A few years ago, I wanted to start reading again but actually didn’t do it like I am now. I looked at a few books that were in my genre of interest, and this was one of them. It had recently released back then, so it was hard for me to find a version that would work with the Epub reader I was, and still use (accessibility issues, is the short reason). Due to King’s cage, the third book in this series coming out, audible had The Red Queen on sale for 3 dollars. Since I knew it was the book I had my eye on a few years ago, I figured might as well buy it and read it now because at that price why wouldn’t I? I had read some mixed to unfavorable reviews about this book, but how did I feel about reading The Red Queen, you ask?
Oy, reading this book was a test of patience and endurance on my part. Needless to say: I did not like this book, at all. There were minor glimmers of interest, but overall the book just wasn’t for me. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m really not into dystopian YA fiction or if it’s just that I didn’t like the writing – or maybe a bit of both, but the story telling in this was so clunky and bland and I will just get into the review.
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, 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 Audible
I don’t think this book knew what it wanted to do with its world. It’s seemingly an alternate reality of the Earth, but then it isn’t because there are 2 or 3 major land masses but then they keep on alluding to the world from the long long ago and then you’re like ok so is this set in an alternate timeline of Earth? At times it seems like there is minimal technology scattered throughout, because a motor cycle is a new invention to them but then there are video screens and cameras all over so…that shouldn’t be the case? Reading this story, It felt like the author couldn’t make up her mind on how she wanted the world to be portrayed and it majorly showed with this mishmash of dystopia, steampunk, and fantasy world building that never really came together.
The abilities each silver has seems like it’s going to be stream lined to a few ability classes at first, but then you hear about all of these other classes and abilities and it’s pretty much like the X-Men where anybody can have whatever ability the author wants them to have, but there are different family houses with the same ability so that somehow makes it less confusing (it really doesn’t’). The descriptions of the land masses is fine, but there was never a time where I could picture how this world was laid out, and there even was a point where a map was explained but still that didn’t help me visualize the world The Red Queen took place in. Everything just seemed very one-dimensional: The Silvers lived in pretty palaces with pretty things and were so beautiful but cold and super powerful, while the Reds were slaves and lived in the slums, no powers or anything. It just all was this very black and white depiction of everything around, that tried to make it look like there were shades of gray but really, there weren’t.
And don’t get me started on the flawed system of (spoiler) how the reds with abilities work. There’s a genetic blood mutation in any Red with abilities, but not every family member with the gene has an ability? And there is no trace of the mutation at all in any Red’s family line. So really, random people just wind up with abilities, and it’s never explained why other than “mutation you’re so special” and I probably am being far too harsh on this particular point but it really bothered me.
The first, and last five chapters were well paced. The rest of the story, however, dragged on for so long. If I enjoy a book, I read it in a few days: With The Red Queen, it took me three weeks of starting and stopping, until I just had to pace myself and say “Crystal, read three chapters a day, you can finish this” The last five chapters were action packed and interesting, and there were plot twists that genuinely surprised me in the end but it wasn’t enough to save the rest of the bland, boring, let’s throw fish out of water Mare Barrow into court life and follow her for an excruciating amount of time from being difficult to read through. It would have been more interesting, if Mare were actually a likable character!
You know who the main character is? Mare Barrow. You know who is really interesting and dynamic? Everybody but Mare Barrow. I’ve seen people say Mare is a Mary Sue, and I disagree with that: She has flaws, and legitimate concerns and isn’t just complaining about life when her life is perfect. She’s thrown into a dangerous situation sure, but she is just so dang negative! I don’t need a main character to be sunshine incarnate, but the amount of time spent hearing Mare complain about the Silver world being new and foreign and out of her league was sooo annoying. There are no attempts on her part to blend in, or try and befriend someone: it just sort of happens, with no major character shift in Mare. People just like her and talk to her because…she’s the main character? But she goes through no character arc at all. Mare stays exactly the same, and events just push her forward without any sort of internal conflicts.
Mare does nothing to move the plot forward, everything that happens to her is either because of a lucky coincidence, or someone else taking charge for her. It doesn’t help that this story is written in first person, so we’re seeing the story through her eyes and for me that makes it worse because I just really, really dislike her.
The most interesting characters in this book, are all of the Silvers honestly. I feel like this story isn’t even Mare’s: It’s Cal and Mavens, because those two are far more interesting, and actually have dimensions to them. Mare is a spectator to the actually interesting court drama, and Scarlet Guard drama, and that’s really what it feels like: That Mare is just a proxy for the reader, without more than a bare bones, generic character so you can see through her eyes.
I would have much preferred the story to take place from the Silvers perspective. All of their motivations were a lot more interesting than Mare’s survive or die mentality. Hands down, my favorite characters to read were Maven, Evangeline, and Elara: like, those three obviously had so many facets to their characters, and I genuinely enjoyed reading them. You could tell there was more to them, may it be good or bad, just because of how they carried themselves and the world they lived in, and how they chose to survive in that world. We see later down the line for some that is definitely the case. I would be really excited to read what happens to them, and Cal, if only the book wasn’t written from Mare’s perspective.
Because of the first person perspective, I feel like the writing was so clunky. So many things were “Beyond my comprehension” and “Beyond my understanding” and “I’m not one of them, I never will be, this is all just a game” and legit I could probably count the amount of times Mare uses the word “comprehension” and have a very long list. Once again, the writing fell short. I get it was supposed to be a more sparse style because of the first person POV, but it didn’t work for me.
Obviously, I very much disliked this book. I’ve never read The Hunger games, but if this is an example of that dystopian genre of book, I’m not going to read another one. Entirely too depressing, boring, and slow paced for me, and no amount of interesting plot points at the end of the book can save how much of a crawl this was for me to get through. Once again, I’m not saying a book has to be 100 percent happy all of the time, but there should be some sense of the main character not being pessimistic somewhere in the story, and that just wasn’t present.
The painful part about this book is, there were so many missed opportunities that the author set up only to have fall through! If the book were Mare and Kilorn joining the Scarlet Guard to be on the run from conscription, that would have been interesting. If the book were from Cal, or Maven’s perspective, or even from the eyes of a disillusioned Silver who wanted to make a change in society, that would have been interesting. But this fish out of water, I’m so out of my league but I’ve got to make it through a ton of court intrigue oh hey revolution is happening so let’s get that thrown in too just wasn’t for me at all.
The action in this book was great. Where we got to see the Silver’s nature’s and motivations, instead of being told about them was great. Following Mare and hearing her struggles was shmooooorg. We have a case of insta-love in this book too, and the insta-love to me is not compatible at all. The fact that Mare has powers just cuz is sloppy story telling. The fact that both Princes love Mare because of no other reason than she’s the main character is sloppy writing. This entire book felt like a first draft to me, in all honesty, and I am not going to continue reading this series. Not unless I really, really have nothing else to read.
The very end of the book seemed like it would be interesting, but this just follow the trend of my pet peeve of have the first book in a series being nothing more than to set up the rest of the series. If Mare weren’t the main character, and we had more of a focus on someone else (Cal or Maven) I would continue on with this series. Sadly this isn’t the case, so I’ll be dropping this and moving on to something else.
If you like The Red Queen, that’s totally ok! This, of course, is just my opinion, based on my reading preferences. If you do like The series, let me know: is it worth continuing on to The Glass Sword? Like I said, the series seems like it has so much potential, but not enough for me to want to continue reading.
So yeah, what are your feelings on The Red Queen? Would love to hear in the comments!