Wither (Book #1 of The Chemical Garden Trilogy)
Author: Lauren DeStefano
What if you knew exactly when you would die?
Because of a deadly virus, women die at the young age of twenty and men at twenty-five. It’s not unheard of that girls are kidnapped right off the sidewalk by Gatherers to be sold and married off to wealthy men, but Rhine never expected it to happen to her. Then suddenly she and two other girls are married off to the rich Governor Linden Ashby and she’s brought into a life of lavish and exquisite slavery. She can have anything she desires, but Rhine is determined to escape by any means necessary so she can get back to her twin brother, Rowan.
“This is my story. These things are my past, and I will not allow them to be washed away, I will find a way to have them back.” (Rhine, p. 22)
This book marks 3 out of 25 authors, from my New Year’s resolution, that I’ve never read from before. This was Lauren DeStefano’s debut novel I was instantly drawn in because of how dark and twisted the world she created is.
Rhine Ellery’s life of survival turns into one of privilege and wealth overnight. She doesn’t want to be in this beautiful mansion and she certainly doesn’t want to be getting married, not at sixteen and not when she’s only got four years before the deadly virus takes her. She wants to be with her brother, Rowan. Now, she’s locked up like a princess in a tower. To get free she’ll have to act like she cares for her husband, Linden, though he genuinely loves her. One of the attendants, Gabriel, helps her with her goal and as she grows closer to them and her sister wives, she starts wondering what’s an act and what’s not. Can she escape? Is she sure she truly wants to?
Holy shit. This book was pretty good. This is a story’s structure is ruled mostly by its imagery and let me tell you, it was powerful. Everything from the buttons on someone’s shirt to bubbles in the bath to what Rhine eats for lunch is so vivid and colorful. DeStefano really sucked me into this world with all of this up close imagery. I was disturbed and horrified as I read further because this rich world became dark and twisted right quick. A place that nobody is safe in. The plot just thickens and thickens each time Rhine discovers a secret. My stomach just kept churning because of the development of the story. It wasn’t terrible! Not at all! But, a lot of what went on in this mansion was pretty messed up. There was no real love in it. This is a story of sheer survival. Later on down the road could there be feelings? Totally possible.
Rhine is such a strong and smart character. Nothing breaks her stride. While she wants to protect those she cares about, she also stands up for what she believes in and never allows herself to get close people if she can help it. I was actually very surprised with the male characters. Both Gabriel and Linden. They were the damsels; both of them were brought up with silver spoons in their mouths, believing this rich life was okay and never knowing what was underneath. It was strange because I’ve never come across something like this. And when I say damsel, I mean damsel. They were weak minded, though had strong, kind, and loving hearts. The villain of this book was so creepy! He was nice; the kind of nice you can see right through like saran wrap and see the smart, cunning man who is capable of doing anything without remorse. It was deeply unsettling. All in all, I was greatly surprised by all of the dynamics of the characters. This is certainly a bunch I’ve never seen before. It really made this a fun read.
I have to say, the story being told from Rhine’s POV does get repetitive, but in this case there is the exception. Yes! One does exist. It isn’t DeStefano, it’s Rhine that’s repetitive. She’s clinging on to her life, reminding herself of who she is so that she doesn’t forget. She pushes herself harder because of all she’s lost. It didn’t drive away from this book, but made me even more impressed with Rhine and how strong she is. She doesn’t give up. And the pressure she is under from everything around her and inside of her increases the further the book goes. You really don’t realize the value of the small or large things until your life is put on a time limit. Then every little bit matters. You have to make it last for all it’s worth. This was a primary thought of mine as I read. She holds onto everything.
I must give praise to the cover art of this book as well. I usually don’t gush over cover art, but I can’t help it. The artwork really blends well with the story with its elegant and eerie touch to beauty. It’s quite haunting and give glimpse of what this world that Rhine’s been pulled into looks like. The geometric lines and magnified/cleared imaging over the wild and steampunk elegance reminded me of the periodic table ; element squares connecting to others. And the title itself is so subtle in reference to not only what the virus does, but what this forced life of luxury does.
This is a great book. Very different and totally unique. I usually don’t go with the elegant frilly kind of story, but this was seriously dark. I was completely enthralled with this biological, futuristic novel. It’s worth a read.
“I do not want to stand out. I do not want to stand out.” (Rhine, p.3)
“I’ll tell you something about true love. There’s no science to it. It’s natural as the sky.” (Dad to Rhine and Rowan, p. 119)
“Make that boy happy and he’ll give you the world on a string.” (Vaughn to Rhine, p. 228)
More to come soon…
P.S. Song today? Thnks Fr Th Mmrs by Fall Out Boy.
Thoughts? Tell me in the comments below.