Saturday, February 21, 2015

Review: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Release date: February 10th 2015
Info about the author: Goodreads - Twitter - Website
Publisher: HarperTeen
Age group: YA
Pages: 400
Pre-order the book: Amazon - Book Depository

Description (from Goodreads):

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 own 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.
From debut author Victoria Aveyard comes a lush, vivid fantasy series where loyalty and desire can tear you apart and the only certainty is betrayal.


Red Queen, the much hyped debut of USC alum Victoria Aveyard, mixes together fantasy, elements often associated with dystopian novels such as the division of society into specific groups and romance in an attempt to take the reader on a journey filled with court intrigue, deceit and lies, secrets and new discoveries.


The fantasy world Aveyard places her story in is generally built with patience and detail. Aveyard gives the reader time to acquiatance herself/himself with the traditions and history of her setting, as a result of which the beginning of the novel might at parts feel a bit slow to a reader expecting action from page one onwards. 
The world inhabited by Mare is divided by blood. Reds, the groups of people Mare belongs to, are servants who have lived under the rule of the Silvers for decades. The Silvers, the upper classes, keep their control through their abilities, which allow them to act like gods through the control of elements such as fire and water. At the top of the hierarchical pyramid are the royal houses and the royal family themselves, consisting of a king, queen and two sons, Cal and Maven. 

Aveyard brilliantly describes the specificies of the court buildings, the little nooks and crannies that form these spectacular buildings Mare faces when she is dragged out of the Stilts (the section for the Reds) and taken to the world of the Silvers. The scenes where the abilities are used are vivid and well-written, making it easier to understand this fantastical world - the excellent worldbuilding and the writing that accompanies it allow the reader to enter Aveyard's fictional world and to discover it with Mare and her companions.


Throughout the novel, I found it extremely easy to be on Mare's side, to root for her and to see things through her eyes. She's strong, courageous and fearless, but also does not run away from situations in which she might have to display weakness. She's taken to the Silver court out of blue after becoming face to face with a power she had not idea she witheld and though the situation is one in which she could coward on and accept her destiny, she attempt to see the situation as a possibility to help and to better the situation of her people, the Reds. 
Probably everyone who has read the synopsis has caught up on the slight mention to a possible love-triangle in connection to the fact that the king has two sons. Love triangles always seem to be the thing that either makes or breaks a young adult novel for some readers - we saw them in Twilight, The Hunger Games and several other young adult novels set in some sort of fantastical world or consisting of fantasical characters and settings. I have personally always been on the fence when it comes to live triangles - I don't mind them if they actually are complicated and add something fundamental to the story but usually I feel like they tend to be ones where it is obviously clear with whom the female character should be with, which makes the scenes involving the said triangle seem like a waste of time.

To be completely honest, I probably wouldn't even call what we have in this book a love triangle. Yes, there are two princes there, but it is way more complicated than that. I can't really say much without spoiling some things for you, but all I want to say is that do not let the fear of being faced with another bland love-triangle keep you away from reading this one.

Though Mare is very much at the centre of this novel, attention should be given to some of the brilliant side-characters. Both of the princes are interesting and definitely not what I first expected them to be. The queen is a total bitch, but I am hoping that her story will be developed further in the following novels in the series. The members of the rebel guard as well are characters that I hope will be further discovered in the sequels - they are given a crucial role in this one as well, but they could be developed more.


Aveyard's style is engaging, entertaining and very descriptive. One of my favorite things about this book as a whole is the way she takes her time to establish her fictional world, allowing the reader to familiarize herself with it and the people that inhabit it before plunging into fast-paced, dramatic scenes.
The pacing is well done and the way Aveyard has built this story definitely made me want to keep reading - this definitely was one of those books I hoped I could have read all at once. The dialogue is well written and the way the characters talk to each other feels realistic even when the setting is one that I cannot point my finger at.


Overall, I very much enjoyed Aveyard's debut. It is not as detailed or extended as high fantasy novels categorized as "adult fiction" are, but personally I did not mind that since I wasn't really expecting high fantasy when starting with this one. Generally, I do not really have any complaints, except maybe the fact that the ending is a bit abrupt - there will be a sequel though, so that probably explains it. 


Deadline reported already in 2013 that Universal Pictures has optioned Red Queen. The novel is part of a trilogy, which means that it fits perfectly to the young adult film mold utilized so ofter these days (The Hunger Games, Divergent). According to Deadline, the film (and probably also the novel) has been pitched as "Divergent meets Game of Thrones", which definitely is something that fits into the novel - it has the class division/special powers aspect of Divergent and the court intrigue and secrets aspect of Game of Thrones
I could definitely see this one as a film, but at the same time I am starting to get wary with all of these young adult adaptations and the fact that out of the huge number of them that come out yearly, usually only a very small percentage are actually well-made, acted and have some cinematic value. Time will show how this book does on the markets and whether that encourages Universal to begin the filming process. So far, the hype has been highly positive and the early reviews praising. 


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