Review: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Red Queen Victoria Aveyard
Red Queen Victoria Aveyard cover

Title: Red Queen
Author: Victoria Aveyard 
Series: Red Queen #1 
Genre: Fantasy, YA
 Publication date: February 10, 2015
Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Mare Barrow’s world is divided by blood – those with red and those with silver. Mare and her family are lowly Reds, destined to serve the Silver elite whose supernatural abilities make them nearly gods. Mare steals what she can to help her family survive, but when her best friend is conscripted into the army, she gambles everything to win his freedom. A twist of fate leads her to the royal palace itself, where, in front of the king and all his nobles, she discovers a power of her own, an ability she didn’t know she had. Except… her blood is Red. To hide this impossibility, the king forces her into the role of a lost Silver princess and betroths her to one of his sons. As Mare is drawn further into the Silver world, she risks her new position to aid the Scarlet Guard – the leaders of a Red rebellion. Her actions put into motion a deadly and violent dance, pitting prince against prince and Mare against her own heart.
This review is really hard to write, because I want to avoid major spoilers at all cost, but some of them are literally KILLING me and all I really want to do is talk about them. But I won’t. I’ll try to keep things as general as possible.

When this book came out a few months ago, I added it to my to-read list, but I should admit I had my doubts. It didn’t sound very original. A girl destined to create a revolution and save the world, we’ve heard it all before. So, I put it on my list, but I suppose I didn’t really have the intention of reading it until someone actually recommended it to me. Bless. I’m so glad I gave it a chance. So here’s advice number one: don’t make a decision based on the blurb alone. There’s a lot more to it.

The truth is what I make it. I could set this world on fire and call it rain.

The world Victoria Aveyard created is interesting. At first it feels like just another world with people divided into rich/poor sectors, but the difference is in the details. On the one hand it’s like a High Fantasy setting with castles, nobles, swords, armor etc. The world doesn’t seem very contemporary, as you may have guessed. But on the other hand there’s also technology (electricity, broadcasting screens, cars..) which gives the impression of a mainly dystopian world, despite the fantasy elements, and the abilities of the Silvers put everything in a bit of a science fiction light. This world is a mix, but I think it’s remarkably well done. I’ll admit that there’s been some ‘borrowing’ from other stories/worlds, but it didn’t bother me. Nothing feels out of place or forced. There’s also a just cause for the rebellion and a good reason for Mare to get involved in it. Everything’s planned out well and there aren’t too many convenient ‘coincidences’. The author definitely knows what she’s doing.

I liked the characters a lot. Mare Barrow is the main character and she is very human, I suppose. She’s brave, compassionate, loving, sharp etc., but she’s also reckless, impulsive and a bit naive. She wants to save her family and her people, but she’s in over her head. Mare has no idea how to do this and so she relies on the advice others give her. And they don’t always have the best intentions. She needs to consider her actions carefully, something she learns the hard way. I didn’t always agree with the choices she made, but I loved her nonetheless.

Then there are the brothers Cal and Maven, princes. The dream of every author in need of a love triangle. But, my second piece of advice, don’t write this story off because of it. The world of YA has been invaded by horrible love triangle stories, but this isn’t one of them. I suppose you could say this is a love triangle done right. It serves the story rather than it being the story. It actually has a purpose. First of all, Mare doesn’t choose to get involved with both of them, it’s forced on her. Secondly, they all have their own hidden agendas. There’s so much manipulation going on, that in fact, it felt only logical for the three of them to get in a messy relationship. Worse, Cal and Maven are both very likable. LT’s often bother me because most of the time they are so painfully obvious. Not here. Not in my opinion at least. They were very alike and yet very different. Cliche of the century, yeah, I know. Still. I was constantly torn between them and that made things very, very interesting. When I was childishly outing my frustrations about it to a friend of mine, she said: “It’s complicated.” Believe me when I say that’s quite an understatement.

Flame and shadow, one cannot exist without the other.

This book is well written, fast-paced, not predictable despite its countless forshadowings, has good dynamics between the characters, a well-built world etc. There’s a lot going on and a lot happening, but I can’t really say anything about that. You should definitely give this a try and see for yourself! I loved it. I really did. There’s only one thing you need to keep in mind:

Anyone can betray anyone.
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