by Victoria Aveyard
To be published on February 10, 2015
by Harper Teen
Source: Thanks to Harper for allowing me to read an advance copy of this book.
Synopsis from Goodreads: Mare Barrow's world is divided by blood--those with common, Red blood serve the Silver- blooded elite, who are gifted with superhuman abilities. Mare is a Red, scraping by as a thief in a poor, rural village, until a twist of fate throws her in front of the Silver court. Before the king, princes, and all the nobles, she discovers she has an ability of her own. To cover up this impossibility, the king forces her to play the role of a lost Silver princess and betroths her to one of his own sons. As Mare is drawn further into the Silver world, she risks everything and uses her new position to help the Scarlet Guard--a growing Red rebellion--even as her heart tugs her in an impossible direction. One wrong move can lead to her death, but in the dangerous game she plays, the only certainty is betrayal.
My take: I can't say I loved Red Queen, but at the same time, as I read this book, I could see that some other readers will love it. My main issues with it were two: first, I never really connected with Mare, the main character, enough that I became fully invested in the story. Also, as I read, I began to feel that I'd seen different aspects of this book in other YA books.
I can't explain my feelings about Mare. There's nothing that I can point out that was wrong with her, but I never felt emotionally invested in her or any of the characters. And the more I thought about problem two, the more I also began to think that it had something to do with me and the dystopian genre. I love contemporaries and I rarely mind if they use tropes or plot elements that are familiar. Odd couples, fake boyfriends, hate to love relationships -- bring it all on. But in a fantasy or dystopian, I want more creativity. I want to open that kind of book and enter a story world that feels like something I've never experienced before. Other readers may not feel this way at all.
As I read Red Queen, I felt as if I recognized elements of popular YA books. In the whole red blood vs. silver blood world, (the different colored blood did feel original, to be fair) Mare is sort of .... Divergent. She travels from her lowly village to see the rich people in the capital city, a bit like in the Hunger Games. She's a girl who thought she was a commoner, but then discovers she has special powers, a bit like Alina in Shadow and Bone. There's some sort of competition-slash-choosing-ceremony for the hand of the crown prince, which seemed a bit reminiscent of The Selection. There are fights that felt a little like the ones in Divergent, and tongue-cutting for punishment as in the Hunger Games. The time period or location of the world is unclear. There's royalty and a clear have and have not set-up, but not many cultural clues.
There were a lot of pages devoted to setting up a romance. Or romances. At first, Mare seems to have a connection to a boy from her village (think a boy-next-door like Gale or Aspen) but in the capital city, she's soon betrothed to one prince and flirting with another. For me there were too many guys and too much back and forth. I've read conflicting opinions on Goodreads about the romance. Some people feel it is clearly triangular, possibly rectangular, while others insist the book sets up an OTP situation. I'm not really sure -- things could definitely go either way in a future book.
In the last quarter or so of Red Queen, stuff finally started to happen, including a pretty cool plot twist that I didn't see coming. I was pleased about that, but still didn't close the book feeling in love with the story or the characters. But I may get another chance to try: Victoria Aveyard's Goodreads bio says she's a screenwriter and according to news stories, another writer is currently adapting the book into a screenplay. It's definitely possible that I'd enjoy this story more on the screen than on the page, and I'm willing to give it a chance there. And bonus points for this amazing cover!