It is hard to nail down what exactly makes dark stories so appealing to the general audience. Whether it is the fact that the author leads the reader beyond the boundaries of the socially acceptable or makes a cautious warming about the threats that await for the reader in the craziest of all the crazy worlds, the weird charm of “dark” stories magically works, and Edin Robinson’s “The Queen of the North” is a graphic example of that.
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A very dark parable about a young teenage girl who had her fill of suffer, “The Queen of the North” offers a journey into the mind of the victim who managed to fight her own way to finding her own identity and leaving the tragic past behind.
Among the issues that immediately drive the reader’s attention, the scene where Jimmy finds the gift and tries to take his revenge on Josh on Karaoke’s behalf (Robinson) must be the most tension-filled elements in the whole story. As a matter of fact, the vengeance thread in the story disrupts the atmosphere of desperate, yet accepting state that Karaoke is in.
Though one might think that the given thread is included into the fabric of the story to restore the balance between the good and the evil and introduce the idea of a noble vigilante, the actual meaning of the given scene is much more prosaic. Succumbing to the cruelty of the world around her, Karaoke is dragged to share the same ideas of morality as her offenders have.
Thus, the picture of despair is complete – even the victim is unable to escape the vicious circle of meanness. At the same time, the fact that Karaoke and Jimmy succumb to the meanness of their environment means that they finally become accountable of their actions and are ready to take decisive steps.
The above-mentioned turns the story into a farewell to the childlike innocence that the lead character used to have and signifies her maturity and readiness to enter the world of adult life.
Among the specifics of the Queen of the North, the fact that Robinson put Karaoke’s life track in the context of history is rather peculiar. Helping Robinson allude not only to certain issues, such as feminist or anti-colonial movement, but also to exact instances of violation of people’s rights, the historical context serves its purpose perfectly in the book.
The novel renders the numerous aspects of feminism as much as it explores the gloominess and loneliness of being a teenager. Karaoke is, perhaps, one of the few female teenage characters that are neither taken for granted, nor introduced into the novel as a token girl and a damsel in distress.
The story is told from the perspective of the lead character, and even the title of the novel points to Karaoke and her life track. At this point, the reader starts understanding that the scenes of violence in the book were actually added not for the sake of raising shock values, but for the sake of showing the audience the reverse side of chauvinist world.
Finally, the issue of anti-colonialism should be addressed. Though voiced in a much more subtle way than the feminist ideas and having considerably less emphasis on it, the problem of colonialism is also considered in the novel. On a more subtle level, the idea of colonialism as a completely pointless practice that was bound to wear its welcome very early is expressed through the liberation of the main character.
As it has been mentioned above, getting rid of her naivety, Karaoke finally learns to take account of her actions and make mistakes. The given transformation makes Karaoke a symbol of the victim of colonialism that was finally liberated.
However, even incorporating the elements of feminism and hope into her work, Robinson still does not let the reader shake the weird feeling of despair off the shoulders; in the chosen settings and with the chosen life story to tell, there is no wonder that the reader feels dismay.
Absorbing the bitter experiences that the humankind had to go through over the past few decades, including the new wave of feminism that has helped women win over several positions, yet did not lead to any cultural revolution; the effects of colonization and the hopes that went astray as soon as the colonization showed its negative side; and the relations of power, which proved another bubble to burst, the story leaves a lot of food for thought and even more questions to be answered.
Erin Robinson has shown the reader the dark side of life, leaving no room for naïve delights. However, the darkness pays off; knowing the enemy means winning half the battle, and Erin Robinson knows it. The Queen of North still keeps hear head high, which means that not all hope has been lost.
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Robinson, Erin. “Queen of the North.” Traplines. Toronto, CA: Knopf Canada, 2011. 207–208. Print.