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Red Queen: A Brutally Honest Review

Sonia See - March 5, 2016

Ever so often, books are so excellent that they speak for themselves from the very first pages. The first few lines draw the reader in while the chapters grip the reader making them stay till the end. These are some of the characteristics of a good book. Red Queen, unfortunately, does not possess any of that.

Before I continue, I should explain the format of my atypical book reviews. Formal reviews will be written for books that I deem deserving of them. In cases where the books are sub par, I came up with “live reviews”, where I detail what I am thinking through or after each sitting. Live reviews are very colloquial and dive more into my thoughts. Without further ado, let’s dive into Red Queen. 

Red Queen is the debut novel of Victoria Aveyard. In a blog post, Aveyard attributes her publishing journey to a lot of luck (and talent of course, even though I beg to differ). Unlike a lot of other authors, Aveyard was in a meeting and mentioned that she wanted to write “the next big YA novel” so they gave her the green light and all she had to do was write. She did not have to worry about the struggles of finding an agent and that’s all good; success stories are always warm to hear!

Needless to say that Red Queen was hyped to the point that it was expected to be the next huge thing in the YA industry. Sadly, upon starting the book, disappointment hit me in the face like a truck. I have thousands upon thousands of books read under my belt and by now, it is very easy to tell how a book will be from the very first chapter. However, I do agree that some books take a little to develop but the development is highlighted early on.

I read the Twilight series and even gave the first fourteen pages of Fifty Shades a try but nothing would prepare me for the horror that Red Queen put me through. To clarify, I was not a big fan of the Twilight series, though I commend Stephenie Meyer for the obsession movement she started and needless to say, I could not get past the bad writing structure of Fifty Shades. Either way, Meyer’s style of writing flows so reading Twilight was fairly easy. On the other hand, Red Queen might be the first ever book that I can confidently say I hated. Note that I have never hated a book before. Some of you might want a synopsis of Red Queen and I could not bring myself to write one without sarcasm, therefore, you can find it on Goodreads. Below is an insight in my reading diary, while I attempted to read Red Queen.

Night 1

Just started the book and I am already thinking about putting it down. I think I got through Twilight easier and that says something.

I am 8% into the book and highly debating whether to put it aside. I have no desire to turn the pages. The main character, Mare, annoys me to the core. She makes Bella Swan from Twilight bearable. On her Tumblr blog, the author says that she “writes and complains”, why did I even think that the main character would not be a complainer? At the moment, I do not want to know what happens to her down the line. How do I carry on if the whole book is from her point of view?

I said I would soldier on and get through it, but my brain is begging me to stop. Here’s to Red Queen, the first book (Fifty Shades does not count!) I never finished.

Red Queen has been so hyped that my expectations were very high. Unfortunately, the writing was almost tedious, making it extremely difficult to get past the first three chapters. The main character is annoying. From the first few paragraphs, it seems that the author “borrowed” from The Hunger Games. Mare Barrow hates Silvers just like Katniss Everdeen hates The Capitol, except that Katniss is neither obnoxious nor annoying. The character constantly expressed her distaste for Silvers and we are barely three chapters in. We get it pal, you hate Silvers! That’s all that was there: Reds, Silvers, Reds, Silvers …at one point, I felt like I was learning colors.

There is nothing innovative about the book. The naming convention is poor: strongarm for people who are super strong, telky for telekinesis, and Hall of the Sun amongst other very basic names. It feels exactly like Aveyard mentioned on her post, she “wanted to write the next big YA novel” so she did it using a formula. Instead of focusing on the story and giving readers a solid plot and characters they don’t hate, the author seems to have made a list of everything that works in other successful books and crammed it to her own story. This is probably why the story is not inviting.

Funnily enough, Red Queen seems to have plagiarized the idea from Red Rising. How ironic is it that Mare’s last name is Barrow, while the main character of Red Rising is Darrow? Mare and Darrow are coincidentally both Reds (did Aveyard really think people wouldn’t read Red Rising?) and while Darrow is against The Golds, Mare is against The Silvers. As a fellow YA author, plagiarism of any kind upsets me. I understand that ideas can be recycled; after all, Suzanne Collins did it from Battle Royale and Lord of the Flies. The difference is that Collins added her own idea to it and did not just concoct a recipe for “the next huge YA novel.”

The apparent success and overhype of this book can thank teen girls and boys across the globe for their yearning desire of love triangles. In the end, the fandom deserves ample respect because they are the true MVP.

Rating: 1/5 ¢

Footnote: I know I am probably upsetting a fandom with my distaste for  the book, but that’s the beauty of opinions – everybody has their own. Additionally, Twilight is mentioned several times in this post, because it is probably one of the very rare series I did not like. It has been the benchmark to bad literature for a while though it does look like Red Queen just dethroned it.


  1. I just finished reading and I like how brutally honest you were with this review, although you know I don’t quite agree. But that’s okay! I 100% see your valid points but I think if you get past them the intensity and anticipation of the story will come through. I hope 🙂

    1. Ahaha I wrote this review then came across your blog! Had I done it the other way, I would probably have been softer on Red Queen!
      I will definitely give this book a two-three month rest and get back to it! I honestly think my expectations for the book were sky high! Sometimes my opinion of books change after some time 🙂

  2. I went a little easier on ‘Red Queen’ in my review, but I agree with all the points you made. I’m still willing to give the sequel, ‘Glass Sword’, a chance, but I’m keeping my hopes low.

    1. As I said to another blogger earlier, I think I will come back to the book after a few months. I REALLY wanted to love this book and I forced myself through parts I didn’t wanna read but Mare just got the best of me.
      I hope you enjoy Glass Sword and whenever you’re done with it, I’d be more than glad to read your review!!! Maybe it will give me some incentive to read the book haha

    2. There’s so much good writing around. I don’t understand why you would read another book by someone whose writing you don’t rate. That is time you will never get back.

      1. Sometimes, stepping back from a book to come back to it afterwards changes perspective. Everything is a learning experience so truly, time isn’t being wasted.

          1. Masochism is defined as “the enjoyment of what appears to be painful or tiresome.”
            So somewhere, there is a form of enjoyment in the process, which makes it not be a waste of time.

  3. Ha! I enjoyed the fierceness of this piece. There’s very few things I like more than writing about stuff that I hated. I did read that you did have high expectations… do you think that harmed the book for you? I know as a movie reviewer, curbing your pre-expectations for a film is difficult but I believe it is vital.
    Also, even though I don’t read very many YA books anymore, I find myself pretty unimpressed with most YA book-to-movie adaptations. Speaking of which, what did you think about the Hunger Games movies (if you’ve seen them)?

    1. Why thank you! I did try my hardest to tame the fierceness 😛
      Usually – and this is EXTREMELY important – my high expectations towards a book are on point. I am very rarely ever disgusted with a book to the point where I refuse to go forward. That being said, I rarely ever read summaries before going into a book (just like you’ll rarely ever find me watch trailers before a movie). Despite my high expectations, I was prepared to the rookie mistakes of a first time author – I make them all the time in my book draft – so I am extremely forgiving when reading YA, especially by first timers. To answer your question, no I do not think my expectations harmed my take on the book because my expectations were heavily based on the originality of the story. I thought, “Hey, this is being talked about as the next huge YA thing. It’s probably going to be an original story!” so imagine my major disappointment when everything I read seem to have been “borrowed” from somewhere else.
      I do agree with you that it is extremely difficult to curb movie expectations more than anything else (because movies always tend to be the most hyped of all!)
      You are correct to be disappointed because I can safely tell you (and I read a HUGE amount of YA) that all the movies or shows they adapted have failed the books. But then again, maybe my expectations were too high.
      Matter of fact, The Hunger Games was an exception. The first installment wow’d me. YES, I was annoyed that they omitted a few key points like who gave her the mockingjay pin or details but I thought it was a great try. Subsequently, the second and third (and fourth) installments did not impress me all that much. The fan in me really ADORED the movies as well as the cast but the critic in me could not get past the commercial feel of it. The second movie was still good. The third movie (both of them) made me feel like Jennifer Lawrence was like “Yeah I’m kinda famous now …so I’m not really happy being here” I don’t know how everybody else felt but this is exactly how I felt coming out of the theatre. I felt like the crew stopped trying because the movies were already successful so people were gonna watch them anyway!

      1. I’m with you in trying to avoid trailers… the only trailers I succumb to are the ones that appear in theaters, so unfortunately, this forces me to see the same 3-4 trailers over and over again.

        And the lack of originality in stories is pretty disappointing… that’s honestly one of the reasons Zootopia was a miss for me… But with Red Queen and Zootopia, I think this proves that general audiences don’t necessarily enjoy originality (because EVERYONE, including one of the hardest critics I know, enjoyed Zootopia more than I did). It’s why lots of big Hollywood movies seem to follow the same plot points and tropes in a large portion of movies. Oftentimes when lots of people like something, I find the hype is not all deserved (Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a another perfect example of this).

        And gotcha! The Hunger Games movies were better than most YA films I’ve seen (except for probably The Fault in Our Stars), but I was pretty underwhelmed with the majority of what they presented.

        1. I’m 100% with you on both movies. TFIOS – how could I have forgotten about this adaptation? – was WONDERFUL! The Hunger Games kept true to the book as much as they could I think. I can safely say that sometimes, the movies were a wee bit more entertaining than the book (*cough* book 3)

          I did not even bother with Zootopia – It was on my “To watch” list but I was like meh eh because I had already seen the trailer.

          With Red Queen, I think the audience (I HOPE PEOPLE DON’T KILL ME FOR THIS) is more on the younger side or maybe newish readers of YA. Several YA vets haven’t liked the book at all. However, some people did agree that although it was poorly constructed, they just wanted to know what happened. Situations like Red Queen frustrate me because out there somewhere is the REAL next huge YA thing but Aveyard took that spot with “luck” or anything but talent.

          And I do also agree that people tend to gravitate toward the same plotlines or stories. How can they not be bored? I’m beginning to ask myself whether I look too much into books, shows and movies! hahaha

  4. I actually agree with your views to a certain extent. But upon reading it I was one of the people who thought “wow – best book ever (in reality meaning that month)”… but the more I thought about it, the more faults I found that really bugged me (and I could completely understand why you related this book to Twilight which suffered from the same type of disease…
    I’m glad you voiced your negative opinion, there really aren’t many people who do that nowadays. Wonderful review!

    1. Thank you so much 🙂
      I think that over the years, having read so many YA books, I have little to no tolerance to flawed logic such as RQ’s. And it angers me that the author pretty much got a free pass.
      I do feel that if I were to read the whole book, I will write blog post after blog post about plagiarism, illogical scenarios, Mare’s annoyance, the bad writing style, Mare’s annoyance again – you get the gist! Haha

  5. Thanks for your honest opinion! It helped me decide to put this book a little lower on my (admittedly, waaaaaaaay too long) reading list. I love that you out right say it when you don’t like a book. I always try to find things that I do like about the books, to soften my reviews. I’m working on a review now that I’m having some trouble with (very, very hard to find something positive). Have you read the “House of Night” series yet, by P.C. and Kristin Cast? I’d love to know what you thought about it!

    1. Haha thank you for appreciating my honesty! I usually try my hardest to stick to a book – I will often bypass the poor writing if the story is good and vice versa but I’m not sure what went wrong with this one.
      Funny you mentioned the Cast duo – I was *JUST* thinking how I disliked their books yesterday. I could never even get into their stories!

      1. I kept hoping they would get better, and now that I’m seven books in, it seems stupid to give up. I *will* finish the series, I’m struggling though. Poor little powerful girl that keeps struggling with her three boyfriends and keeps on sighing to herself about it. Give me a break! But I’m almost there! 🙂

  6. Hahaha I just finished reading it and I must say it was annoying at times. How did she get everything so easy? Is being a princess really a punishment?
    Loved your review and you have a really pretty blog!

    1. Thank you so much! 🙂
      Aha I did not like how she complains about EVERYTHING and essentially repeats herself over and over. And right?! Coming from nothing, shouldn’t she be somewhat grateful to having been propelled to royalty?!

      1. Exactly! If I was in her place, I would be happy that my whole family is safe now instead of trying to mess things up 🙂
        Thank you so much for following back <3

  7. Wow thanks for the review! I watched the series “White Queen” based on this and her two other books. I thought it was an incredible show. But a lot of times shows add what might have been lacking in the book, and visa versa. I was interested in reading but might choose something else. Thanks for saving me some money!

    1. I think you are talking about White Queen by Philippa Gregory! I am not quite sure whether the series is good but I have been tempted to read it – I probably will in a few weeks!

      This review was for Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard! Similar names, same genre but different authors!!! Hope it did not mislead you 🙁

      1. Oh yeah I should have paid attention to the author! Yes she has a book called White Queen as well as one called Red Queen! Hah strange! My mistake. Thanks for the review of a similar book though! 🙂

        1. However, if you do say White Queen was great, I’m definitely giving it a try!!! 😀
          And not at all, I had to look twice myself – so many novels are called Red Queen it’s ridiculous!!!

  8. Good grief! Must have been bad! I’ll look out for your re-review in a few months, then decide if I wanna borrow it from the library. 😆

      1. I can overlook that if the plot is good *cough* Sidney Sheldon *cough*. But yeah, couldn’t bring myself to finish either Twilight or 50 Shades. Would be more pleasured reading a Pantone chart.

        1. I went 125 pages into Twilight and 14 pages into Fifty Shades …then I went to do math, because that felt more entertaining.

    1. Right?! I am pretty sure that if I did go through the whole book, I would have a huge number of other books that she “borrowed” from!

  9. Oh dear- I definitely see your point- and Red Queen was definitely written like it wanted to be the next big YA. The only reason I enjoyed the book is cos of Maven and the twist at the end (even though it’s not a huge surprise, it was very dramatic and was done well). When I finished it I was satisfied and entertained- though I definitely don’t think it’s the best thing I’ve ever read. But I can definitely see where you’re coming from!

    1. Haha thank you for reading ☺️
      I guess lack of originality as well as tacky writing annoy me. I’m sure there were highlights to the story!

  10. I completely agree!! It was so over hyped and just couldn’t find anything I liked a it it. I wanted to like it really badly, but I just couldn’t.

    1. I’m with you and I did try a re read recently – even tried the audiobook, which was a terrible idea because I really wanted to throw my phone away.

  11. I agree 100% I’m still torturing myself trying to read it, god knows why. I found your review by googling “how can people like red queen” I was trying to understand it. I wanted to like it but I felt like I paid for a meal made with no love in it, it was just bland, tasteless and filled with artificial crap.

    1. OMG!!! How you describe this so perfectly!!!! My feelings exactly …I recently tried to listen to it on an audiobook but I couldn’t even get past the first three minutes. I don’t and won’t understand the hype around this book. It was simply bad.

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