In the Land of Contrived Plots, a young woman rises from the gutter to find out she is different after she meets a stranger who conveniently turns out to the crown prince.
Title: Red Queen
Author: Victoria Aveyard
Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopian YA
Publisher: Harper Teen / Orion
Publication Date: February 10 2015
Hardcover: 320 pages
The poverty stricken Reds are commoners, living under the rule of the Silvers, elite warriors with god-like powers.
To Mare Barrow, a 17-year-old Red girl from The Stilts, it looks like nothing will ever change.
Mare finds herself working in the Silver Palace, at the centre of
those she hates the most. She quickly discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy Silver control.
But power is a dangerous game. And in this world divided by blood, who will win?
Stand alone or series: First in a new series
How did I get this book: Review copy via Netgalley
Format (e- or p-): eBook
Why did I read this book: Because “elite warriors with god-like powers”. That cover. The positive reviews!
In a dystopian world ravaged by war, there is a split between the Reds, poverty-stricken commoners with red blood, and the Silvers, those with unimaginable powers, their silver blood marking them as the ruling class.
Mare Barrow is a regular 17 year old Red who is about to turn 18 and because she doesn’t have any special skills who would allow her to get a job in this strict, stratified society, she knows she will be conscripted into war just like her brothers before her.
But one night, just as Mare is succumbing to despair, she meets a mysterious stranger who arranges for her to get a job inside the Silver Palace. On the most important night around the Silver succession for the throne Mare discovers she too has powers, powers that suddenly appear in front of the most important Silver individuals in the whole kingdom. Impossible as it is, improbable as this is, it is now too late for Mare’s life to ever go back to what it was. The Silvers concoct a plan so that Mare’s abilities will not become a problem for them and she is given a new identity as a long-lost Silver girl who is now welcomed back to Silver society until they can find out everything about how exactly has she can even exist.
Immersed in a new life and stripped from choice Mare needs to find a way to not only survive but to help her own people fight in a burgeoning revolution that could change the world.
Starting with the good: with their incredible superpowers, the Silvers are what the X-Men would be like if Evil Magneto were their leader or if The Avengers and their friends decided to take over the world rather than save it. The premise is that absolute power corrupts absolutely and as such the construct of this society feels logical and inevitable given the reality of those who own everything because of their powers and those who don’t because of its absence. Similarly, the gender balance in here is welcomed: both Red boys and girls are conscripted to go to war, both Silver boys and girls are able to develop their powers to their maximum abilities. Similarly, although the Reds are exploited, they are not shown as a single block of people who accept everything – there is a revolution brewing that leads characters down a dangerous path. The last part of the novel is its strongest veering toward darkness, violence and tough choices that do not come without consequences. In fact, every single thoughtless decision Mare makes have terrible costs and I appreciated how these were followed through.
Unfortunately, the positive aspects of Red Queen are offset by not so positive ones and they include super contrived and familiar plot twists, lack of internal logic and extremely one-note, bland characters.
In fact, allow me to revise my description with a Substitute Summary: In the Land of Contrived Plots, a young woman rises from the gutter to find out she is different after she meets a stranger who conveniently turns out to the crown prince and gives her a chance. On the very first day of a new job for which she is given no training whatsoever, she is made to work in the most important event ever and it’s right then that Mare sprouts Amazing New Powers for the first time in front of the only people who would make her pay for it. Marked as super special, she is loved by all men and hated by the Mean Girls. In other words: despite its positive aspects there is nothing here you haven’t really seen already. And let me be clear: it’s not the trope-ish nature of the novel that does it a disservice because it’s actually possible for a book that have familiar tropes without falling apart. No, it’s the lack of internal logic and the underdeveloped characters that make this book a poorly conceived one.
The former comes from the way the Silvers decide to present Mare. Because her powers appeared in front of an audience made up by the Silver ruling class, the King and Queen HAD to come up with a plan to hide the fact that a Red had Silver powers. Their plan is to pretend she was just a Silver all along.
However, this makes no sense at all within the parameters of this world. For this to be a feasible, achievable plan, every single Silver person would have to believe that this 17 year old girl never bled in her entire life. I will admit this simple element almost put me off completely.
The latter comes with the lack of actual character development – most characters are nothing but predicable stereotypes: from the older stoic prince to the evil queen, from the older wise tutor to the loyal best friend who actually luurves all. The moment this becomes clear is when the ending rolls out into what is a dark and difficult climax that unfortunately lacks any real emotional impact.
It’s a shame really, because I love evil superheroes. But this fantastic premise is squandered away as Red Queen is just a forgettable, run-of-the-mill Dystopian YA.
Rating: 5 – Meh
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