How did I hear about the Red Queen? I saw the pretty cover with a crown that dripped blood on Tumblr. A book by the cover… all part of the 2015 reading challenge.
I read 2 chapters and stopped to Google review, thinking something so plain cannot be that hype-worthy, moreover, I sensed a theme. Oppressed reds, powerful “superhuman” Silvers, swords and technology. All too similar to Pierce Brown’s Red Rising to feel truly original. While I found the beginning of Red Rising overwhelming, it was so much so, that you could imagine the world of the characters quite vividly, if not completely. Eighty pages through, I couldn’t even remotely say the same of the Red Queen.
Reds are poor and unexceptional. Those who become apprentices and learn a craft, can help their families lead a decent existence. Those who can’t find their place are set to join the army on their 18th birthday. That’s exactly the reason Mare Barrow gets in trouble in the first place – she doesn’t have an apprenticeship, and she steals. Her friend’s mentor dies, so Mare convinces her sister, the one that is destined to pull the family from financial misery, to help her get into the city of the Silvers (Silvers are a sort of higher-being. The perfect men and women, strong, graceful, smart… They also happen to have X-men style superpowers ) to steal some of their stuff, to help pay the smugglers to get her and the friend out of the city. The plan goes wrong. Very wrong.
What I should note is, first of all, the unrealistically-ignorant actions of some characters. Most notably, Farley, the Red leader of the rebellion, who happens to visit the royal palace and finds herself captured during a sabotage attack. For a revolutionary mastermind targeting the downfall of the Silvers, that is definitely far from bright.
Kilorn, and Mare’s unreasonable attachment to him is one of the most annoying parts of the book, and put quite simply, a plot hole. When Mare is taken to the palace, she slowly starts falling for both of the Princes. The childhood friend is quite quickly forgotten, of course, if you don’t count the fact that she bargains for his life with the King. He “thanks” her for it be joining the Red Guard, coming down to the palace during the shooting, and well, getting captured. The fact that Mare even begs Julian to save him, and goes on a suicide mission to do that herself is just plain selfish, selfishly stupid, that is. That is Mare.
Unfortunately, for a much hyped debut, the Red Queen did not manage to even equal the expectations, and the reason why this book has an average of 4…. at Goodreads is absolutely beyond me. A sort Game of Thrones style anti-utopia with a little bit of X-men mixed into the lot could certainly have worked way better. The writing is not as good as some of the debuts and young adult novels of the recent years, the plot has gaping holes and the weak character development left me with literally nobody to root for in the end.
Overall note: 3*