Silvers are different, I remind myself. Their scars don’t last. They don’t remember pain. With skin healers waiting in the wings, violence has taken on a new meaning for them. A broken spine, a split stomach, it doesn’t matter. Someone will always come to fix you. They don’t know the meaning of danger or fear or pain. It’s only their pride that can be truly hurt. – “Red Queen”, p. 199
I’ve been wanting to read the ‘Red Queen’-series for a long time now. That simple, yet beautiful cover featuring a crown dripping crimson blood has caught my eye several times before on social media. Hell, all Instagram was bursting with aesthetically pleasing book arrangements and flatlays including the ‘Red Queen’ books. So I admit it, first and foremost, I bought it because of its cover. There you have it. But since then I have read both positive and negative reviews regarding the ‘Red Queen’, and grew more and more nervous about beginning this series, to be honest. In itself, the plot sounded really interesting to me: A world divided by blood, a world divided into Silvers and Reds. Those with silver blood have astounding abilities and powers at their command, being able to control fire, metal, water, you name it – even people’s minds. Only Silvers can rule over Reds. And then there are those with red blood, like Mare Barrow, a young 17-year-old and her family, who are living in poverty and as slaves to the Silvers. A few of her brothers are fighting in a war that can’t be won, and soon it will be Mare’s fate, too. But then, everything changes. She finds herself in the king’s palace and discovers her own supernatural ability in front of the king and his nobles. From then on, Mare is forced into a new role, a new life in the palace in order to cover up the secret of a Red having silver abilities.
As the story unravels, the reader learns a bit more about the world the protagonist is living in. It is a world full of injustice and it reminded me a bit of Greek mythology – the Silvers being like gods, living in a place just like Mount Olympus, shielded from the common people, living a life full of splendor while those at their feet are starving to death. I liked how those supernatural abilities are described throughout the book. The way and time those abilities in Mare come to life also make a lot of sense, as well as her struggle with them. I would have loved to know more about those powers, how they come to exist and how it is that those powers can either be used to manipulate or to create fire, water, metal, and so on. But I guess the next three books will reveal more about that.
Although the plot is very convincing and made me continue reading this book (because I needed to know how Mare will cope with this new and daunting situation), I am a bit disappointed. First of all, some aspects of the story are a bit predictable – either because certain meaningful sentences are repeated over and over again or because certain character descriptions already lead your mind on the path where the story is going. Nevertheless, I liked where it was going and enjoyed this plot twist, although I kind of saw it coming.
I don’t really know what it is about this book that leaves me with such mixed feelings. I liked it, yes, and it was really enjoyable. But the love triangle trope of a young girl, powerful but not really realizing it, being drawn to two brothers who happen to be princes… I grew a bit wary of that, just because their relationship was a little bit too obvious and I somehow didn’t like either of Mare’s potential love interests. Maybe it is because I also couldn’t quite grasp the characters. I would have wished for a more profound characterization of the main protagonists, because to me, they somehow stayed more flat than round from the beginning to the end. I think what also kept me from fully loving this book was that my heart is still with “The Queen of the Tearling”. (If you like, here is a review to the first book of this series!) I kept comparing “Red Queen” to it, I compared protagonists and settings, world building and plot. And since I feel an undying love for “The Queen of the Tearling”, it is hard for any fantasy/dystopian series to better that. It also did not help that I was constantly reminded of the “The Selection”-series, a trilogy I listened to via audiobook a few years ago. So it is no wonder a lot what happened between Mare and the princes at the palace seemed very, very cheesy to me.
To me, “Red Queen” seems like a mixture of different dystopian fantasy books. The protagonist somehow seems like another version of Katniss, what happens at the palace has a strong similarity to “The Selection” and a girl figuring out her powers that made her different from everyone else somehow reminded me of Triss of the “Divergent”-series. I do not mind having a lot of tropes in one book if they are well executed, I actually love it if I see some tropes being incorporated really well into the story. But there were moments where it all seemed too much and I felt like this book was a mere copy of a variety of already existing fantasy series.
“Red Queen” is a promising prelude to a series about a world split in two, where Silvers enjoy their power over Reds and where a seventeen year old girl changes that. While it is predictable at times and sometimes even a bit annoying with its over-usage of tropes and motives known from other fantasy novels, it is still an enjoyable book and I’m still looking forward to its follow-up “Glass Sword”, which is already on my reading list for april.
“Make no mistake, my girl,” he finally breathes. “You are playing the game as someone’s pawn.” – p. 225
Author: Victoria Aveyard
Title: Red Queen
Series: Red Queen (#1)
Press: Harper Teen Books
Year of publication: 2015