Even though it was first released in 2015, Red Queen only recently came to my attention. And although it sounded like an interesting story I could never commit to purchasing it. I was hesitant as it was a YA novel, and I also wasn’t sure that I could stomach another ‘precocious teen overthrows the government and makes the world a better place” series. Just goes to show that you really shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.
After months of should I shouldn’t I, I finally bought the book. By that time, Glass Sword and King’s Cage had already been released as well. It worked out wonderfully as I love binge reading series. Although now I’m stuck waiting for the fourth and final book like everyone else. That’s not so wonderful. But anyway, let’s get right to it.
At some point in the evolutionary timeline, an unknown mutation divided humanity into two groups: those with red blood and those with silver blood. With silver blood came enhanced or magical abilities, and with these abilities came a superiority complex, and soon a feudalistic-like society emerged. The noble Silver elites lorded over the lesser Reds, forcing them into subservient roles. And so it remained for hundreds of years. Until one unassuming girl did a remarkable thing, unleashing a series of events, the outcome of which could forever change the world.
Mare Barrow was just trying to survive- thieving for rations and supplies to help support her family, doomed to conscription in a hundreds year long war where those with red blood were considered to be nothing more than cannon fodder- it was all she could do to make it from day to day. A twist of fate reveals that she is an impossibility, a Red with Silver abilities. Trapped in court of the ruling Silvers, caught between the hearts of two princes and a lowly fish boy, enticed by the whisperings of a Red revolution, at odds against all she has ever known, Mare must navigate her already volatile world, where every step is now treacherous, as she determines what her fate, and that of the world, is to be.
It’s so hard to not write a more detailed description of the books. The series isn’t complete, as the third book was only released earlier this year, and I don’t want to give too much away. There are so many twists and turns throughout these three books that I feel like one word could spoil something. It’s probably why I’m not a professional synopsis writer; I’m either overly abstruse or too divesting.
I found the world building fascinating. It wasn’t until the third book that all the pieces came together, and when they did, I was blown away. The enhanced/magical ability system is nothing special but is still interesting, especially as you uncover more about the history of the abilities and their effects on society. I particularly enjoyed the contrasts within the world. Not just between Silvers and Reds, but within the environs as well. The grandeur and customs of the nobility is offset by the technology of electricity and motorized vehicles. Pomp and circumstance can be undercut by bloodthirsty battle. These details added to the dichotomy that, for me, made what could have been just another dystopian novel into something more unique.
I really enjoyed the characters across the board. Some more than others, of course, but all together the cast works quite well. Each one brings something different to the table, adding to the level of engagement with them. Red Queen was a great introduction to all the main characters; even if you think you know who they are in their heart of hearts, there is always a seed of doubt in the back of your mind. I love that in a cast of characters. A lot was in flux during Glass Sword, with new trials and tribulations, as well as new people, and it got bogged down. The characters felt stunted, and despite a plan of action, it sometimes felt like they were just stuttering along. King’s Cage brought it all back on track, and while the shift in narrators threw me off at first, it actually did enhanced the storytelling.
The plot paced along well. There were times it felt rushed or jumpy, but that was only evident when you came across a passage that referenced how much time had passed. The plot is like a chessboard, and the intrigue behind each piece and each move kept me riveted for page after page. The twists that come about in this story are some of the best I’ve read in recent memory. It’s a good thing I no longer live in an apartment because my neighbors would certainly wonder what all the commotion was about (sometimes I just can’t control when “WHAT!?” and “FUCKING HELL!” explode from my lips). There is no shortage of internal struggles and external conflicts, and while there were moments were it bordered on tedious, it continued to be compelling and I never truly grew tired or bored of it. And the questions it raises are thought-provoking, not only within the world of the novels but for our own as well.
However, there were some points within the books that I had problems. There were points where the plot dragged, especially in the second book. At times I started to find different characters whiny and melodramatic; more often than not they redeemed themselves later on in the story, so I don’t think it’s an issue of poor character development as trying to increase the angst factor and it being poorly executed. That is sometimes why I hesitate to read YA- the overly wrought emotions of young adults can be off-putting to someone in their late 20s or early 30s if not done well. I would have also like Mare and Cal’s relationship to be explored more; they very much so have a Romeo and Juliet feel. Much of the drama circles around them, both separately and together, and the fate of their society hangs in the balance between them. I think exploring their relationship more would have given some gravitas to the situations and choices they are facing, as many times it seems to come to down to making a decision from your heart or your brain. I also hope in the fourth book the full history of Norta and the Reds/Silvers is reveals; I have the feeling it will be, based on the clues and small facts in King’s Cage, but if not, I will be sorely disappointed.
Based on all of this, I would still definitely recommend Red Queen, Glass Sword, and King’s Cage if you are looking for an enthralling read with an electric plot and great characters. Overall, I give the series 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Have you read Red Queen? What did you think of Mare and the gang? Or is there another series you prefer? Let know in the comments!
Also, check back soon as I hope to post a backlog of book reviews for my reads of the year so far.