Wither – Book Review
The Chemical Garden Series # 1
By age sixteen, Rhine Ellery has four years left to live. She can thank modern science for this genetic time bomb. A botched effort to create the perfect race has left all males with a life span of 25 years, and females with a life span of 20 years. Geneticists are seeking a miracle antidote to restore the human race, desperate orphans crowd the population, crime and poverty have skyrocketed, and young girls are being kidnapped and sold as polygamous brides to bear children. When Rhine is kidnapped and sold as a bride, she vows to do all she can to escape. Her husband, Linden, is hopelessly in love with her, and Rhine can't bring herself to hate him as much as she'd like to.
He opens her to a magical world of wealth and illusion she never thought existed, and it almost makes it possible to ignore the clock ticking away her short life. But Rhine quickly learns that no everything in her new husbands strange world is what it seems. Her father-in-law, an eccentric doctor bent on finding the antidote, is hoarding corpses in the basement. Her fellow sister wives are to be trusted one day and feared the next, and Rhine is desperate to communicate to her twin brother that she is safe and alive. Will Rhine be able to escape before her time runs out?
Together with one of Linden's servants, Gabriel, Rhine attempts to escape just before her seventeenth birthday. But in a world that continues to spiral into anarchy, is there any hope for freedom?
To be blunt, while I enjoyed the story, Wither was a book that I had a hard time connecting with. I loved the premise - a dystopian in which due to genetic manipulation gone wrong, the younger generations are dying out, with women not living passed twenty while the men don't make it passed twenty-five. However I struggled to relate to the main character and failed to understand er way of thinking.
The story begins with the kidnapping of 16 year old Rhine Ellery. Sold as a bride to rich heir, Linden Ashby, Rhine finds herself a captured bird in a golden cage. But she isn't alone. Alongside two sister wives, Rhine is held a prisoner and although her every need and whim is attended too, she is denied the one thing she truly wants. Freedom.
Despite the competition, Rhine quickly raises herself to the status of number 1 wife. With her unusual eyes, and baring an uncanny resemblance to Lindens first love, she quickly captures his heart and sets about plotting her escape. Because no matter how opulent her prison, a cage is still a cage and Rhine is determined to be free. No matter the cost...
As I said, I loved the premise of this book. I think Lauren DeStefano did a great job in presenting a bleak, broken world that had cloaked itself in a veil of thin hope and fake happiness. Her descriptions are amazing and reveal the impact that such a low mortality rate would have on the world. For instance, women are expected to bear as many children as possible, there are lots of homeless orphans and everyone's morals seem to have lowered. The effects of genetic manipulation also raised many religious and moral implications, that in turn led to war and rebel outbreaks.
The effect these things had on the characters and their lives is clear to see in the book. This is particularly true of the secondary characters as among them, there is no sense of a childhood and each person seems to have resigned themselves to their fate. Each with a sad history, these were the characters I truly felt for.
However some of the main characters disappointed me. Gabriel for instance is supposedly Rhine's true love interest, but I felt that he played a very small part in the book. I didn't know him as a person so I didn't really care what happens to him. I hope this will change in the next book as I want to know his personality better.
As for Rhine, she is an interesting protagonist who has suffered more than her fair share of tragedy. However I think she makes some bad decisions and at times I found her too compliant, while in other situations I thought she was fighting for the wrong things. As much I liked her, I just couldn't relate to her in anyway.
Otherwise my only other nitpick with this book was its ending. The last few chapters, Lauren DeStefano built up so much tension and expectation that I felt pretty deflated at the end when nothing happened to Rhine. Yet having said that, none of these things have put me off reading the next book, as I'm intrigued to see how the story will continue.
Also despite the story's darker elements, I thought the author did a marvelous job in keeping the balance between repulsive and fascinating. Yet for that reason I would recommend this book to the older end of the YA market. However it is a great read for any fans of dystopian fiction.
Sinister, gripping and rich in both plot and intrigue, Wither was an overall good read. 3 stars!