Sunday, 10 June 2018

Red Queen, by Victoria Aveyard            Young Adult reading

Glass Sword, by Victoria Aveyard

            A lot of dystopian fiction has been written for young people since ‘The Hunger Games’, that superb trilogy by Suzanne Collins.  The genre has not always been well-served by writers hoping to leap on to the bandwagon as they churn out pale imitations of a very successful formula – until Victoria Aveyard restores the faith in what was becoming a tired old theme, i.e. impoverished but fearless (and beautiful) girl fights evil (and disgustingly wealthy) enemies to free the world of tyranny and (after numerous death-defying, shocking and nail-biting misadventures) vanquishes the Bad Guys and everyone lives happily ever after.

           While it is true that the above could be a much-abridged summation of Ms Aveyard’s quartet of novels (I’m galloping through the second one), her protagonist Mare Barrow is hugely appealing, and carries the story effortlessly – she is feisty (of course!), sassy and downright rude (you go girl!) whenever she can’t help herself, and that’s often – and she has a secret power unknown to her until she falls onto some electrified wires:  she wasn’t fried as she expected, instead she found that she could harness the electricity and use it to zap those who would do her harm – and they are many, for Mare has Red Blood.  Don’t we all?  I hear you say, but in this Dystopian future, a thousand years after a huge nuclear war razed cities and countries, those with red blood are servants and underdogs;  the Silver Bloods are the rich and dominant leaders, and they are cruel masters.
            So far, so familiar, except that Mare is a thief by trade, until she picks the pocket of a Silver Prince out slumming;  fortunately for her, he listens as she rants at him about having no choice in her occupation;  it’s the stranglehold the Silvers have on the Reds, keeping them downtrodden and oppressed that forces her to steal so that her family won’t starve.  His solution, instead of having her executed for theft, is to give her a job as a servant in his family’s summer palace.  Mare has just dodged death, but why?  Not that she isn’t grateful, but her new duties combined with her new-found talent for controlling electricity – she is now known as little lightning girl – complicate and endanger her life more than she ever dreamed.  It is clear too, that the ruling Silver family is not as secure on the throne as they appear.  They have enemies within as well as the seething rebelling Red masses without:  can the little lightning girl conquer them and become a Red Queen?
            Not in the first book:  Mare ends up on the run, a fugitive with a loyal little band of followers, searching for more gifted ‘Newbloods’ like herself, part red, part silver, but each with an extraordinary gift that, if enough are found, could be moulded into an elite army, capable of defeating the most powerful of enemies.  Ms Aveyard has given great new life to a genre that has been flogged almost to a standstill and her characters are full of life and exuberance – in Mare’s case, electricity! – and, as should be the case in fantasy sagas of Good and Evil, strong questioning of moral standpoints and values.
            This is a great series, action-packed to the last page, and once again I thank my granddaughter Ava, reader extraordinaire, for telling me about it.  FIVE STARS        

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