Summary - In Mary's world there are simple truths. The Sisterhood always knows best. The Guardians will protect and serve. The Unconsecrated will never relent. And you must always mind the fence that surrounds the village; the fence that protects the village from the Forest of Hands and Teeth.
But, slowly, Mary’s truths are failing her. She’s learning things she never wanted to know about the Sisterhood and its secrets, and the Guardians and their power, and about the Unconsecrated and their relentlessness. When the fence is breached and her world is thrown into chaos, she must choose between her village and her future-between the one she loves and the one who loves her. And she must face the truth about the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Could there be life outside a world surrounded in so much death?
Review - This novel plopped into my lap like the Book Gods were smiling down upon me, it was fate. Almost like the fate that swept the known world in Ryan's novel - a zombie apocalypse - that destroyed everyone that it touched (sorry, I meant bit, maybe gnawed upon). This novel was my first zombie read and boy, did I start with the cream. I had read a review that said this novel felt a little like the movie, The Village, and I would have to agree. It touched upon all the things that were positive about that movie.
Ryan's writing style is paced slow, the story furls up like paper in a fire and when you're not expecting it, the paper is fully ablaze and mesmerises you. I could have lived without the romance that is throughout the novel (but I know many would take that away as their favourite element). It's anguish-y and everything that most woman love but I wanted to get back to the Cathedral or the Forest. What won me over was the tension. The knowledge that they are all doomed and it's only a matter of time. Most of the characters I found to be rather unlikeable in several of their character traits and that's what made this book fascinating. Every character felt real, their reactions to the situation were all varied and all intensely personal. To be selfish, a thoroughly unattractive emotion, means survival here.
As a debut effort, I have to say I am a little stunned at the effort. Ryan's really launched herself onto the YA stage with aplomb and I know there are many of us clamouring for the companion novel (The Dead-Tossed Waves) to be released in 2010. I was really surprised, entranced and excited by this novel.
I was enchanted by the setting of this novel. It's not about the Unconsecrated (the zombies) s much as it is about how we survive, what we believe in to do so and the choices we make. The idea that what remains of the human race is assembled in very basic villages connected by paths that are never travelled, is fascinating. That their whole lives are dictated by faith in the Sisterhood, quashing their curiosity, is compelling. The concepts of societal structure and religion were strong throughout - the question posed to the readers, when one village's better preparedness seems to be a direct consequence of their lack of devotedness, is one that had me thinking for days.
This isn't a novel you'd want to read when you are already low. But if you wanted to be taken on a beautifully written journey with full formed characters, a sprinkling of romance, a truckload of suspense and some fence rattling creatures with a taste for human flesh, then this is your book! (A big thank you to the Book Gods and their middleman, Brendan at Hachette, for sharing this awesomeness with me).
Published: April 9, 2009
Format: Paperback, 310 pages
Publisher: Hachette Australia
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