Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Book Review: RED QUEEN by Honey Brown

Red Queen

Title: Red Queen
Author: Honey Brown
Publisher: Penguin Australia
Read: April 28 - May 1, 2013

Synopsis (Goodreads): 

Shannon and Rohan Scott have retreated to their family's cabin in the Australian bush to escape a virus-ravaged world. After months of isolation, Shannon imagines there's nothing he doesn't know about his older brother, or himself – until a stranger slips under their late-night watch and past their loaded guns.

Reluctantly the brothers take the young woman into their fold, and the dynamic within the cabin shifts. Possessiveness takes hold, loyalties are split, and trust is shattered. Before long, all three find themselves locked into a very different battle for survival.

Daring, stylish and sexy, Red Queen is a psychological thriller that will leave you breathless.

My thoughts:

Apocalyptic novels are normally not my thing, but I love Honey Brown’s writing and still needed to read a dystopian novel for my 2013 Eclectic Reader Challenge, so I thought I would give Red Queen a go.

After narrowly surviving falling victim to the deadly Red Queen virus which claimed the lives of their parents, Rohan and Shannon Scott are living in isolation in a remote cabin in the Australian bush. Having been in hiding for months they have had no news from the outside world, which is in chaos since the very contagious virus has claimed the lives of millions all around the globe. Thanks to their father’s foresight they have plenty of food to last them for several years, and their lives have settled into a steady – if lonely – routine.

One day a lone woman appears on their doorstep. Denny Cassidy claims that she also is the sole survivor of her family and had been marooned in an abandoned farmhouse not far from the cabin. After running out of food she accidentally stumbled across Rohan’s tracks, and is now asking the brothers for shelter. Despite serious misgivings, Rohan and Shannon accept Denny into their fold, which drastically changes the dynamics of the household and creates tension between the brothers. But what are Denny’s real motives? Is she playing one brother off against the other?

Red Queen won the 2009 Aurealis Award, and it is not hard to see why. Even in her debut novel, Honey Brown already shows the hallmarks of her writing – a taut compelling narrative exposing the most innate fears of the human soul. Brown is a master at setting the scene and creating an atmosphere of suspense which haunts the reader long after finishing the story, and her descriptions of the Australian bush allow the scenes to play out clearly in one’s mind. By isolating the characters from the outside world (as Brown has masterfully done in her latest novel Dark Horse), a small universe is created in which the human soul is stripped to its very core, and the most intimate emotions come to the fore.

Red Queen is a study of human nature operating under pressure, and of interpersonal relationships and family dynamics. It was fascinating to see how the arrival of a woman in their cabin would fundamentally change the hierarchy the two brothers had established – with Rohan, the older, firmly in charge, and Shannon doing his bidding. As sexual tension is introduced into the mix, the rules suddenly change and Shannon is no longer content to blindly obey his brother. It is inevitable that there would be conflict, and even without knowing her true motives it was easy to see how Denny uses this to her own advantage. From here the story plays out in almost biblical old-world fashion, with the female temptress creating conflict between the brothers, who each now have reason to try and establish their dominance over each other and the newcomer. Interesting to me were the characters’ androgenous names – each name could be male or female … perhaps to highlight the gender dominance issues in the novel?

Despite being drawn in by Brown’s writing, I admit I did not enjoy the novel as much as I thought I would. Not really warming to any of the characters and missing an emotional connection left me slightly irritated by their behaviour, and as the inevitable conflict plays out and Denny’s past comes into the mix, I was relieved when the conclusion was reached.

My rating reflects personal reading pleasure only. Fans of the dystopian genre and apocalyptic setting should definitely give this book a go – its tension is palpable, its setting masterfully drawn, and the suspense build until the very end. Brown does the genre justice and has firmly established herself as one of Australia’s best thriller writers. I have now read every one of Brown’s novels, and will am looking forward to reading a lot more from this author in the future. 

If you like a good suspense novel, why not give Honey Brown's other books a go (you won't be disappointed): The Good Daughter, After the Darkness, Dark Horse.

This book forms part of several of my 2013 reading challenges:

1 comment:

  1. This is the only one of Honey Browns books I am not very interested in as dystopia/sci fi doesn't do much for me.

    Shelleyrae @ Book'd Out