Wither by Lauren DeStefano (review copy) - In our brave new future, DNA engineering has resulted in a terrible genetic flaw. Women die at the age of 20, men at 25. Young girls are being abducted and forced to breed in a desperate attempt to keep humanity ahead of the disease that threatens to eradicate it.
16-year-old Rhine Ellery is kidnapped and sold as a bride to Linden, a roch young man with a dying wife. Even though he is kind to her, Rhine is desperate to escape her gilded cage - and Linden's cruel father. With the help of Gabriel, a servant she is growing dangerously attracted to, Rhine attempts to break free, in what little time she has left. From the blurb.
I'm a little late to coming to this series. I was put off quite a bit by the kinapping and being forced into a marriage. I was imagining all kinds of horrors I just didn't want to have to face, but after reading a few raving reviews, I knew I had to give Wither a go. Now I wish I had picked it up much sooner!
Scientists have advanced in genetic engineering to the point where they can create babies with no health problems. These babies will never have cancer, STIs, even a cold. They are completely healthy, and will all live to a ripe old age. Well, that was the case for the First Generation of these babies. But something has gone wrong. Now their children are dying at the age of 20 for females and 25 for males. A virus is triggered once they hit that age, and they cough themselves to death in bed with a high fever. Scientists and doctors are working hard to find an antidote to this virus, but are failing. This is the world Rhine lives in - and is why she is kidnapped.
Wither reminded me slightly of a fairy tale, a woman locked up by an evil person - could be Rapunzel. But unlike Rapunzel, 16-year-old Rhine isn't alone. Linden, her husband, picked her and two other girls from a bunch to become his wives. With his current wife, Rose, on her death bed at 20, and being four years from death himself, he needs to remarry, because he is running out of time to have children. But unlike Rapunzel, Rhine can't sit around waiting to be rescued, she has to rescue herself.
You have to admire Rhine's determination to escape and get back to her twin brother, Rowan. Unlike other dystopian novels, although fast-paced, Wither is not very action packed. Where in a number of dystopian novels, the Event that makes life go from bad to worse tends to happen after a few chapters, maybe several. The Event in Wither - Rhine's marriage to Linden - happens very early on, and she's trapped. She's stuck on the wives floor of Linden's mansion with only her Sister Wives for company, and the few attendants that look after her needs. The only way out for Rhine is to gain her husband's trust, so that she becomes First Wife - the favourite, the one who's allowed a little more access of the house and - and has a little more freedom, more chance of escape. She has to play the waiting game, simper and smile, and tell her husband what he needs to hear in order for him to make her First Wife. It takes time - a lot of time. But what else can she do? Sit back and accept her fate?
The characters in this book are just fantastic! Rhine herself is so strong, but because she has to be. Life was hard, but she led a relatively normal life for a girl her age before she was kidnapped. Now, for her sanity's sake, she has to keep on believing she'll get out, keep on trying her hardest to plan, to find any way of getting Linden's favour. I loved her relationships with her Sister Wives, Cecily and Jenna. Cecily is 13-years-old, and is ecstatic to be Linden's wife. She lived in an orphanage before, and now she has a rich husband, a luxurious home, and attendants who will wait on her, hand and foot. She's a spoilt little girl, but eager to please the man who has given her this great life. 18-year-old Jenna, however, had a family. She had sisters who were with her when she was picked. Sisters who were left with the Gatherers. She hates Linden with a passion for what has happened to her, for what's happened to her sisters. She doesn't do anything to please her husband at all, but has come to accept that this is her life now. With two years left to live, there are worse places to die, right? The relationships between all three girls is just so sweet. They are just like sisters, they come to care and love each other, and try to look out for one another. It's nice to see some light in what is a horrible situation.
Linden is lovely, strangely. He's clueless, and has no idea what's really going on. He is completely in love with his current wife, and is devastated that she's going to die, but he needs to have children. Despite how he came to have his new wives, I found I couldn't hate him. He's such a nice guy, and genuinely wants his wives to be happy. But there are some things he does that are just so scarily disturbing. Part of me understand why, but the other, louder part screams at how wrong it is. It's sickening! However, it's Vaughn, Linden's father, who is so scary. He is an old man, and seems benign enough, smiley and polite, but under the surface... oh, he's just so sinister! Linden may be clueless, but Vaughn is aware of everything. Vaughn is the one who's really in charge, and it's what he's doing - what is he doing? - behind closed doors that is just so frightening. He's the one that's really keeping the girls captive, and really not a guy to mess with. But then there is sweet, sweet Gabriel! Oh, he's just so lovely! I do like him!
There's not really much else I can say about this story without spoiling it, but ooh, it's good. The revelations! The discoveries! The ending! I am so excited to read the sequel, Fever, but also so scared. But it's going to be awesome, I know it! If you've yet to try this series, go pick up a copy of Wither now!
Thank you to Harper Voyager for the review copy.
Published: 4th August 2011
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Buy on Amazon US
Lauren DeStefano's Website
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