In honor of the release of Glass Sword (book 2), which will be reviewed shortly, I thought I’d return the Red Queen. Remember, this should not be confused with THE Red Queen.
Red Queen is yet another in a long line of fairly similar young adult fantasy novels, complete with love triangle, a fight against the monarchy, and a teenager who doesn’t understand her own attractiveness. However, if I spent my YA book reviews talking about the similarities between books, I would never be able to justify why I love YA so much. As a genre YA does not provide much depth, but we love it all the same.
So, here I am going to focus on why I did enjoy this particular book. I have anxiously awaited the second installment of this series for a reason.
This story is about a 17 year-old named Mare who is a Red, meaning she has red-colored blood, no magic, and is a member of the serf-like working class. Unlike her talented sister, Mare’s only marketable skill is in thievery and thus she is condemned to live a likely brief life as a conscripted soldier fighting a war instigated by the Silvers, the magic wielding ruling class with silver-colored blood. Through a stroke of luck, Mare meets a tasty young man who gets her a job at the royal palace so she can avoid conscription. This is where she discovers her own surprising abilities and ends up in the middle of a coup, the aforementioned love triangle, and a fight to survive.
What makes Mare special as a character is her realistic view of her family and her ability to recognize her own mistakes. She has a complex family dynamic with a disabled father, a successful little sister, and a horde of brothers. This variation allows the reader to get a good feel for Mare from the beginning including the fact that love and jealously are not mutually exclusive. This type of realistic familiar relationships are often overlooked in YA books.
Additionally, Mare has a typical love triangle to deal with, but it is deliciously messy to the point where the reader doesn’t know who Mare should end up with and eventually wants her to end up with none of the above.
It is particularly through this love triangle that we see Mare driven to make mistakes. Unlike with most teens, however, Mare’s mistakes are 1) made for the right reasons and 2) not so glaringly obvious that you want to yell at her. I don’t think Mare has any moments that make you want to yell like during a scary movie (e.g. DON’T GO THROUGH THE SCARY DOOR B****! THE BASEMENT IS ALWAYS HAUNTED.) Her mistakes are reasonable and are ones I could see a sane, thoughtful person making.
Finally, Mare’s love triangle actually serves a purpose other than being a classic trope. Pulling her allegiances in different directions is how Mare learns her greatest lesson, trust no one. Trust is a luxury you can’t afford during war.
I give Red Queen 4 stars out of 5 on my YA scale which is significantly different from rankings in other categories (breakdown below). While it uses overdone tropes, Victoria Aveyard makes these tropes serve an actual purpose for character development. I’m looking forward to book 2.
Main Character: 4/5
Side Characters: 3/5
World Development 4/5
Writing Quality: 4/5
Procrastination and Giggles,
The Red Queen (not to be confused with the book title)
P.S. It’s nice to have a book where we really don’t give a s**t about what the king does. It’s all about the evil queen. As it should be.