BPS Review of Red Queen, Juan Gomez-Jurado ( December 2023)
Not to be confused with the Victoria Ayeward series, of the same name which is ALSO featured as a forthcoming fantasy/YA thriller TV series – not sure what UK platform it’s on. OUR Red Queen has been made into an 8- part TV series, but it’s called Reina Roja and it’s on Prime Video. You may ask why I’m starting this BOOK review with a lot of chat about TV adaptations, but from our discussions it was abundantly clear that the author was writing with a eye to the visual and cinematic approach, not least because the book so clearly feels like an unfinished story, and we are assured that two more are in the pipeline.
So, the scores out of a possible 5 … half of the readers scored it 3.5 or more (but only two top marks), 35% of us gave it a middling 3, and 15% judged it the turkey of Christmas, 2 or less. It was a book perhaps that people enjoyed at a easy level, visualising it on screen, but became easy to pick apart under scrutiny. But we don’t always have to do that to poor, unsuspecting thrillers, do we?
What do we even want from a thriller? A watertight plot…some quirky and complex characters… an interesting setting…and something to think about when it’s finished? I’m kind of making this up as I’m not a frequent thriller reader, but let’s see how Red Queen stacked up against these criteria.
The plot had, in one person’s words “ a lot of breadcrumbs” but not necessarily all followed through or even explained, leaving us either frustrated or ready to read the sequel already.
Antonia, the tortured genius, was an interesting character who could perhaps be developed more with her backstory, but some of the explanations and actions ( with her child, particularly) just felt clunky and unrealistic.
We would all enjoy the Spanish setting, with the ultra- wealthy racing around in horseboxes and performance car chases, as a TV drama, but it didn’t feel particularly Spanish in the text. One element that raised eyebrows was the frequent reference to everyday sexism and sexual violence, hinting that this is more the ‘norm’ in Spain than here.
The background story of Antonia’s training, and Mentor, was potentially the element to lift it from cliché to something original, but again not enough early detail has been supplied which leaves us with more questions than answers. But not long to wait – the second instalment is called Black Wolf and is coming out mid March 2024!