Wednesday, May 13, 2015

[Review] Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

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Red Queen
Victoria Aveyard
[Red Queen #1] YA Fantasy
Published: February 2015 (HarperTeen)
Format: ebook
Pages: 320
Rating: 4.5 of 5
 
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.


I just... Woah. I don't know where to start. I don't know what gripped me while I was reading this, but I do know that it affected me more than a lot of books have the ability to. A Darker Shade of Magic brought a moisture to my eyes, but it didn't have me gasping or giggling in excitement. I couldn't wait to find out what was going to happen next. Multiple times, my eyes found themselves read lines ahead of my mind, and I'd have to backtrack and sigh at myself in frustration.

*mumbles incoherently*

Warning for Major Spoilers

I really want to jump right in and say that the characters are the strongest part of this book, for me. They have personality, fluctuation, real emotion. And I ate it up.

Mare, our heroine, is a Red. A poor, seemingly normal girl for the Stilts. She steels to help her family get by, counting down the days until she is drafted for the army. But that all changed when she took a tumble into an electric barrier and awakened something dormant inside of her, something only the Silvers were thought to possess. At first, I was rolling my eyes at the prospect of our MC being a specialty; the only one of her kind. Well, it turns out I was mistaken. Gladly, at that. I actually liked Mare (which itself is an oddity) and her ability to overcome her emotions made me proud of her. Being a creature of emotion myself, I know the downfalls that come with it. Mare transforms into Mareena to the best of her ability because it is all she can do to save her life and the lives of her family. She struggles to conform to the Silvers' way of life. But the thing I found myself liking the most about her was how human she seemed. She found herself having a hard time accepting the thought of having to kill people that, previously, she wanted nothing more than to die. Her thoughts and worries plague her consistently. There are other times when her hate consumes her and she urges the pain for them, to see them suffer. Another thing I found very appealing about her is that she kept her love affairs mostly separate from her course of action. She would reprimand herself if she was becoming too love stricken and, a lot of time, deny herself the indulgence. She was at odds with herself over the way she held her feelings towards Cal, which is understandable enough. And Maven. Well, we'll get to him soon.

Cal, the crown prince of the Silver kingdom, was like a walking contradiction. He would say one thing, have such a forlorn way of it, seem like he regretted the way things are; but he didn't try to stop them, he just let it happen around him. He reminds me of the way a lot of first world people are. He was bred to believe Reds to be below him, and while he mostly had an air of "that's such a shame" he didn't compromise this. Cal was never spurred to action in a way that would compromise his traditions or status. And for all his pity towards the Reds, he still upheld his duty to his kingdom before that. He would willingly kill them without a thought. His loyalty was unwavering. Well, almost. He had his moments of fault, like all humans do. And his feelings for Mare made his weak. It caused a ripple in his once steadfast ideology, one that would bring about ruin. I feel that his true might was seen when he was fighting. His fire blazed brightly (literally) and shone with his true calling: to fight, to dominate, and burn. He had such a collected facade, but when his true self would break through he was passionate and unstoppable.

And I guess that leaves us with Maven. I don't really want to talk about it, but it's unavoidable. Maven is the younger brother of Cal, the youngest prince, and the shadow of the flame. I feel in love with his character. He was kind and gentle, somehow still brave in his moments of fear. He seemed to have a true resolve to help the Reds. He joined with their resistance, the Scarlet Guard, and his intentions seemed pure. His feelings seemed so genuine. But then, it happened and it was all torn away. All his intentions became clear. I wanted to cry. Through the eyes of Mare, I had come to adore Maven, and when she was crushed, I was crushed. I personally felt betrayed. It means something to me when I can feel that. It was like Frozen all over again. His bitterness to being cast aside as the younger prince, someone that would never become someone worthwhile in the eyes of his father, had turned him into a cruel boy. His jealousy, while childish, is not infallible. His reasoning makes sense. He feels forgotten and left behind, and with the help of his mother driving him, he fixes it in a way that he is more adapt at. He fights with his mind, not his body. His hesitance to just destroy everything he built with Mare was intriguing, and the flashes of the Maven I came to love made everything so much worse. Even if he held some semblance of emotion for Mare, it could never be the same. In the end, he really was a coward.

Moving on before I get emotional...

The plot is a straight forward sort of resistance type. One group is being domineered by another, more powerful group. The MC is enlisted in the resistance and they help them to make a statement. It's nothing really that special, but the character are what give the story uniqueness. There is also a magic system, which came as a surprise to me. I suppose somehow I forgot about it when I actually started the book. It was interesting. There are the elemental types (fire, water, air, ect.) and then there are types that can invade your mind, types that can force you to do things against your will, types that can bend light, among others. I can't explain them all, but even though there are a lot, I found it easy to keep track of them. The book doesn't overwhelm you with them, reminding you what the type in subject is when necessary.

The world building is nice. There wasn't a lot thrown at me with this either, which is a good thing in most cases. From what I understand, the world was rebuilt from some sort of past, so this society can technically be classified as dystopian. Mare is taught things over a period of time, which allows the reader more insight to the world. I never did figure out where they are located, but when the name Caesar popped up, I had a few thoughts. The hierarchy between the Reds and the Silvers is what consisted of a lot of it, with descriptions of the living areas of each being prominent. I'd like to see more of this in the sequel to come, and I know I won't be disappointed.

The writing was captivating. I couldn't stop reading (except for the moments when my exasperation got out of hand and I had to walk around) and I devoured the story. In the beginning, I was complaining that the book was nothing special. And really, I still hold onto some of those feelings. Some things feel recycled, but I can overlook this. But at some point, something changed within me and I stopped trying to judge the book and allowed myself to enjoy it. It was really relieving and after that, everything excited me. I really got immersed in the story, which I can say hasn't happened for a long time. I appreciate that the love wasn't front and center at all moments. I didn't order a romance book with a side of uprising and I was happy with what I got. There was a bit of this feeling of Mare being put in the cross-hairs of Maven, Cal, and her friend, Kilorn. But, in the end, I felt that it was never really over emphasized, especially by Mare herself. She never broke out into monologue of how beautiful *insert boy* was, which makes me breathe a sigh of relief. The pacing was good, nothing ever seemed too slow at moments when it shouldn't be. The ending is fast paced and enticing with good resolution and set up well to flow into a sequel. I did get the feeling that everything was going to be okay by the end, but a lot more people died than I thought would.

TL;DR

Good:
+ Characters to the MAX
+ Nice story progression
+ Colorful magic system
+ Love story doesn't subtract from plot
+ 'DAT ENDING!

Bad:
- World Building could be better
- Common plot lines

Final Rating: 4.5 of 5