First, I want to thank Windie @ Geek Apprentice for an html tutorial that allowed me to slightly revamp my blog graphics. *Japanese bow*
I’m solely basing my reason of picking up this book on the fact that Red Queen appears on many book tag entries. Bloggers had different reactions toward this. Hence, my curiousity.
WARNING: Not spoiler-proof!
With Red Queen being Victoria Aveyard’s debut novel, I can tell her writing career is well underway. I could easily slip into her world through her comparatively sleek writing style (being a debut as the point of reference). She has a habit of portraying a scene with straightforward words and that’s a plus. At several points though, I had to reread from two paragraphs ago when I don’t get how a particular situation turned up like that. Like there’s a hop in the plot. Call this an unpopular opinion but really, do I have to go over the texts again and again to fully comprehend what’s happening? It’s like feeling bewildered whether you missed a point or it was just obscurely written.
Red Queen is a book about revolution and oppression, trusting and betraying, love and hatred, political warfare all in connection with jealousy and hunger for power. There’s hierarchy within a hierarchy which is a mirror of what our social triangle is like. You can either be at the tip of the wealthiest or the base of the destitute or reside somewhere in between. Families fight each other for sovereignty and let’s face it, in reality, such a thing exists for diverse justifications.
Their fights were all driven by their egotistical reasons. The queen desires for supreme power. The Scarlet Guard wants to overthrow the existing tyrants then what? Rule for themselves?
For obvious reasons, this is a fantasy book. Hundreds before me have pointed out how this is an amalgam of different YA fantasy and alas, I am with them. Aristocracies oppressing the impoverished? Protagonist acting as a rebellious puppet of those in power? Suzanne Collins already made a living out of that. Woman with incredible undiscovered powers? Sounds like Tris, the Divergent, to me. A walking magnetic field for boys? Celaena Sardothien, you have a contender. I appreciate Aveyard’s effort in trying to dress her fantasy elements in a different outfit but strip them naked, it all boils down to being a hackneyed item. Which brings me to question whether or not she’s an apprentice of these authors prior to this.
There’s relative ease in catching up with Aveyard’s fantasy design mainly attributed to the fact that I’ve seen it all played out before. Reds shedding red blood, and Silvers, silver blood. The former does not possess extraordinary power while the latter does. The proper names that’s hard to keep up with, names of places to be exact. Equating this in the context of Harry Potter, a reader quickly memorizes Hogsmeade, Privet Drive, Room of Requirement, Godric’s Hollow, etc. as essential places because they’re mentioned repeatedly. (It wonders me how Aveyard didn’t opt to steal a version from HP being the golden standard and all) If truth be told, there’s not a place in Red Queen that surfaces on my mind at this point, except maybe the glass castle. BOTTOMLINE: It’s not that type fantasy that sticks to mind.
Despite being an absolute prototype, what fantasy Aveyard promised her readers, she fulfilled it. Let’s give her that credit. I like how practically everything revolves around the fantasy hub. There’s romance occasionally brewing between Mare and her boys but they were represented just as supplements.
Speaking of romance, don’t get me started on yet another classic, I-knew-this-would-happen insta-love between Cal and Mare. How does one night of stealing and talking and pitying and lashing out of anger lead to a prince getting head over heels in love? Call me an old lady in declaring all these contraventional but will we just accept all YA books to embrace on-the-spot love?
There’s a love quadrangle existing between Mare, Cal, Maven, and Kilorn. Don’t be surprised. This is an archetype trademark of YA and Aveyard just didn’t dare bend the rules.
Red Queen’s plot was basically dynamic. The story follows Mare’s career of beguiling people from professional thieving to acting out like a bona fide silver in front of audiences. The pages, approximately around 400, were decently utilized. The chronicle of events was hooking. With all the pessimistic reviews this book met, this reaction came out as a surprise for me. Needless to say, the plot was my favorite.
The progress of the plot had me rooting for heroes. I was smacked in the face when I realized I picked up the wrong guy. That twist was just the peak of events for me. Everybody else says they saw it coming but for me it was completely shadowed. For this factor – just this factor – I’m allowing Aveyard to take credit for this fresh idea. Slightly leaning towards Dan Brown’s style but still (DISCLAIMER: My sole basis for this conclusion only lies on the books I read).
If there’s one thing commendable about Red Queen, it is having an excellent character development.
Let’s start with Mare. From where she started as a professional thief, she went a long mile to becoming the so-called “Red Queen”. She’s strong-willed and principled but I wasn’t awed. Hermione Granger got there first. Katniss Everdeen seconded it. There might even be a herd who came even before these two. Still, I am fond of authors upthrusting women’s personality and eradicating social constructs in their story because we need more of such for enlightenment especially first time readers. This might be my nth encounter to a strong female character but there are millions still who haven’t yet.
Cal, on the other hand, is a morally ambiguous character. I like how he’s ethical but not too much, a law-abider but is still willing to be a rule-breaker when the situation calls for one. In other words, he’s imperfect. He has weaknesses. He’s human.
For some reasons, it is with Maven where I feel Aveyard invested a lot of effort in terms of development. I felt it. The authenticity. His care. There were hints but I thought they were merely red herrings. I was pining for him until that unforeseen “turn” of events. For the record, when I pick my heroes, they undergo a meticulous screening so I didn’t just decide on them impulsively. That twist punched me and thank heavens it did. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have bequeathed this book another star.
What about the villains? The Queen might be a smart scheming bitch but her personality had loopholes. If they were so terrorized with Mare, red-blooded possessing powers only fated to the silvers, why still keep her alive? Why give her training and let her assimilate the skills innate in her? This was a muddled issue for me especially until I learned that all Reds similar to Mare have been exterminated by the government. And let’s not forget the tremendously essential role (sarcasm intended) of Evangeline. Given her extreme closeness with her brother, I was on the verge of adding Game of Thrones on Aveyard’s long list of reference to this book – appertaining to Cersei and Jaime’s incestuous affair. But yeah, there’s still the second book to prove that. For now, Evangeline’s a Regina George, the unnecessary mean girl that carried out the supplemental role of constantly reminding Mare she’s the bad apple. Apart from her bitterness, there’s no actual exposition where her anger’s welling from. It’s definitely not envy since she mined the jackpot and Mare just grabbed second runner-up.