Red Queen could have been a good one, but Victoria Aveyard shot herself in the foot. It’s exactly the type of book/plotline that I loved reading as kid, which I think was why it got very frustrating for me when the flaws in the book started to show. Let’s start with the good. The world of Red Queen isn’t spectacularly unique, but it has enough of the right elements to be the kind of thing people fall in love with.
- Niched superpowers. Think Avatar : The Last Airbender where you have various kinds of benders and specialties.
- Division of houses. People like classifying themselves in fictional worlds. It’s why the houses of Harry Potter are so appealing.
- Stylized settings. Diamond palaces, a village on stilts, the burnt ashy towns that belong to the techies are pretty cool ideas. The book is filled with striking places that make me want to see it made into a movie. I wonder if they’d look as incredible as they do in my head.
What was also interesting to me is that the book is definitely a dystopian novel, but with the monarchy, superpowers and set-up.it oftentimes read more as a traditional YA fantasy.
Of course, it had to be riddled with overdone YA tropes – the “chosen” one/the special girl, the love triangles, the family feuds, archetypes for characters, romeo/juliet romance, etc. Those I can honestly deal with. It’s hard to avoid nowadays. My issue with Red Queen is the same issue I have with a lot of novels. It’s just pacing. Enter my huge rant about writing…
I feel like when an author starts writing, they have their plot in one big timeline with all the major events marked. Mediocre books hop from one to the next. Nothing is presented in between except for the few events necessary for bringing on the next big milestone. Great novels, on the other hand, take their time moving the entire world inside them. When that happens, characters develop naturally. Their motives and actions become more complex. Ultimately, they feel so much more real-especially side characters. When you’re able to fall in love and really invest in secondary characters, you know an author’s done their job. Because they’ve built more stories than the one major one that drives the book.
There are real things happening that occur outside of the main character’s perspective and you should be able to see bits of that when they intersect. With Red Queen, the characters never moved beyond their archetypes. The only aspects of their personalities that mattered involved their relationship to Mare Barrow. Blegh. Especially when one of the cool things about this book was the setting, slowing things down would have allowed them all to be more built out.
It literally felt like everything in the book happened in a span of two days. It was rushed. You have to build moments of calm in between the catastrophes that let me fall in love with how everything is. That way, when everything goes to hell, I care so so much more.
I still enjoyed reading this book. There were some parts of it where I really wanted to keep reading to see which stereotypical plotline would win out ha! Ultimately, there was bad writing, bad pacing and too little care put into this world and its characters. Let’s give it to J.K. Rowling and try again.