Benjamin Chandler reviews 'The Red Queen' by Isobelle Carmody

Twenty years before Katniss Everdeen competed in The Hunger Games (2008) and dominated the post-apocalyptic landscape, Elspeth Gordie went to Obernewtyn (1987) in her own ruined world. She would grow from orphan outcast to rebel conspirator and community leader, overthrowing religious and secular powers and carrying a darker fate as the Seeker who must save the world from a second nuclear holocaust. In The Red Queen, the seventh and final instalment in Isobelle Carmody's epic Young Adult fantasy series, Elspeth faces her destiny, cementing her place as one of fantasy's most pivotal female heroes.

Elspeth has a tendency to brood. Carmody is at her best when she snaps Elspeth out of it by thrusting her from one impossible task to the next. In The Red Queen, Elspeth doesn't have much left to do other than fulfil her role as Seeker, but her quest to save the world has never been as interesting as her ability to change it. With nothing left but to Seek, Elspeth spends most of her time worrying about what is going to happen or what has happened, and the result of her 'gnawing', as her feline companion refers to it, is a bloated narrative. The Red Queen is too long. Given that most of it is devoted to repetitious introspection and postulation, it didn't need to run to more than one thousand pages.

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Published in March 2016, no. 379

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