For, I tell you that hate is to kill, for from hatred grows death as surely as life grows from love. Michael Grant
Entering into the first-person view of an unnamed protagonist (who we later discover is named Mara) we meet a strange and confusing world alongside a mysterious boy named Messenger of Fear, Messenger for short. We follow Mara through the series of questions and trials she experiences whilst trying to find out what world she has been brought to and what lies ahead for her and the supposed stranger they are reliving the memories of.
This book has been on my bookshelf for a few years and I just never got round to reading it because I always thought the blurb was a little weak in convincing me to open it up. The only reason I bought it was because the sprayed edges and cover look amazing! Within the first few pages I thought this was going to go straight onto my DNF (did not finish) pile because it was so difficult to read. The sentence structure was something I could not get along with and the narration from the main character was hard to believe, not because it seemed far-fetched but because little details seemed to slip through that meant I couldn’t get my mind past this and focus on the actual story. Mara stood “a dozen feet away” from Messenger but could make out the “hazelnut” sized buttons on his shirt as little skulls? There were a few of these physical impossibilities that I couldn’t get past, although maybe I’m just jealous of her impeccable eyesight after wearing glasses all my life.
A main concept in this story is that Mara does not remember who she is, or what she has done that has condemned her to this unforgiving world. I have to say I really did enjoy the story and with more forethought and planning this would have been amazing to read, I know that there came more books to this series but I don’t think I’ll delve into them anytime soon because not being able to understand the background or any sort of knowledge of the situation we found our only narrator in made it hard to follow. Even in the last few pages we are still left in the dark about certain things. Who is/was Messenger before he was ‘Messenger’? What had he done to become the Messenger? These questions seemed so important to Mara and then (spoiler alert) at the end of the book she accepts her fate and just follows him blindly? I got frustrated with her quickly. Her lack of panic over the important things, i.e. where is she? How did she get here? Is she even ALIVE? but no, through the first few pages all she seems concerned about are the colour of Messenger’s eyes.
Let me tell you, it takes a lot for a book to creep me out in such a way I have to physically put it down and gather myself before carrying on, but this book took me there. The ‘Master of Games’ scene freaked me out beyond compare. The detail in which Grant goes about the maze of lost souls in his skin, carved deep like into wood made my skin crawl. I’m even feeling nauseous writing about it now.
Saying all of this, that I didn’t follow it easily and it is probably the first book to make me feel sick, I kind of enjoyed it. The concept is something I have never seen before and I tore through a lot of YA books in my youth. You normally see the vampires, witches, ghosts, some kind of supernatural beauties *cough* Shadowhunters *cough*, but their engagement with the human world is always limited so we only see either the supernatural world, or the human world, here we see both worlds collide together and meld into one and I loved that. It was refreshing to read something really original because in the YA world it is difficult to create anything unique.
Despite it’s uniqueness, I still felt like the book as a whole as a drag, I read it in a day flat because the version I had was a normal thickness book but the text was well spread out and wide set so was a lot shorter than anticipated. As I said, this nearly went on my DNF pile but I was intrigued by the story but this didn’t convince me to pick up the next one or rate this one very highly.