’s a minor issue to some maybe, but it’s the small things that can also make a big difference in the overall reading experience!

Conclusion:

It was an okay book, but not all that great. I can see why it’s become an incredibly popular title amongst others within the genre of YA Fantasy; its glossy, shiny, aesthetically pleasing (both in book covers and all the attractive characters), and even the premise sounds interesting enough…but beneath all of that, there’s not a whole lot else to go off of.

I recommend this title to those who are just starting out in the YA Fantasy genre, and for those who aren’t looking for anything too complicated or complex to read. It’s beginner level material, and unfortunately while I am still slightly interested enough to continue reading on, I hope the series will become stronger and more developed as things progress and the revolution that will so obviously occur later on will breathe new life into the story.

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

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