March 30, 2015

YA Book Club: RED QUEEN

(Jump in on the discussion on Tracey's blog. For a full synopsis of RED QUEEN, head to its Goodreads page.)

There is nothing new under the sun.
There are only x amount of plots.
It’s all been done before.

This might all be true, but if it is, then the challenge of spinning those plots in new and different ways becomes greater. I wish I could say that RED QUEEN does that deftly…but it kind of doesn’t. Which really bummed me out. We can’t escape our influences—nor should we—and it is always fun to spot those things that inspire an author. The problem, for me, is when those bits of influence and inspiration become distractions from the story I’m currently reading. I was able to pick out strong similarities to a handful of other stories while reading this book (THE HUNGER GAMES, THE SELECTION, GAME OF THRONES, X-MEN…) and it kept pulling me out of the story. It's like a patchwork quilt made up of "been done before".

This was a story that I really wanted to love. The hype was real and my hopes were high, folks.

I wanted to immerse myself in this book’s world, but I found myself craving more information about it than was provided. How did this caste system arise? Is this our own world, and if it is, what brought about all of these big changes? Was it just the natural result of uneven evolution? Because despite the cover’s appearance and the jacket description of this book as a “lush fantasy”—which is what I was expecting—it totally read as dystopian to me. (Which feels like a bait and switch, now that I think about it. Trying to pass off dystopian as fantasy to hook dystopian weary readers… Badly done, marketing team.) We were given info about Mare’s world up front, but what there was of it came at us so fast that it’s entirely possible I missed something that sheds light on all of this. I suspect more will be revealed as the series moves forward, but I’m not sure I will be going along for the ride. (All signs point to no.) Which is too bad because there is just so much potential here.

Then there was the love triangle, which I confess I don't normally mind. In this case, there wasn’t enough time spent on either brother to convince me that there was anything of substance between Mare and Cal or Mare and Maven. But then it stumbles into love rhombus (?) territory with yet another fine fellow who quite clearly has feels for our heroine. With not nearly enough page time allotted to any of these potential romances, it was too much and too little all at the same time. It all becomes more than a little problematic when key plot points hinge on the believability of the romance in the story.


Because I know that many people loved this story—subjectivity FTW!!!—I feel like I would be doing a disservice to it and to anyone reading this review by not mentioning what I liked about RED QUEEN. Despite how it seems, I dislike slamming on books. It’s that whole “walking in someone else’s shoes” thing, you know? So, here’s what I thought was cool about the book:
  • Superpowers. Who wouldn’t want awesome superpowers? As a Marvel (and the odd DC) fan, I can honestly say that this aspect really appealed to me as a reader. And the powers the Silvers (and Mare) possessed? Pretty cool.
  • That Harry Potter and/or Cinderella thing where the hero/ine is plucked from obscurity into a life that he/she never even dreamed is something I’ll never tire of. (Putting aside, of course, the fact that she really did not want this life and had it thrust upon her.) To wake up one day and discover you are sorta special would be AMAZING.
  • I really liked Cal and Maven and many of the supporting characters. I would have liked more depth and development where Mare was concerned, but the interesting cast of characters was enough to keep me reading.
  • I felt like the author played fair when certain plot reveals took place. There were enough hints along the way to make the twists and turns feel like they weren't coming out of nowhere. I was able to figure some of them out.
That said, it's really too bad that all of the stuff that I liked was wrapped up in a package that I had a tough time loving.

So, the takeaway here: This book was not for me, but the 4.13 rating on Goodreads suggests that it was THE book for many. If you like YA dystopian/fantasy with heavy X-MEN and THE HUNGER GAMES vibes, you should totally check this one out!


Have you read RED QUEEN yet?
If so, what did you think of it?
Jump in on the conversation!


13 comments:

  1. I really liked several of the supporting cast, too (even some of the crazies), and I'm thinking it's because Mare's personality seemed to fade as the story progressed. I'll probably pick up the second book because I'm hoping for answers to those same "how did this begin" questions and I want some serious ass-kicking (without the love rhombus).

    P.S. I had strong Game of Thrones thoughts, too.

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    1. You are absolutely right about Mare's personality fading as the story progressed. She was a much better character toward the beginning of the story, in my opinion. I'll probably just seek out spoilers when Book 2 comes out. There are too many books I'm eagerly anticipating to spend time on those I'm not. That said, I really hope this series takes a turn for the better for all of those who will be continuing on with it. :-)

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  2. I haven't read this one but read an interview with the author where she wrote this as a screenplay to be a movie, somebody in movies said to her, "This would be a great YA book!" and not having read much or (any?) of the YA category she wrote a YA book. (This was in the interview so I am paraphrasing here.) Dystopian dressed as fantasy makes me sad, marketing team. I think I'll pass on this one but I appreciate the review, Jaime.

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    1. It really does concern me when I think about how this book came to be in the hands of YA readers. Something about this whole acquisition and marketing thing just reeks to me. I mean, there are people who loved it, so it's obviously reaching some of the right readers, but mostly I just feel duped and irritated by the whole thing. I will be doing better research next time, that's for sure. Thanks for popping by, Rachel! And thanks for regularly recommending great books. Recs and reviews by writer friends are SO much more important to me than the way a book is market. Especially now. :-)

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  3. I'm with you on all points, Jaime. There were definitely some aspects that I thought were cool, but all in all, this one just wasn't for me. Such a bummer because had it truly been a lush fantasy, I feel like I would have enjoyed it much more. Here's hoping my copy finds its way into a fan's hands during Rock the Drop. :-)

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    1. Your review did a great job of reminding me what I actually liked about this book, so thanks for that. Because the truth is, I didn't hate it; I was just really, really disappointed in much of it. I guess this is why I rely so heavily on word-of-mouth recs from friends like you. Marketing can be misleading, so best to fall back on the people we trust, right? I like your idea of dropping it during Rock the Drop. I might do the same. :-)

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  4. Nicely balanced review, Jaime. I had a hard time with the world and I still can't decide whether it was the future of our world or some other world like ours. I'm not sure we're meant to know since it's being pushed as more fantasy. But I wondered the same thing.

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    1. Thanks, Tracey. This was a difficult review to write, as you well know. Despite reading an interview that suggests otherwise, I believe this was intended to be a dystopian version of our world with fantasy elements tossed in to make this more ambiguous. But I say, if it looks like a duck...

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  5. I've already had a sneak peak of your review, so you already know I think it's spot on. The love rhombus comment totally made me crack up. So true. And yes on the whole bait and switch deal. Why try to hide that the book is dystopian? Readers are gonna figure it out eventually, so be up front about it, and if the book won't sell, why not publish one that will instead? Anyway, I think you were a little nicer in your review than I was, so good job on that. :)

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    1. I was going to go with love parallelogram, but rhombus felt funnier. ;-) I tried really hard to be fair in this review without being cruel. It was tough, not gonna lie. Because I feel like I've been taken in, and I don't like that one bit. I agree with you on the matter of publishing it as dystopian, which it quite clearly is. All this has done is irked me, which combined with the lackluster writing/plot/characters/etc. only guarantees that I will not be buying or reading any more books in this series. Grrr... Badly done.

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  6. Yes this: This book was not for me, but the 4.13 rating on Goodreads suggests that it was THE book for many. If you like YA dystopian/fantasy with heavy X-MEN and THE HUNGER GAMES vibes, you should totally check this one out!

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    1. While I did not like this book, I recognize that there are others who will. I guess that's where word-of-mouth is far superior to marketing and ratings by complete strangers, right?

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  7. This book is one of my favorite reads of this year, not only for the amazing forbidden love and sweet relationships built throughout the story, but because is about defending what you believe is right, it's about starting a revolution, being mistaken and see the consequences of your acts, about sacrifice, betrayal, family and love. I highly recommend it and just hope you like it as much as I did. I will definitely wait on the following book like a true book addict!

    Mica
    Bowers and Wilkins P5 Review

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