Red Queen is the first book in a YA dystopian series.
The first time I read it, I really liked it, but it was one of the first YA books I had ever read.
I reread it in 2017, and it wasn’t as good as I remembered.
This book came out in 2015. At that time, the dystopian hype was dying, and this kind of story was already cliché. Red Queen is ultimately a mash-up of popular YA books that came out before; no wonder it feels unoriginal. The Darkest Minds. Shatter Me. The Selection. The Hunger Games. But mainly, Shadow and Bone – Red Queen is exactly like Shadow and Bone, but written worse and with no understanding of nuance.
First thing first, Red Queen has no idea of where it’s going and what it wants to be. This fantasy/dystopian mix didn’t work for me, and the way the author built the society felt both superficial and unoriginal. The worldbuilding is also inconsistent – you mean we have TVs and superpowers but not cell phones and we have armors? Look, “inspired by the Roman Empire” doesn’t mean you can bring the cool stuff from the past even when it makes no sense.
I liked the characters, but I didn’t love them and I could have done without the love triangle/square. I don’t hate Mare, like many seem to do, but I have to say that she is somewhat forgettable – like everyone else in the book; even the character that should have surprised me was kind of bland. Why? Because I’ve already seen that twist before, done better.
A SPOILERY paragraph: what went wrong according to Acqua.
Now. “The love interest betrayed me” is one of my favorite twists. Even when it’s somewhat predictable, it can bring some really interesting themes to the story – but this works only when the character is morally gray. Here, it was both predictable and useless. If everyone tells you that “anyone can betray anyone”, you see it coming. And there was no moral grayness whatsoever. The character went from “good but kind of useless, really” to “lol I’m evil, I want the reds to die and I want to be king” and… that’s not morally gray. That’s cardboard cutout “for the evulz” villain. Yes, he is more complex than Elara (not difficult, honestly), but he sounded more like a spoiled child than an interesting antagonist.
Also, the writing was overdramatic. It’s like the author wanted to fill this book with “quotable” sentences. Mare constantly reminds us that one mistake could kill her. I get it, you don’t have to tell me every page.
I’m giving this book three stars because it was still entertaining at the third reread, and because there was one thing I really liked – this story is based on the Red Queen hypotesis, which was a great idea. The execution could have been better.
My rating: ★★★¼