Author: Lauren DeStafano
Series: Chemical Garden, #1
What if you knew exactly when you would die?
Thanks to modern science, every human being has become a ticking genetic time bomb—males only live to age twenty-five, and females only live to age twenty. In this bleak landscape, young girls are kidnapped and forced into polygamous marriages to keep the population from dying out.
When sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery is taken by the Gatherers to become a bride, she enters a world of wealth and privilege. Despite her husband Linden's genuine love for her, and a tenuous trust among her sister wives, Rhine has one purpose: to escape—to find her twin brother and go home.
But Rhine has more to contend with than losing her freedom. Linden's eccentric father is bent on finding an antidote to the genetic virus that is getting closer to taking his son, even if it means collecting corpses in order to test his experiments. With the help of Gabriel, a servant she trusts, Rhine attempts to break free, in the limted time she has left.
(There are a few small spoilers in this review so proceed with caution!)
A world where women die at 20 and men die at 25?? Not the kind of world I would want to live in! Especially since I would already be dead by now, but not just because of that. People have become angry and desperate in Rhine Ellery's world. Some of them are searching desperately for a cure, while others are saying to just leave it alone and let the human race die out because we deserve it anyways. How did the world get like this? Because scientists finally found a cure to end all illnesses, including cancer. The people who were given this vaccine are called the first generations and live very long and healthy lives, but it wasn't until they began having children and those children grew to be certain ages that they realized what the vaccine had done to themselves and the generations to come. A virus lives within their children and once they reach that fateful age, it takes hold of them and doesn't let them go. They will all die unless an antidote is found. Sounds scary doesn't it?
But that's not even the half of it. In the panic, young girls are taken from their beds, off the streets, from their work places by Gatherers and herded to a place where men can take their pick of them and are recruited for polygamous marriages. The unwanted are left behind, sometimes even killed. But not Rhine. She is one of three who are chosen. And from here she enters a world where she is expected to marry a very wealthy House Governor named Linden Ashby. Rhine hates him from the moment she lays eyes on him and immediately begins looking for a way to escape. She befriends her sister wives and the servants and in doing so earns favor with them all, including the House Governor. But for her, being kind to the man who took her from her home is all an act. She intends to escape the first chance she gets. She grows close to a certain servant named Gabriel and wonders if in another life, would they have been together. She soon realizes just how dangerous living in this world of wealth and privilege can be when she begins thinking that being Linden Ashby's wife isn't so bad. But then she is threatened by Housemaster Vaughn, Linden's father, after he discovers her plan to escape and the attraction she has to Gabriel, and reality begins to set in once again. It become very clear that she must escape and get away from this malicious man, who is keeping secrets from not only the house wives (one of whom has grown close to him) but also his son. Linden doesn't know of the things his father has done and has been completely blinded by the fact that he is a prisoner in his own home, and Rhine doesn't intend to live the rest of her short life with this cruel, controlling man who is far more desperate for a cure than anyone she has every known and he will stop at nothing to find it. Gabriel and Rhine come up with a plan to escape, but when the time comes will they be able to find their way out of the never-ending grounds??
Rhine Ellery is a very strong protagonist. Though at times, when things get tough, she does fall apart; but everyone has that breaking point. That one thing that will cause them to break down in a way that they feel they will never get out of, but Rhine does. She bounces back every time something horrible happens and she finds a way to keep moving. She does everything she can to get on Linden's good side, even though he takes a liking to her at the very beginning. There are times that she is drawn to him and his glorious home, and there are times that she finds him despicable, but never in those times does she see him as anything like his father. She grows to love and care for all of her sister wives as if they were her flesh and blood and it pains her to think about leaving them behind. She is kind and compassionate and she does what she can to help those who need it, and she fights for herself and others and what she believes in.
The only thing I'm going to complain about is her relationship with Gabriel. I didn't feel their connection as strongly as I was hoping I would. When reading reviews and the back cover I thought "okay, these two are going to fall in love and fight for their freedom!". But when reading the book, I just didn't feel it. I mean they had little moments together, but I didn't feel this all consuming connection between them like I should have. I honestly felt more of a connection between Rhine and Linden. Yes, he took her from her home and all, but it wasn't exactly him. Most everything that happens to them all has been because of Vaughn. He hold Linden captive as much as he does the servants and the sister wives and I couldn't help but see all the good that was in Linden when I should've been hating him. I was secretly hoping that Rhine would whisk Linden away as well and save him from his father and his controlling ways, showing him the freedom that his father took from him and everyone in that house. I guess as Rhine was realizing that it was Vaughn and not Linden that was causing all the grief and beginning to care for Linden, I was too. I really hope that when I read Fever I discover more about Gabriel and finally feel the connection between him and Rhine.
I really loved reading Wither and watching these three girls who were taken from their families and forced to marry a man they didn't want become friends and grow to love each other as sisters. They were all so different and had their own secrets, and it was interesting getting to know each of them and learning their stories. Each one felt differently about being there, but they all came to care for one another. I'm not going to lie, there were some heartbreaking moments that just about brought me to tears, and throughout the entire book I hated Housemaster Vaughn with a passion. He's the cruelest man. He is cold-hearted and the farther you get into the book, the more you discover about him and all of the things he has done. I just wanted so bad for them all to escape that most beautiful house that is only a prison. I wanted for them all to have the chance to escape. I can only hope that throughout this trilogy of books, Vaughn will get what's coming to him.
I rate this book: