Friday, 25 October 2013

Sever by Lauren DeStefano

Title: Sever
Author: Lauren DeStefano
Publisher: HarperCollins
Released: February 12h 2013
Pages: 371 (Paperback)
Buy: Amazon UK / Amazon US
Add on Goodreads

With the clock ticking until the virus takes its toll, Rhine is desperate for answers. After enduring Vaughn’s worst, Rhine finds an unlikely ally in his brother, an eccentric inventor named Reed. She takes refuge in his dilapidated house, though the people she left behind refuse to stay in the past. While Gabriel haunts Rhine’s memories, Cecily is determined to be at Rhine’s side, even if Linden’s feelings are still caught between them.

Meanwhile, Rowan’s growing involvement in an underground resistance compels Rhine to reach him before he does something that cannot be undone. But what she discovers along the way has alarming implications for her future—and about the past her parents never had the chance to explain.

This is going to be a difficult review, because I both loved and hated this series. I adored Wither, as it was like no dystopian I had ever read before, and Fever proved to be good, even if it had some mild second book syndrome; Sever was supposed to collect all of those loose ends and give the readers a satisfying ending. It didn't.

The Chemical Garden series is set in a future where men die at the age of twenty-five and women at the age of twenty. When Rhine was kidnapped and sold as a wife to Linden Ashby, she couldn't wait to escape and find her brother. After her brief escape in Fever, Sever sees her back under Vaughn's thumb, but this time she has the upper hand; she knows where her brother is, and she will do whatever it takes to find him. Unfortunately, things are far more complicated than she first presumed.

Firstly, may I just ask what the heck are the Chemical Gardens? The name of the trilogy has been mentioned constantly throughout the books, and at one point in Sever we finally - finally! - get a hint as to what it is! Unfortunately, DeStefano thinks a very thin and flimsy mention of genetically engineered twins is explanation enough.

The biggest issue I had with Sever was the characters. Rhine started off as being very feisty, very determined, very brave. Whilst that bravery continued, the rest of her personality gave way to powerlessness and dullness. Reading the book entirely from her boring narrative was, well, boring. I wanted action, excitement, adventure - instead, I just got a lot of her sitting around, doing nothing of much importance. As the protagonist of the story, it really impacted negatively on the enjoyment of the read.

However, she wasn't the only main character I was disappointed with. I've never really known what Team I'm on - in Wither, I was firmly on Gabriel's side because of that element of mystery he held within him, but in Fever (when the reader actually got Gabriel ) I wanted Linden back! Both characters held promise, but neither delivered upon closer inspection. I think DeStefano meant to characterise Linden as vulnerable but caring, whereas he sometimes came across as simply childlike in the worst way possible. His levels of naivety were astounding, and his denial more than frustrated me! However, I think his wuss-like personality was better than Gabriel's, which just didn't exist. If you're a fan of Gabriel, then you'll be severely (pun intended) disappointed in Sever, as he's in it for about five pages. Yeah. Five. And we're supposed to believe that Rhine "loves" him? Let's just say that I'll believe it when I see some chemistry.

I don't know if the issue I have is solely on DeStefano's skills of characterisation, because I know she can do it well - heck, Vaughn and Cecily are amazing characters! I mean, yes, I detested them both at one point or another, but at least they contained enough energy to trigger a reaction from me. It was a shame that the main characters - the most important characters - didn't contain this spark.

But you know what? The lack of energy in the characters would have been alright if it hadn't been for the ultimate anticlimax of Rowan. We, as the reader, have spent three books hearing Rhine go on and on about this fabulous, elusive Rowan. Yet when we finally meet him, it turns out that he's a selfish, idiotic, stubborn, corrupted brat who just enjoys blowing buildings up. There's also the plot hole revolving the fact that it is continually stated that Rhine is the trusting one when Rowan isn't - YET THERE GOES ROWAN TRUSTING VAUGHN?! I'm sorry, but that just didn't make sense to me.

Also, am I the only person who had a problem with the fact that Rhine NEVER had sex? This whole dystopian was built upon the fact that since people die at the ages of twenty and twenty-five, they are practically used as underage breeding machines in order to keep humanity going. The thing is, despite Rhine being placed in countless circumstances, she magically avoids having sexual intercourse. In Wither, she's sold as a wife to Linden FOR THE PURE PURPOSE OF CREATING CHILDREN. Yet despite having sexy time with all the other wives, he just doesn't do it with her. How peachy. Then in Fever, she is captured and kept prisoner in a PROSTITUTION circus thing - yet despite Madame being a horrendous witch, does she make Rhine have sex with men? NO. The worst she does is make out with Gabriel who she likes anyway! And by the end of Sever - spoiler alert - dear Rhine is still a virgin. Now I'm not by any means implying that a book needs to be erotic for it to be good - heck no! - but given the circumstances, I'd expect this to be slightly less PG.

Overall, I'm really disappointed. I adored Wither - I devoured the pages like they were made out of the sweetest chocolate, and I was so ecstatic to read Fever and Sever. Fever turned out to be disappointing, but it still had an intoxicating and rather exotic aspect to it. However, just ruined it all for me. Wither should never have been made into a trilogy - if it had stayed as one book, just extended slightly, then it would have been perfect. But alas, it was not. I think if you've enjoyed Wither and Fever, then go ahead and read Sever just to get a small sense of completion for the series - but I do warn you that you won't receive all the answers you hope for.
Rating: 3/5

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