Summary: 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?
Source: I purchased a hardcover
Even though I’ve been dying to read Red Queen, I was pretty certain I would end up hating it. So many reviews have said it was a rip off of Red Rising by Pierce Brown and that it was all about love triangles and nonsense (like The Selection supposedly is. I haven’t read it, so I don’t know) But now that I’m finished, I’m surprised at how much I enjoyed Red Queen! It was fantastic!
On the surface, it does resemble Red Rising. The titles are both Red Something. The main character in Red Queen is Mare Barrow and she’s a Red, the lowest of the caste system in the society. In Red Rising, the main character is Darrow and he’s a Red. In Red Queen, the ruling class is Silver and they resemble/are thought to be something akin to the gods. In Red Rising, the ruling class is Gold and they are very much like Greek gods/goddesses. And there’s a revolution created by Reds who have somehow evolved to be smarter, stronger, and better than the ruling class. So yeah, it seems similar. But honestly, that’s where the similarities end. The direction of the story, the characters, the plot, and the way everything happens is way different. Reading Red Queen is a completely different experience than Red Rising on just about every level. It’s not even the YA version. It’s just different. And if the similarities listed still are too much for you, well they are all literally listed in the synopsis and you have no business buying it and reading it if it bothers you that much.
“Revolution needs a spark,” I murmur, repeating what Julian would say in our lessons. “And even sparks burn.”
As far as the book being about love triangles and YA nonsense, I feel like that’s also an unfair observation. The book does suffer from YA tropes we know and love, but I feel like it rises about those things and gives us a story that differs and breaks the mold a little bit. Yes, Mare is special and has powers that suddenly manifest and she’s thrust into a new world of riches and amazingness. Literally the only other way it could have happened was if she knew she was already special and someone noticed her powers, in which case she would be dead in a ditch by page 5, so I think we should cut the author some slack on the whole YA trope of the girl being special all of a sudden. Also, she would have probably never noticed her ability because the surging lights in her home could have been (and probably were often) a result of faulty wiring and unreliable connections.
Mare had a previous encounter with one of the princes before the whole Silver world found out she was gifted and she had no idea he was a prince. They had a connection already, but her betrothal to the other prince obviously threw a wrench into anything and that’s basically where the whole “love triangle” began. But she wasn’t back and forth between them. Her time at court wasn’t petty and ridiculous. Instead, she was attempting to navigate a world she didn’t understand, train and take lessons to further understand the Silvers, attempting to blend as a Silver and have no one know her secret, and attempt to help her fellow Reds by assisting the revolution in secret. She had no idea who to trust and the two princes were different and took her down different paths and she needed to understand both. It’s not like they were making out in corners and she had to pick one. I loved that the author threw in some humor about any sort of love story as well.
“You want me to pin my entire operation, the entire revolution, on some teenaged love story? I can’t believe in this.” As most of us know, that’s like every YA book ever, but it’s really not the way Red Queen went down, which is ironic. That quote made me laugh so hard.
Red Queen was not a romance. If you wanted tons of romantic feels, you should probably be warned that, while there are some moments, this is not about Mare embracing the life as a Silver and being swept away by riches and handsome men. This is life and death and her sole purpose was to blend and try to help her people without having any clue how to do either. Some reviewers have complained that Mare is not the badass main character we have been accustomed to in YA dystopian novels, but I feel like any amount of calculation and kick ass moves would have been weird given that she was out of her own element in the world of the Silvers. Everything she thought she knew about them was wrong and she was able to see the way they could manipulate the truth with words, which was completely new to her. I appreciated the fact that she was weak and confused and impulsive.
“Anyone can betray anyone.”
Red Queen is an awesome fantasy that has similar elements as some of my favorite YA stories. It has cool powers, like Shatter Me. It has morally ambiguous characters, like the Grisha trilogy. It has an unjust caste system, like The Hunger Games. I liked the way that every character was flawed, but their motivations made sense. I liked that nothing was black and white.
“This world is Silver, but it is also gray. There is no black-and-white.”
I highly recommend Red Queen. I will definitely continue the series and I loved reading it. I can’t wait to find out what happens next!!