Reviewing the Red Queen Series

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It’s a world torn by difference, where some people are superior to the others. A daring girl from an oppressed community, different from the rest, sets out to change the world or die in the process. While on her quest, she has a chance encounter with secret community of rebels who works towards a similar goal, share the same enemies. She is torn between two suitors/lovers who seem equally good, are equally breath-taking and love her equally. Except over the course of series she’ll find one is not good enough and make her choice, after having spent enough time with both. Perhaps, you’ll pick a side too. The villains almost die to get their hands on this girl, who despite being not-so-powerful is the face of the rebellion. She  threatens to reveal who they really are, is captured, tortured, brought back again and the cycle goes on, till the greater cause of the secret community is revealed. Then everyone again makes choices and fights more battles. Before you even picked up the book, you knew it would have a bittersweet ending. All the way you hope that the protagonist survives. And your favourite characters as well.

Sounds Familiar? No, it is not the Hunger Games. Not Divergent either or the Lunar Chronicles.

I’m here reviewing the Red Queen Series, which is probably like every other dystopian young adult fantasy-fiction book out there. I know the blog title was a giveaway, so I am pretending you did not notice it.

The major problem with this genre is (at least, the books I have read), is despite the amount of new elements introduced to keep the reader thrilled, the elements seem stale, or stolen from some other fiction hit. The combination of the elements is definitely magical, and at the outset that would be the very reason you’d have considered reading one of them. However, once you set out to explore them in detail, the glamour wanes as quickly as the fragrance of a cheap perfume, unless it is bolstered by a meticulous world development or layered, relatable characters or marvellous plot that doesn’t get boring due to the narrator’s monotones or an impeccable writing style. The bestsellers perform well on one or two of the parameters, and are satisfactory at the most of the others. The lower priority parameters are mostly underperformed on.

These fictional worlds mostly are shallow or constricted, definitely not the ones you’d wish to lose yourself in, time and again. Mostly found written in the first person, they always border on over description and over detailing. Initially I thought this was the curse that came with the narrative, but reading the Bell Jar and Great Gatsby made me think otherwise. While it is enjoyable to be inside someone else’s head in a book, too much of cribbing or reminding or obviousness repels, so much so that you want to get out of their head, right then.

And yet they are hugely popular. They have a very good reason to be so.

The thrill, oh, the thrill! The plot is so action-packed that you are on the edge all the time. The moment it starts getting dull, well, a plot-twist drops and boom! You are again frantically turning pages to know what happened next, probably even peeping ahead to check if the characters survived. The unjust society and the villains make you hate them, the system and fuel your rage further. No matter how much you were annoyed or frustrated by the protagonist, you always find yourself rooting for her, wishing her and her loved ones well. You find the characters to be grey, imperfect and you love them all the same. Amidst all the emotional turmoil, both good and bad that the book has taken you through, you find that you can so easily relate to them.

Nearly all of them have that male lead (or couple of them) with charms that make you swoon, who makes you want to dip further down. Maybe the ship that you support or that starboy himself is another major reason why you follow till the end. The characters turned villains are very intriguing, especially with their tragic back stories that made them so twisted.

It wasn’t very difficult to figure out that all of them make good movie material, books that have already gathered a more-than-decent fan base. Evidence shows that the rights to their movies sold out very quickly.

Screenwriter Victoria Aveyard had sold the rights to the movie even before the book was released.  And rightly so. In spite of the many maladies it suffers due to it being another one from the dystopian YA genre, it is vivid, enthralling and captivating. The scenes are well constructed, and the characters are conflicted. Maybe even broken or twisted. The actions and situations look like they are out of a movie, and now we know why. Everything here is a shade of grey. Before long, you are already empathizing with the characters, their choices.. You relate. Perhaps even find a bit of yourself in them. And once you are done with this book, you find yourself thinking of the many what ifs, your mind wanders without control to the people in the pages.

In short, it is a reader’s delight.

Friends, Readers, Citizens of the Internet. May I have a moment to fangirl over Red Queen?

Of course I haven’t come to bury the series, but to praise it—even with its many flaws!

Call it the soft corner for X-Men like powers, or the undercutting politics of Game of Thrones, or the aura of the dystopian world, I loved the reading experience. Yes, you may judge me.

I picked the book because I couldn’t keep my eyes (or hands) off the cover. Literally. Goodreads ratings seemed to be decent enough for me to give it a try; being from a genre I liked helped as well. The first book was mediocre. I was amazed in the beginning, hooked on to the story and the elements, but as the pages kept turning, the interest faded—and for a while I didn’t even want to read the sequel, which was to  release in a couple of months. So I almost forgot about it, and went on to buy the book a whole year later. And then I even procrastinated reading that.

This would go down in my diary of disastrous blunders. The second book in the series turned out to be my favourite. It was also the trigger for me to buy the third immediately. These two books were devoured on ravenously, and consumed in a week’s time. Which was great progress, especially when I had to hunt for time to read. Most of the time was borrowed from my sleep.

I see an effort in world building, but yet it falls short. The writing was sloppy and sometimes tired me. With so many books of the genre already popular, this didn’t come exactly out as novel. What kept me going were the characters—good and evil, whose layers and choices always came to me as a pleasant surprise.  The pace helped a great deal, and so did the imagery that made everything seem as if it were happening in front of my eyes. These small factors were done artfully well, making it easy to become oblivious to the numerous blemishes.

Somehow, I never liked Maven, since the very beginning. It was Cal who led the show for me, and thankfully the author followed it through. Mare was a frustrating and repetitive narrator, but I liked her anyway. She was imperfect but that made her real life-like, and a little difficult to predict. Over the books, all the main-cast characters mature, and deepen substantially, along with the relationships that they share. Addition of more POVs made it even more exciting, though I really hope that Miss Aveyard picks some male narrators as well. The challenges posed by the looming uncertainties completely eliminated the ability to foretell. And the plot uncovers one layer at a time, revealing a greater mesh of history and hidden activities each time. The whole experience was mesmerizing, and it left me in a bad hangover after I had finished reading.

Would I recommend it? Without a doubt. This might be something that sits proudly on your bookshelf, especially if you are a follower of dystopian or YA fiction. Personally, Glass Sword (RQ#2) was my favourite and King’s Cage (RQ#3) maintained the momentum well.

I just can’t wait for the last installment to be out soon!