Book Review · Young Adult

Red Queen: When has Imitation Gone too Far?

**The following review does have very minor spoilers**

In a previous review I mentioned that I have a love/hate relationship with Young Adult Fiction. At its best, YA can be just as strong and thought provoking as Literary Fiction, but at its worst… yikes.

At its worst, YA fiction will have a one-of-a-kind hit, like Hunger Games or… Twilight (hard to type that one out), and then have years of wannabes trying to bank on the hype. YA fiction isn’t alone in this trend, but no one can beat a dead horse like this genre can.

So I spent about 3-4 years trying to sift out gems from a field of crappy posers and hacks trying to make a quick buck.

Like many others, I loved Hunger Games (I’ll abbreviate for the rest of the review) but I found out quickly that Dystopian YA was not my jam. I tried the Divergent series, but just couldn’t get into it and decided to leave the genre behind for a while.

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Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard had been on my radar for a few months, and when I heard the premise was Hunger Games meets Game of Thrones and X-men I was in. I mean I love ALL three of those things. On board!

For those in the dark, the book centers around a future where there are second-class citizens called Reds, normal folks, and the ruling class called Silvers, people with supernatural abilities. Due to Silvers’ god-like abilities they decide that they are better than the Reds and treat them like maggots. Thus our dystopian future.

The novel centers around Mare, who is born a Red but due to ‘circumstances’ it is discovered that she possess powers as well.

Silvers: Oh Shit.

Before I go into my thoughts I want to say that I understand that writing something original is hard. Especially in a genre that has been saturated these past few years. That being said, I was completely and utterly disappointed by this book.

Within a few pages I started to notice the similarities to HG and that Mare is pretty much Katniss. Mare lives in District 12 the Stilts, her best friend is a less-rugged Gale Kilgorn, she steals and works with the underground network to help out her family, and her innocent perfect sister is Prim Gisa.

I was just laughing out loud in the first few chapters because the amount of HG rip-offs was crazy. I put that aside, because I thought with the end of the first act Aveyard would stray away from the similarities, but no, still way more to come.

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Once Katniss Mare becomes immersed into the Silver lifestyle, this shit gets cray. The Silvers are pretty much the Capital people from HG so it’s no surprise that they have royalty, including a King and Queen that rule the districts Norta.

The pageantry and training that Mare endures is, again, like what Katniss went through prior to the Games (and after). Mare is dolled-up and given ‘princess’ lessons, and the training… oh god. Pretty much just imagine the training scenes in HG, but instead of a specialized talent they have superpowers.

This isn’t funny anymore.

While KatnissMare is enduring this transition there is a lot of hub-bub going on in the Silver World. There’s the Resistance because well… there’s always a Resistance. Also the royal family deals with their own woes as KatniMare is conflicted between not  one BUT two hottie princes, Cal and Maven.

So for about two thirds of the book I wasn’t sure how to feel about all these HG allusions. Is this just how dystopian novels are, because there’s not much variety in the genre and everything has been done before?

I was about to forgive Aveyard… and then she slapped me in the face.

While KatMare is studying and learning about the geography of Norta, the reader first learns about Ash City (aka City of Ruins). A land uninhabited due to radiation.

Oh god no please…

So can’t say I’m shocked when KaMar finds out that not only is the Ash City inhabited, it is the home of the Resistance.

Because it’s District 13.

F@*KING DISTRICT 13!

I almost stopped there because of how insulted I felt. I just… Ugh. It also doesn’t help that the leader of the Resistance is a mini-Coin in the making.

Not only do all these rip-offs just tick me off, they also made the book really predictable. Especially the ‘big betrayal’ in the third act. No shock value at all.

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There was only one saving grace for me and that was Cal, the older prince. In a world of cardboard characters I actually found Cal compelling. Cal is juggling a lot of balls in the air and the underlying strain that his stress is causing was fascinating to witness. Cal is bound by duty and love to his family and his race, but he clearly sees that the Silvers are in the wrong. How do you bring on revolution without destroying your culture? His character also elevated K-Mar when they were in scenes together. Bonus!

I know some of you are thinking I’m being incredibly harsh but I think we deserve better. If an author is going to ‘borrow’ so much from another book, can’t she at least give us complex characters? Or completely turn the whole concept on its head in the second or third act?

I think Oscar Wilde said it best:

“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness.”

Score: 3/10

Also…

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6 thoughts on “Red Queen: When has Imitation Gone too Far?

  1. Haha oh this was interesting read. I really liked this series. I liked the blood thing, it was kind of new element, then the “anyone can betray anyone”. And love triangle…was sort of different.

    I don’t know it seems so unfair to compare everything with Hunger Games. It seems unfair to compare anything with anything really…The more I read books the more they start resembling each other. Especially YA, dystopia, fantasy, romance and science fiction genres. Or classics! Tragic ending was pretty common.

    I mean let’s take Harry Potter. I ❤ HP books. But there is a clear connection to books by Diana Wynne Jones (Chronicles of Chrestomanci) then I don't know how many books there were before HP about orphan boys (with special talents!) fighting evil wizards… Oh and check this out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Secret_of_Platform_13

    I think it's just a thing with authors. They read each other's work and of course they copy each other a bit. Like Pullman said, 'I have stolen ideas from every book I have ever read.'

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m not against authors being inspired by certain material or taking some ideas. Genres are always going to have similar elements.
      I just felt like Aveyard went too far and it took me out of the book multiple times.
      And that’s separate from all the issues I had with plot and characters. (Though I have to give props to Cal, he had his moments).

      Like

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