(As always, the first section of this review will be spoiler-free for the whole series, I’ll let you know when that changes)
You may have noticed my distinct lack of fantasy reviews here on the blog, and that’s simply because I am not an avid fantasy reader.
However, the Red Queen series is one of the few exceptions. I first read Red Queen in August/September this year and ended up really enjoying it. I think it appealed to me as a retelling of the Hunger Games with an element of magic thrown in for fun.
The series takes place in a world governed by Silvers, due to their Silver blood and the abilities it provides. However, Mare, a working-class Red , ends up challenging their rule when it becomes clear that despite her blood she’s more powerful than all Silvers.
I listened to the first one as an audiobook, and I really liked the narrator, so I decided to stick with the audiobook for the sequel too. Although, I will admit that some of her accents are a little bit unconvincing, but they make the point, so I wouldn’t write them off on those grounds.
As an English student, I find it very difficult to read a book and not analyse it, so bear with me if this is a little too philosophical. Personally, I thought this was a really pivotal read, especially at the moment. It highlighted the fact that Mare, when wanting to escape the oppression of the Silvers, was creating her own upper class of New Bloods. It doesn’t matter who is in control, it’s the way they govern that is important. I also liked the echoes of the cultural issues our world has previously had with race and how it’s made those feelings accessible to a wider audience.
Back to the review, let’s look at the fantasy element of the book. I think this is the perfect series to transition into the world of fantasy, especially if you’re coming from the YA dystopian genre. The world itself is essentially a futuristic earth, making it easy to get your head around. Plus, the magic system isn’t too complicated, it’s actually incredibly simple. I loved learning more about the New Bloods and their powers in this book, and it was interesting to see them develop – each character is different.
(Hello again non-spoilery people, I think it’s time for you to go, thanks for stopping by, have a read and come back and say hi when you’ve finished!)
As our lead, a lot rides on Mare. I usually struggle to like female protagonists, but Mare is the rare exception. Yes, she does do some stupid things and make some ridiculous decisions, but I can overlook them. Generally, she appreciates that the rebellion is bigger than herself and makes tough decisions. She is aware of her own importance and rises to the challenge – I love that about her, it’s such a pleasant change from other female revolutionaries who feel so sorry for themselves (ahem, Katniss again). I’m not going to lie and say I hate the romance element of books, because I don’t, but in this case I was really happy with the way it was handled. Mare doesn’t allow boys to cloud her judgement or occupy all her thoughts when she’s supposed to be out saving her people, she’s strong and she has her own mind – I really enjoyed that aspect of her character.
Speaking of boys, let’s take a look at her fellas. I really don’t know how to feel about either of her prospective relationships. First, there’s Calore. What can I say? For me, Calore is just too immature for my taste. Yes, he’s a nice little gateway into Mare’s past, but I just feel like she’s outgrown him, and it upsets me that she sometimes appears to cling to him. On the other hand, we have Cal, who I personally prefer. However, he’s so different to Mare, they fight so much and have so much water flowing under the bridge that I just can’t see how they’ll work. I apologise if this makes it sound like I’m not happy with the books romance, because I actually think it’s incredibly well done. I love that there’s no perfect boy, there’s no Peeta, who’s only flaw was being hijacked. Both men are damaged and thus make her dilemma all the more believable. I think ultimately I’m team Cal, but I wouldn’t be at all unhappy if the series left her alone.
(If you haven’t finished Glass Sword yet, I’m about to spoil the ending so please, please, for your own sake, click away!)
So. The ending. It’s a classic cliffhanger if I ever saw one! Personally, I was pretty disappointed with the ending, it all just felt a little too rushed for my liking. It seemed to me that one minute they were heading to the choke and the next sentence they’d crashed a plane and been captured by Maven. I understand why it was rushed, and it’s definitely worked, I’ll be reading the third installment as soon as it becomes available. But I feel like a little more detail, a little more time to absorb, would have been a lot more poignant.
Overall, I gave this book 4/5 stars (the same score I gave Red Queen). I love the simplicity of this series and I completely understand why it was nominated for best YA fantasy book of 2016, I’ll definitely be continuing. It’s a really nice transitional series that has inspired me to consider adding a few more fantasy bits to my TBR – but let’s not get ahead of ourselves, I only said considering.
What did you guys think? Did you enjoy this new instalment, or give up after the first book? Let me know in the comments!