Thursday, June 20, 2013

Book Review: The Chemical Garden Trilogy: Fever, Wither and Sever by Lauren DeStefano

I started reading this series right from the get-go. My library ordered the first book, Wither, not long after it was published and I got my name on the hold list right away. I'm pretty sure I tore through it in like 2 days! And as soon as Fever and Sever came out, I tore through those too! Here's my summary of the three:

16-year-old Rhine and her twin brother Rowan live in a world where orphans are the norm, young girls are sold to polygamous husbands, and poverty and crime are at an all time high. Why? Because years ago scientists tried to create a perfect human race and instead doomed the world with a deadly virus that kills females at the age of 20 and males at the age of 25. When Rhine answers an ad thinking it will bring her and her brother some much needed money, she has no idea she's walking into a trap. Before she knows it, she's been Gathered. She and two other girls are picked by a wealthy doctor's son. They're taken to a beautiful estate where their every need is catered to and the crumbling world around them fades away. Rhine becomes and bride to Linden and a sister-wife to Jenna and Cecily while Linden's first love, Rose slowly fades away from the virus. But nothing is as perfect as it seems in Rhine's new world. Linden's father hoards corpses to study and encourages the girls to get pregnant--all so he can find a cure to the virus. Rhine wants nothing more than to escape her beautiful prison and get back to her twin brother. When she meets a servant, Gabriel, who also dreams of freedom, the two hatch a plan to do just that. The question isn't whether or not they make it but what awaits them in the world when they do.

Now that Rhine and Gabriel have escaped, they try desperately to get to Rowan and start a new life. But instead they end up captured by the leader of a cruel brothel. Madame wants them for herself--to be the stars of her awful carnival and she doesn't plan to let them go. Amid slave children and the haze of drugs slipped to them unknowingly, Rhine and Gabriel lose precious months of their lives performing shows and being trapped by yet another crazy captor. But Rhine won't give up her dream of getting home so easily. With a little help from some kind carnival friends, Rhine manages to get her and Gabriel out. But she isn't as free as she thought. She's sick and the only explanation for why is one that comes to her when she's about to die--it's her father-in-law, Housemaster Vaughn's fault. The next thing she knows, Rhine is back at the estate and in the basement--the place where Vaughn does his corpse studying--the place where those who enter never come back from. And Rhine would know, she's seen it happen.

With Linden and Cecily's help, Rhine manages to get away from Housemaster Vaughn. She still needs to find her brother and now Gabriel too. Linden gets her to his uncle's house and the two finally come to terms with all that has happened to Rhine and who Vaughn really is. But Vaughn isn't ready to give up on his son and daughter's-in-law just yet. When Rhine learns how to get to her brother, who is now an extremist against finding the cure, she jumps at the chance. But in the process she learns just how far Vaughn's web of deceit and betrayal and control spans. There's more to Rhine and Rowan than Rhine ever knew and it all goes back to their geneticist parents and their Chemical Garden project. So does Rhine ever get the life of freedom she wants? Does she find Gabriel? The question of who will survive and who won't  and whether or not a cure can ever be found is all answered in this breathtaking final installment.

**All in all, I really loved these books. Rhine was such an easy character to listen to and get to know. I enjoyed all the sister-wives and Linden and found that every character, no matter how minor, was well drawn and interesting. DeStefano's writing was wonderful and really drew me in and kept me reading. At times I'd find myself re-reading lines and smiling at how profound they were. While some parts dragged out more than others in books two and three, overall the plot was well-done. My only complaint is small--I would've liked to know more about the science of Rhine and Rowan's parent's work and what exactly made the twins so special. But I don't really think that was important to the overall story that DeStefano was trying to tell. She wanted to tell a story of love against all odds and how we can love different people in different ways. She wanted to paint a picture of hope amidst a world falling apart. And she wanted us to question what evil really was--those who played God and caused death? Those who killed in order to cure? Or those who enslaved to get back what they lost?

Thanks for reading! I'll have another review for you soon. Feel free to comment below.