(I got a copy from NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.)
3 to 3.5 stars. I mostly enjoyed this book, but I wish some aspects had been more developed, and I can only hope they will be in the next installment. (Which I would gladly read.)
The weak points, first:
- In general, the ideas and world-building weren't too original. The novel is very close to many dystopian YA novels, with typical elements: class divide, a war, a group of rebels, the love triangle (square?)... In all fairness, had I not already read several books with similar plot devices, this one would have felt better for me, so who knows, it might not be such a problem for another reader.
- The world itself suffered from the (also typical) "pocket-universe" syndrome: everything seems to happen in an enclosed space, with just a few hints to other countries. I couldn't help but wonder about those neighbouring governments and the rest of the planet, as well as the deep reasons to the war, and how Reds and Silvers came to be. It was easy enough to accept that "this is not our world, so these two races are just something that I can see as normal"; but it would still have been nice to get a better grasp on the larger picture, all the more because Mare got lessons about this, so it would've been a good place to insert some more information (without falling into the info-dumping trap, that is).
- The romance subplot, with a love triangle, or even a love square. I understand that parts of this subplot were not what they seemed to be; however, the potential romance, the love interests, didn't strike me as believable, and rather out-of-the-blue in general. I didn't feel any chemistry between Mare and either of the guys, and so that specific aspect of the story seemed forced and contrived.
- Sometimes the characters and their motives were too one-sided. I'm thinking of Evangeline specifically, with her Queen Bee attitude that, in my opinion, wasn't really justified: Mare was never a threat to her position, and Evangeline already knew where she stood and that what she had would remain hers, so while mere contempt may have been logical, such open animosity wasn't.
However, Red Queen also has several good points going for it:
- In spite of the typical, cliché sides, the author still managed to make them hers and to develop an enjoyable world. I liked the various powers displayed by the Silvers, and the many possibilities they offered.
- The roles of the main characters: they aren't so clear-cut as they appear at first, and even though I admit I could sense a particular twist coming, I was still nicely surprised when it happened, in a "aha, YES, I knew it!" way. There was a lot of double-thinking and potential betrayal going on behind the scenes, and this was great.
- The political side of the romance. It explains a lot of things.
- Although the aforementioned romance left me cold, I liked that Mare wasn't merely "the girl torn between two boys, wondering who to choose". That aspect was a rather minor one, and mostly she placed her opinions, her aims, her conviction first. She wasn't just passive and helpless while The Guys did all the work, and she took matters in her own hands. Granted, some of her decisions may be seen as naive; on the other hand, such naivety was also understandable, since Mare had never been schooled in court politics, and was ripped away from her world and family to be thrown into very different surroundings. Being alone, feeling isolated, wanting to clutch at the people who showed kindness: that was understandable.
Not a perfect novel, but not a bad one either.