Admittedly the title and the cover drew me to the book. A crimson sea shell surrounded by a grey marble background was striking enough for me to pick it up. And anyone who knows me knows that red will always catch my attention; with it being my favorite color. Reading the summary, my curiosity got piqued further as I thought I was being introduced to another supernatural being. I mean there are only so much vampires and werewolves can a reader take, right?
For this debut book by Carrie Ryan, the beings are referred to as The Unconsecrated, and they have been around for a century or so. People have barred themselves behind iron fences hoping to live out their lives as normal as they can and keeping these flesh craving beings at bay.
This is the part that I find out that this is the Walking Dead.
In spite of all the bleak and cordoned off existence as depicted in the book and smack dead center of it all is the books heroine, Mary, who yearns for a life outside the Forest before her. She takes hope from her mother’s story of life before the dawning of the Unconsecrated and dreams of one day seeing it. Not bad, right?
Enter the twists. After tragic events involving family, she is faced with the prospect of being a spinster and entering the Service of the Sisterhood. But with a keen mind and a curious will all to herself, we find Mary becoming the victim of her own choices. For a character who says she doesn’t believe in pre-destination and divine intervention, Mary, as the novel progresses after her isolated community is breached, becomes too selfish for her own good. From desiring another man when she has been promised to another to wilfully digging for clues that would support her growing suspicion of the Sisterhoods secrets, Mary is like a child with a loaded gun and still knowing that it is fires in direct consequence and result of her whim apologizes after and expects clemency for her actions, was just really pushing it for me.
Clearly, not a good quality for a lead character to embody but it is the writing that propels me to read further and hope for some redemptive maturity for Mary as the novel progresses.
At one point in the novel when Mary refers to her life as a series of complications, I wonder if it’s an excuse she makes to justify the choices she made; that her torn responsibility for love and duty drove her to be who she was. That the driving force behind each and every action stemming from each and every decision she made was because she was doing the best she can, regardless of the cost, even if these resulted in lives being compromised.
There was also a line in the book, page 207, to be exact that says, “Who we are if not the stories we pass down.” And if that statement were to be applied to her, what would people say about the decisions that she made. Would she be considered naïve and foolish to think that one should pursue a vision of a dream regardless of the effect it has on others, especially when their lives are in jeopardy. And at the same time deferring the same dire consequence as a direct result of other people’s choices and not her own? Or is she vindicated at the end?
With that statement, it was clearly also a choice for me whether to finish the book or not, considering that the third instalment will be released sometime this year. And my choice in spite of the mixed feelings I had about Mary and her life choices, was still to go further on into the book because Carrie Ryan’s writing simply draws you in with her simplicity and honesty. It wouldn’t be too much for a reader as well to admit acquiescing to Mary’s choices and her sentiments because Ryan writes it a matter of factly and doesn’t require Mary to apologize for her actions, but merely to acknowledge that her actions were not not-thought of, but were true to who she is and what she wanted out of the remaining years of her life.
So venture into the forest for your own reason of checking out a new writer and what is it about her style that drew praises from critics or pans from readers alike. Either that or for the reason of discovering for yourself if Mary really was selfish or if her blind pursuit of her dream and being true to it came at too high a price. And once you have ventured into it, let’s see what you find at the edge of the forest. Let’s compare findings, once you’re done, ok?