WAR STORM Changed the Y.A. Game While We Weren’t Looking

          If you’re interested in YA lit, you’re likely already following the wildly popular Red Queen series, the final installment of which hit shelves last month. If, however, you’re still resisting getting on board the RQ train (choo choooo), this series should move to the top of your to-read pile, and not just for the dramatic twists and cinematic fight scenes. War Storm, the fourth, final, and longest volume, gives anyone interested in storytelling another reason to care about this series.

“Aveyard has pulled off a seamless but dramatic shift in the kind of story she’s telling and the way she’s telling it.”

          Red Queen is a powerful example of the way a series can mature as it develops. I don’t mean it adds more violence or sex; the series does not simply darken in tone or expand its cast of characters. By War Storm, author Victoria Aveyard has pulled off a seamless but dramatic shift in the kind of story she’s telling and the way she’s telling it.

         A catalog of the recognizable YA Dystopia/Fantasy tropes found in Red Queen would be extensive but also misleading. The series is built on character relationships more compelling and complex than the Strong Female Protagonist, Mare Barrow, might at first lead you to believe. A large, interesting cast has always been the series’ greatest strength, and Aveyard capitalizes on this element with a storytelling shift that elevates the perspectives of the colorful crew of central teenage characters.

         I’ve always described the world of Red Queen to friends as equal parts Game of Thrones, Avatar: The Last Airbender, and Hunger Games, all of which I mean with both positive and pejorative connotations. The comparison to Game of Thrones was primarily a shorthand for the setting, one of castles and battlefields in which noble houses in fine clothing battle for power. By the final book, however, this comparison has taken on a new dimension. Long lauded for the moral grayness of its large, interesting cast of characters, the Song of Ice and Fire books ask you to invest in individuals, not Good Guys and Bad Guys. It is this quality, the uncoupling of the narrative from one single hero, that Aveyard infuses into War Storm.

       “In War Storm, Aveyard made the jump from having multiple POVs to having multiple protagonists.”

         Aveyard added two additional POVs in the third book, King’s Cage, which mostly served to fill in the story gaps left when Mare was removed from much of the action. These perspectives, while enlightening and amusing, were still ultimately focused on Mare, the world’s center of gravity. In War Storm, Aveyard made the jump from having multiple POVs to having multiple protagonists. When writing in, say, Cal’s perspective, Aveyard treats the events as Cal’s story, not just another way of looking at Mare’s, allowing the reader to invest in each character on their own terms.

         The world of Red Queen is no longer one in which Mare Barrow is the purpose of the universe. Instead of being a story of one girl thrust into dangerous circumstances, War Storm is the story of a divided world that falls into chaos. It is War Storm’s ability to convince me that there is a world outside Mare that makes me most excited for whatever project Aveyard finds next.

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