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Monday, March 30, 2015

YA Book Club Review: Red Queen

Hello book clubbers, and thanks for joining in on the discussion of Red Queen, which is not The Red Queen, no matter how many times I typed it.

Let’s start with a description, shall we?
Graceling meets The Selection in debut novelist Victoria Aveyard’s sweeping tale of seventeen-year-old Mare, a common girl whose once-latent magical power draws her into the dangerous intrigue of the king's palace. Will her power save her or condemn her? 
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.
First off, can we all agree that the cover rocks? It so simply gets at the plot and theme of the novel, and does so in such a striking way. I think what first drew me to Red Queen was the cover.

It also sounded pretty awesome from the blurb. But I think that’s what tripped me up. It’s reads like YA fantasy (and that’s how it’s been pitched elsewhere), so I was a bit turned around at the beginning when I realized the world was really dystopian.

I should also point out that the blurb calls Red Queen a sort of Graceling meets The Selection, which didn’t feel like the most appropriate mashup. Yes, the Silvers have abilities, but they felt more X-Men than Graceling. (Which is fine; I love X-Men.) And while, like The Selection, there’s a contest for the princes’ hands in marriage, it’s a small part of the book.

No, Red Queen felt more like Hunger Games (girl becomes face of a revolution, and both sides want to use her for their own purposes) meets Shatter Me (girl with unheard of power is torn between two boys, one who may be may be her enemy).

I liked Mare as a character. She’s strong without being cold—even second-guesses her role in the revolution when faced with the loss of innocent lives. She hurts for the children she’ll leave fatherless. Some might say that makes her wishy-washy, but I think it’s a realistic reaction for a 17-year-old girl. Hey, I’m an adult and I’m not sure I could sentence people to die.

What I had a hard time with were some plot elements. For instance, I couldn’t quite buy the queen’s plan to hide Mare in plain sight. The king and queen tell their people that Mare has Silver blood, but was raised as Red and only came into her abilities recently. I’ll believe a Silver could grow to 17 without using her powers. But I’m not sure an entire kingdom would believe a 17-year-old girl never got a cut, scrape, bloody nose, or even her period.

There were also a lot of characters who were suspicious of Mare, and I wondered why no one cut her “by accident” to see the color of her blood.

I don’t want to talk too much about the ending and [spoiler], but I will say I liked Mare’s final decision on the romance. Red Queen has a love triangle between two princes—two brothers—and, well … read my Goodreads review, which hides spoilers, for my full thoughts on that.

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