All posts tagged Power

The world operates on order. Who makes the rules? Who decides consequences derived from said rules? Who holds the power? It seems that the conflicts inside many young adult dystopias follow along the same principles: a domineering authority consuming the few scraps left in some desolate landscape. My independent reading book, A Darker Shade of Magic, is no exception to this theme. Victoria Schwab’s masterpiece features overblown palaces filled with so-called royalty, an impressive array of magic wielding villains, and a dark stone that could destroy all realities.


Instead of adhering to the standard overbearing government in need of a rebellion plot, Schwab created a universe with omnipotent magic that, depending on the realm, could be used to claim power. What interests me are the correlations that can be made between the illusion of control and those that accept the magic’s existence in their world. Take “White London”, a realm where magic has absorbed all form of color and life from the city. The only form of leadership comes from a bloodthirsty throne that is open to be conquered by anyone who is willing to prove themselves superior through a battle to the death with whoever currently holds the title. The common people who lack magical talent believe they have no control over this process so they simply accept it as the natural order of things. By strategically demonstrating their power to the magicless, the top magicians gain authority that can then be used to control the populations. Instead of igniting rebellion, the commoners fight amongst themselves for crumbs of leftover magic. This enables the victors of the throne to maintain control by keeping the individuals separate, paranoid of one another, and fearful of their overlords.

The impossible artifact that conveniently crosses paths with the main character, Kell, represents a disruption in the order of the realms. The user of the stone has access to dark and unbelievable magic that can actually breaks existing laws by creating things out of nothing. Although the stone creates a sense of control, wielding its power comes at great cost to the user. This illusion makes the stone all the more dangerous in the hands of an eager but inexperienced human. I see this plot thread as a warning to the readers in the typical dystopian fashion. To me, Schwab is drawing a connection between those who can control themselves when given responsibility, and those who become drunk with power. It is easy to be influenced by the power you wield and only you can control what you become as a result.


Works Cited:

Schwab, Victoria. A Darker Shade of Magic. Tor, 2015.

In dystopian societies, those who control the power will go to all extremes to make sure societal entrenchment, oppression, and fear remain true. In Red Queen, the perception of the strength and power of the ruling class is the foundation of how they maintain their wealth and opulence. In Mare’s (the narrator) world, there are two kinds of people: Silvers and Reds.

Since she was born, Mare had been indoctrinated in every aspect of life to believe that Silvers, the ruling class, are inherently better than the impoverished Reds. Their silver blood gives Silvers supernatural abilities and thus the “right” to rule over the normal and crimson blooded Reds. The perception of the Silvers’ strength and power is all that is needed to suppress Red crimes and uprisings against Silver rule and the royal crown.

The largest building in every Red village is a massive area. On the first Friday of every month, all Reds are required to attend a series of showcased fights. The “Feats” are battles between Silvers – not for Red entertainment, but to send a message, and to show off the strength and power of Silvers. Mare tells the reader, “Only Silvers can fight in the arenas because only a Silver can survive the arena. They fight to show us their strength and power. You are no match for us. We are your betters. We are gods” (Aveyard 6). The Feats are a way to intimidate the Reds, to repeatedly show and tell them that rebellion against the crown will not be tolerated, and will not stand a chance. Unlike Reds, Silvers have abilities and they fight and train for sport. The Silvers do it for a good reason too, it has been repeatedly shown that arena cities have recorded a reduction in Red crimes, rebellions, and unrest (Aveyard 7).

Through a series of unlikely events, Mare is thrown into the middle of the royal family’s court politics where she quickly learns that everything she’s known about the Silvers is not true. There is a social hierarchy among silvers and the royal families, and those on top will do anything to maintain the image that they are powerful and better than the rest. In their world, perception is reality and “to look powerful is to be powerful” (Aveyard 97). Mare learns that hard way, that “the truth doesn’t matter. It only matters what people believe” (Aveyard 342). And this is the inherent problem with all dystopias and widespread propaganda. If the lower classes actually knew that their perception was actually false, that the ruling class did not have it all together, that there was no need to fear, then rebellion and dissent would be rampant.

Propaganda is an adept tactic for feeding lies to the masses and reinforcing false truths, but the problem with building your society on lies and deceit is the same as building your house on the sand. All it takes is for a storm to come, and one wave to knock the foundation right out from under you. In the Silvers’ perfect world of opulence and rule over the inferior Reds, that wave is Mare Barrow – the Red girl with crimson blood and Silver abilities.



Aveyard, Victoria. Red Queen. New York, HarperCollins.

“Red Queen — Silvers Have Nothing to Fear from Us Reds.” Pinterst, s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/05/fa/a7/05faa776d2add665e85f41bf53d8de2e.jpg.