The genre: Fantasy, dystopian, YA
The gist: A teen girl copes with her unexpected role in a world where people are divided into classes by the color of their blood, red or silver.
The background: I saw this pop up on Goodreads about a year ago and was taken in by the bold, minimal cover, high rating, and dystopian/fantasy setting. I love detailed worldbuilding, and the premise of this one—where people have either red or silver blood and the Silvers have supernatural powers—sounded cool. I was ready to jump into this four-book series.
The tea: This book read like an extremely watered-down Hunger Games. It’s Diet Hunger Games. Or, as one Goodreads reviewer put it, the Walmart version of Hunger Games. I know tropes and formulas in genre fiction exist for a reason—because they’re tried and true and they work—but I couldn’t help but roll my eyes every time I came across yet another structural element or plot point of HG in Red Queen, without Aveyard having done the work of infusing the heart and soul.
Like HG, Red Queen is set in a dystopian-like (albeit fantasy, which HG is not) world with a tyrannical government, and each opens with a fear-mongering, government-held event meant to scare the masses into submission (the Reaping in HG, First Friday in Red Queen). Also like HG, Red Queen is narrated by a sixteen-year-old heroine with a special skill that makes her resourceful and scrappy (Katniss’s in HG is archery/hunting, Mare’s in RQ is pickpocketing), who has a gentler, younger sister she worries about, lives an impoverished life in an impoverished region, becomes an unwilling mascot for the revolution, and gets a catchy nickname (Katniss is the girl on fire, Mare is the little lightning girl). Not to mention the love triangle in which the heroine struggles to choose between a sweet boy and more headstrong boy.
I think I’m accidentally making this book sound better than it is.
Because the fact is, the best elements of The Hunger Games—a fleshed-out world, a strong, flawed heroine who has solid motives you can empathize with—weren’t there. Maybe I’m being unfair; HG is exceptionally good. But even without comparing the two, Red Queen falls flat. It’s light and inconsequential. I didn’t feel anything when reading it. I couldn’t buy into it.
That said, I do give Aveyard some credit for the somewhat unique world she created with the Silver superpowers and blood color determining one’s station in life. But it’s almost like she didn’t know her own creation enough to dig deeper and, disappointingly, barely scratched the surface.
The wrap-up: Don’t waste your time. The YA, fantasy, and dystopian genres have so many better books to offer.
The rating: ⭐.5 / 5