Ratings: ☕☕☕☕☕ (5/5)
Excuse me while I collect my thoughts.
I’ve been struggling to write this review without fangirling and failed five times. Just thinking about this story is making me feel tingly and excited inside! Unique, captivating and unforgettable, Victoria Aveyard’s debut novel Red Queen is a must-read for…well…everyone.
The Writing: I won’t lie—Red Queen initially had its flaws, but the writing style was so intriguing and captivating I hardly even noticed it. In fact I’m having a difficult remembering the flaws of this book—that’s how fantastic the writing is. The world building, although a tad bit slow, was incredibly vivid and beautifully detailed without being unnecessarily descriptive and the narration itself was so smooth and thought provoking, I couldn’t help but become emotional while reading about all the unfairness in the world of Reds and Silvers.
Long ago he called us ants, Red ants burning in the light of a Silver sun. Destroyed by the greatness of others, losing the battle for our right to exist because we are not special. We did not evolve like them, with powers and strengths beyond our limited imaginations. We stayed the same, stagnant in our own bodies. The world changed around us and we stayed the same.
Despite having an Alice In Wonderland theme, Red Queen hardly feels like a retelling/fanfiction and more like a story that is focused entirely on discrimination, the injustice of social castes and the constant friction between the rich and the poor, the strong and the weak. I’m perfectly aware that a lot of other YA books are based on a similar premise (does the name The Hunger Games ring a bell?) but what makes Red Queen stand out is how realistic and logical the story is despite belonging in the fantasy genre and how it moved me more than any other similar YA books.
In school, we learned about the world before ours, about the angels and gods that lived in the sky, ruling the earth with kind and loving hands. Some say those are just stories, but I don’t believe that.
The gods rule us still, they have come down from the stars. And they are no longer kind.
There aren’t enough words in English language to describe my feelings as I read this book and I chalk it up to Aveyard’s brilliant writing, plotting and characterization.
The Characters: Our MC, Mare Barrow (Get it? Mare Barrow? As in “rabbit hole”? Alice in Wonderland? No? Oh, okay) was unlike any other YA characters I’ve read about and all though many readers had some issues with her, I absolutely adored her. She was flawed and not in the martyred sort of way most YA females are; throughout the whole book she felt like a real girl with real imperfections: insecure about her worth, confident about her skills, passionate in her beliefs, protective about her people and yet selfish and ruthless around the edges. This is a girl who can do things, change things. This is a girl who can lead.
He is tired. He is broken. And he doesn’t want to fight anymore.
Part of me doesn’t either. Part of me wishes I could submit to chains, to captivity and silence. But I have lived that life already, in the mud, in the shadows, in a cell, in a silk dress. I will never submit again. I will never stop fighting.
I’m Red, I’m nothing, and I can still make you fall.
As for the rest of the characters, they were just as three dimensional as our MC was. Cal was, admittedly, not exactly a unique character but he was definitely someone I loved and respected as the story progressed and he developed with it. I’m not sure how I feel about his relationship with our MC—they say opposites attract but Mare and Cal are as different as night and day; Mare can actually betray her Silver friends for her Red people and make painful sacrifices for the greater picture. Cal on the otherhand, is loyal to a fault and is afraid of taking risks to make way for changes. Regardless, I liked the teamwork between the two while it lasted and I am looking forward to seeing more of it in the next book.
Then there’s Maven—the blue eyed prince, Cal’s brother, the character I’d fallen head over heels for. For most of the book I admired him and pitied him for being the ignored prince, the “shadow of the flame” as Mare described him. His character arc and development by the end of book was stunning and something I definitely hadn’t seen coming.
“No one notices, no one even cares, when I fade away again. I’m a shadow, and no one remembers shadows.”
That brings me to the antagonists of this novel. Whether it’s a book or a movie, I always need a very complex villain to enjoy it. And my goodness, the antagonists in Red Queen give a whole new meaning to the words “complex” and “sneaky”. It was one of the things that I loved the most about this book, that I didn’t know who the bad guys really were until the very end.
The Plot: If you like plot twists that will leave you breathless and maybe a little traumatized, Red Queen is the book for you. Although for the first five chapters, the story was a little slow and a tad bit predictable, the story soon picks up the speed and starts taking turns you would not be anticipating. Fast paced, action packed and full of suspense, I could not put this book down even for a second and every page I turned had me going like this.
There was one particular plot twist that literally broke me. I was so traumatized that I had to stop reading the book for four days straight and needed a little ice cream therapy before I could pluck up the courage to read again.
As a fantasy novel, Red Queen is mind-blowing. One of the things I loved the most about this book is how light the romance was–sure the chemistry between the characters could set a wildfire and I’d be lying if there was one particular prince I seriously shipped my character with.
He knows I’m sinking fast, a stone dropping through the river. And he wants to drown with me.
And yet the romance wasn’t the highlight of the story. Instead it was very subtle and beautifully interwoven into the main plot of the story. And the best part is, Mare is such a strong character, I don’t really mind seeing her alone and on her own.
The words are heavy as stone but right. So right. “I choose no one.”
Another thing that I loved was how this book never strayed off topic–this book started out as a tragic story about human rights, about freedom and it continued to be just that until the very end. So if you are looking for a passionate story about prejudice, struggle and freedom this is the book for you.
The only flaw with the plot was that it dragged on for a time. It’s true that I enjoyed reading every page, and I still do not regret the time I spent reading this book, but at one point the story felt rather long. Other than this, there aren’t any major flaw with the Red Queen.
The Ending: And now comes the hardest part of this review. I cannot say much about the ending of this, except that it all but killed me.
A forgotten son, a vengeful mother, a brother with a long shadow, a strange mutation. Together, they’ve written a tragedy.
I’m definitely looking forward to reading the next book.