Ya girl has read another shit book!
To be fair, no story will ever be as atrocious as Lauren Kate’s WaterFall – soul-capturing pre-historic robots during the apocalypse in Atlantis…need I say more?
Victoria Aveyard, on the other hand, has crafted quite the entertaining heap of YA trash. Now, I will not fault any author for writing YA fantasy even though that market has been oversaturated for a few years now. There are still novel, original stories being published in this genre which are exciting and lead readers to philosophical questions about ethics, morals, values and interpersonal relationships. Red Queen, unspurprisingly, is not one of those. As to not rant on for miles of text with no structure or coherence, I have grouped the omnipresent annoyance I’ve felt while reading this story into categories of my biggest peeves.
Oh, we’ve encountered her time and time again, the brave heroine of a fantastical YA novel. She is white, medium-sized, brunette, poor, not particularly perceptive even though intelligence is constantly ascribed to her and otherwise just as non-descript as possible. Basically, I can’t even call Mare Barrow a person because she is nothing but a humanoid shell with adjectives slapped onto her by various other characters (or sometimes herself, since it’s a 1st person p.o.v. story) that she doesn’t actually exhibit.
Her acquaintance says she’s smart because she can read people (ugh.); meanwhile, she happily cha-cha-slides into every obvious trap.
She spits out each thought unfiltered, complains whenever she can and rarely ever gets her way and yet she claims a stranger once told her she could charm the boots off of anyone. Right. Let’s just say self-awareness is not Mare’s strong suit.
For some reason she also switches back and forth throughout the book between extreme self-loathing and unshakable pride. Mare’s a useless puppet and if I wasn’t so indifferent towards her, I’d be annoyed with her naivité and speedily flip-flopping loyalty.
Another YA favorite – the heroine belongs to an oppressed, powerless group but is for some reason chosen to lead (or at least participate in a crucial capacity in) a rebellion against the wealthy upper class that naturally also makes up the entirety of government/aristocracy/royal court – or all three in the case of Red Queen.
The poor group in RQ are normal humans, ‘Reds’ because of their red blood (oh lord, the never-ending comments on and mentions of blood), who live in dirty, run-down huts, barely scraping by and are being used as cannon fodder for the ruling half of society, the ‘Silvers’, named after their silver colored blood. The reason these Silvers became so powerful is a genetic one. Silver blood means superhuman abilities. Every family has a different one: controlling water, manipulating light to make oneself invisible, shaping and moving metal telekinetically, etc. With regularly scheduled, flashy shows of strength these silvers remind the reds why they’re in charge – strange … somehow I’m reminded of The Hunger Games. Huh.
The chosen one:
Obviously, Mare needs to be special in some way, shape or form and since her personality sure as shit doesn’t do it, she gets a special ability of her own: controlling and creating electricity in the form of lightning bolts she shoots out of her hands – the description of all the different abilities is actually my favorite part of the book. But since she discovers those abilities on live tv in the presence of all the land’s powerful families and thus, the royal fam can’t just execute her to get rid of that obvious problem (if one Red can have powers then who’s to say other Reds don’t as well. And that’s just no good for the Silvers’ image as demi-gods). A quick lie is conjured up about Mare being a lost Silver orphan who was raised to believe she’s a Red – yes, plotholes – and then she’s promptly forced to enter an engagement with the younger prince, Maven. She secretly (well, arguably) joins the Scarlet Guard (the Red rebels who aim for destabilization of the current Silver-ruled society) and together with Maven becomes their biggest ally inside the royal palace. But then she doesn’t actually do anything. She keeps being instructed on proper court etiquette and trains her abilities (which is another big question mark as to why she is allowed to hone her destructive, potentially deadly skills if those around her should try to keep her as non-threatening as possible. But I guess it makes for a cool training sequence and, of course, we all love a good training sequence). But the most she does for the greater cause, that she’s supposedly so invested in, is to turn off a few cameras for half a minute. Color me unimpressed.
The love triangle:
You knew this was coming. Despite describing herself as dirty, unwashed, with bags under her eyes and hair that hasn’t been brushed for decades, her manners unpolished and her charisma lacking, every age-appropriate guy in Mare’s vicinity falls for her. The royal fam has two sons. Cal, the muscular, tall, serious, talented, heroic, strict but kind-hearted heir to the throne. Contrastingly, Maven is scrawny, introverted, cunning and so obviously painted to be the villain it’s almost infuriating. Basically just imagine a
Thor-Loki type of dynamic. It’s truly unfortunate that Maven is so much more interesting and human-like than garden-variety love interest Cal. Mare does kiss and develop feelings for both of them but at different times so there’s always a strong shoulder for her to cling onto. And isn’t that exactly what we all wish to see in our determined, capable heroine?
By the beginning of the second book, we do leave this love triangle behind and switch out evil Maven for Mare’s childhood friend with the god-awful name Kilorn.
Gentlemen, let the dick-measuring contest begin … again.
Aside from Mare’s mom and sister, who are two timid, barely worth mentioning characters, every female is a heinous bitch. Maven’s mother, the king’s second wife (after his saint of a first wife died amidst ‘suspicious circumstances’ – clicheeeeee.) is a chief manipulator. No, I mean she can literally enter people’s thoughts and turn them into her (unwilling) puppets. Naturally, she wouldn’t hide her controlling, power-hungry nature from Mare in the slightest because otherwise how would we know she was the villain? In the same vain, Evangeline, Cal’s fiancée, is a horrible person. She keeps bullying Mare for no known reason – it’s a mystery to me why someone who gets everything she wants and has unparalleled power whould stoop so low as to tease a Red, basically just half a step above a cockroach in a Silver’s eyes, about not knowing court etiquette. But I guess if Evangeline were nice, the reader might not exactly welcome the idea of her losing her fiancé to Mare and then being sent to murder the two. But even the women who are supposed to be on Mare’s side are painted as either insignificant or positively crazy. Farley, the Scarlet Guard’s leader is just another example of an unlikable character despite the fact that she’s supposed to be on the ‘good’ side of their rebellion.
It is safe to say that the list of bothersome aspects of RQ is significantly longer. I tend to nitpick but that is probably the reason I do get so much enjoyment out of this book series. Why it has gained so much popularity is beyond me but then again, I still have to find a YA series with a female heroine that doesn’t make me want to projectile vomit onto the pages at the utter stupidity of both characters and storyline. (Except for The Mortal Instruments. I do very much enjoy that one. Though it is not without its flaws either.)
If you happen to have a suggestion for me, do leave a comment below!
2 thoughts on “Red Queen, why do you exist?”
These were my exact thoughts reading RQ, Mare literally says ‘but I’m different, i’M sPeCiAl’ at least three times throughout the first book. I’ve read the second book in the series and the plot is dreadfully thin, doubt I’ll go much further.
Ugh, that sounds like all the worst parts of YA Fantasy thrown into one book! I loved how honest you were in this review, though, and I’m definitely gonna read more of your reviews in the future 🙂
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