What’s it all about?:
By age sixteen, Rhine Ellery has four years left to live. She can thank modern science for this genetic time bomb. A botched effort to create a perfect race has left all males with a lifespan of 25 years, and females with a lifespan of 20 years. Geneticists are seeking a miracle antidote to restore the human race, desperate orphans crowd the population, crime and poverty have skyrocketed, and young girls are being kidnapped and sold as polygamous brides to bear more children. When Rhine is kidnapped and sold as a bride, she vows to do all she can to escape. Her husband, Linden, is hopelessly in love with her, and Rhine can’t bring herself to hate him as much as she’d like to. He opens her to a magical world of wealth and illusion she never thought existed, and it almost makes it possible to ignore the clock ticking away her short life. But Rhine quickly learns that not everything in her new husband’s strange world is what it seems. Her father-in-law, an eccentric doctor bent on finding the antidote, is hoarding corpses in the basement. Her fellow sister wives are to be trusted one day and feared the next, and Rhine is desperate to communicate to her twin brother that she is safe and alive. Will Rhine be able to escape–before her time runs out? Together with one of Linden’s servants-Gabriel-Rhine attempts to escape just before her seventeenth birthday. But in a world that continues to spiral into anarchy, is there any hope for freedom?
What did I think?:
Wither is the first in The Chemical Garden trilogy by American author Lauren DeStefano, and a brilliant addition to the explosion of YA and dystopian novels popular at the moment. The author has devised this future and terrifying world where females only live to the age of twenty, and males to the age of twenty-five. Death is caused by a deadly virus which scientists are desperately struggling to find an antidote for, but in the meantime young girls are often captured by people called Gatherers to be brides and mothers at the tender ages of thirteen or fourteen so that geneticists can continue to try and find a cure for the new generation. Our heroine is Rhine, a young girl of sixteen who when we meet her is living with her brother in near enough destitute conditions, attempting to survive, find food and protect their home in a world that has gone mad. Unfortunately, she is captured and taken to a mansion to be one of the wives of House Governor Linden, a move forced on him by his father as his first wife Rose has contracted the virus and is slowly ebbing away, leaving him without any heirs.
Along with Rhine, the two other girls captured to be wives and baby-factories are Jenna who is slightly older than Rhine and quite reclusive and bitter, and Cecily who is three years younger and incredibly naive and ignorant – indeed, she seems to be the only girl who is satisfied with the situation that the wives find themselves in. Rhine forms a beautiful and touching bond with both of her “sister-wives,” but remains determined to be free and independent, refusing to sleep with Linden and desperately trying to find a way back to her twin brother and her old life. When she discovers her father in law may be hoarding corpses for experimentation (all in the name of science of course..) her anger grows and she knows that she has to find a way out. While planning her escape, Rhine keeps Linden sweet and even manages to edge her way into the honour of “first wife,” which carries with it many privileges including freedom into the garden area. Rhine also manages to grow close to one of the servants Gabriel but this makes her life at the house more dangerous so she has to tread very carefully, especially around her father in law who is starting to nurse suspicions about her and who would make a very deadly enemy if he were to find out.
I’m not going to say any more about the plot as I don’t want to spoil anything but in my opinion, this is a fantastic beginning to a series which has bags of potential and oodles of excitement. I loved everything about this new future world – the little bits of science fiction, the concept of a population dying off young and how this is exploited and how Rhine develops as a character during her experience as a wife of Linden. I’ve seen a few negative reviews which question the believability of the novel but I find this quite confusing as A) It’s dystopian, B) It’s a bit science fiction-y and C) It’s A STORY. But hey, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and this novel may not be your cup of tea. It is mine however, and I can’t wait to read the next book in the series – Fever to see how Rhine is coping in this scary new world.
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):