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?
This book has been on my TBR pile for a fair while and then I received the sequel Fever in the post from the lovely people at Harper Collins so I thought 'Geez I better read the first one pretty sharpish!' I was majority sold on the idea behind this story and its plot; when a generation dies in their early 20s and there seems to be no cure for the illness they succumb to then what happens in a world where girls are traded as young brides against their will and the only future is death at a young age. Rhine lived with her twin brother in New York in a future where the world has crumbed around them and she is just seen as a potential object to be kidnapped and sold to the highest bidder as a wife or slave. Those not bought are killed like excess stock. Rhine is whipped away from her home and finds herself sold off as a bride to a young man, Linden, along with 2 other girls. This not a strange thing and they are known as 'sister wives'. They have to share the husband and the home and all they want to do is to either be a good wife or to escape.
While trapped in this life Rhine finds herself trying to plan to escape and return to her brother and also drawn to Gabriel, a servant in the house who has a bound with her and yet any betrayal of her marriage to Linden could result in severe punishment or death at the hands of Linden's over baring father hell bent on find a cure to save his son's life. Your heart really goes out for each of the sister wives as they have all been thrown into this awful life and expected to fulfil their 'wifely duties' with no questions asked. On the flip side my heart broke for Linden who was married to his childhood love and she has been taken by the illness and it seems like he doesn't understand just how his brides came to be his. He believes they have been 'trained' to be wives and volunteered for this life but nothing could be further from the truth.
It's a slow building story that has some fast paced emotions bouncing around this confined space of a house and your emotions really bounce around with them. The 3 wives are really strong and individual characters that they make this book a bit different from the average dystopian. They are all individual characters thrown into one story and even though its told from Rhine's point of view its a story about the people in the house as well as Rhine's journey there.
It might not be an easy read for some because the story doesn't shy away from issues like sex, death and child bearing and in a way it made me like the book more because if it glossed over the issues it was trying to confront it wouldn't have made it's point at all. This book for me was about that need for freedom both in spirit and life. These characters in the house have all been trapped in one way or another; physically, mentally and emotional and together they break free and find out who they really are, who they used to be and who they want to be in the future even if that isn't long.
A bravely told story that left me wondering where it could go next so I'm glad Harper Collins sent me book two so the wait to find out won't be long
Published by Harper Collins and is available here and all bookshops now