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 a perfect race has left all males with a lifespan of 25 years, and females with a lifespan 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 more 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 not everything in her new husband’s 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?
— Publisher’s Blurb
So, this one has received a fair bit of pre-publication buzz, and has one of the most eye-catching and beautiful covers of recent months. And for the most part it lives up to the hype.
Lots of elements are really strong, not least of which, are some of the characters. Rhine, isn’t your typical kick-ass dystopian heroine, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t strong and accepting of her fate, though. She plays the ‘rules’ of her new life to her advantage, not giving any more of herself physically or mentally than she wants to.
Linden, is also someone that is somewhat surprising to like. We should hate him. Forcing the girls into an unwanted polygamous union. But, we soon learn that there is more to him than that, and to some extent this life isn’t what he wants either, he was clearly very much in love with, Rose his first wife, and devastated by her death.
This does make it difficult for Rhine to hate him, and given a different world and different circumstances they would have made a good pairing, it adds a certain forlorn note to the relationship.
Rhine’s fellow sister wives and the servant boy, Gabriel are also really well written with strong roles to play. There’s something about the books pace that just wraps you into the story, this isn’t a fast paced adventure, and Lauren Destefano, thankfully takes the time to tell her story, letting it unfold at it’s own pace.
Still, there are one or two issues I had. Housemaster Vaughn (Linden’s father) the supposed villain of the piece, feels a really weak character compared to the rest of the characters, especially considering it is his machinations that have placed all the other characters were they are.
And why are girls that have been taken, but not selected for marriage, just killed? With a limited population and life expectations, it just seems odd that this is the case. Not that the alternative may have been better (it may even be the case, that death is preferable to what those ‘not good enough’ may have been subjected to…) but it would have been nice to know what the motivation was, other than to provided a moment of horrific realisation for the reader early on, and admittedly some motivation for one one of Rhine’s sister wives’ actions.
We may learn more about these in the next two books, but I prefer series where you read the books to know more, not because something was missing, if you know what I mean.
Still, this is really strong debut novel, and I look forward to seeing how the story develops in the remaining 2 books.
Published by Simon and Schuster in the US: 22 March 2011
My copy was provided by the publisher though their GalleyGrab program for review purposes