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 Rhine is growing dangerously attracted to, Rhine attempts to break free, in the limited time she has left.
The premise around this story is really interesting. Polygamy in a post-apocalyptic world? Very intriguing. I was excited when I sat down with this book.
It starts out well, and the horror and fear rippling through the girls is tangible. I started out liking Rhine a lot, and empathized with all three girls as they were forced into a marriage that they didn't necessarily want or understand. I really love the friendships that blossom between them, too. By the end of the story, they were close enough to be sisters, and something that affects one of them affects all. That was really well done.
I wish the world-building had been clearer. What is this virus? Why is North America the only continent left? Even if we don't get the full answer, something is better than nothing. Also, if the human race is dying, then a woman's womb would be a very precious commodity. Girls with no means would be lining up to have babies in exchange for room and board. There wouldn't be a need for Gatherers. If anything, there would be so much competition to get pregnant that the wealthy would be able to pick and choose and run any kind of genetic test they want in order to narrow down the list. The Gatherers would only be needed for dangerous or fatal medical testing--the kind no one would volunteer for. These are all very interesting concepts that I hope are explored in future books.
As the story progressed, I had a lot of difficulty with Rhine. She goes on and on about being free, and, at first, that makes sense. But then we learn more about how Linden's house works, and that Vaughn is the real villain. It's made clear that Rhine will never be harmed because she's too valuable, even though others aren't so lucky. Her reaction to this is to run away instead of trying to help. That's too cowardly for my taste. Nothing else enters her mind, like searching for ways to help the others, or even obtain some freedoms. She's First Wife, which is a position of some power, but she never uses it. It's clear that Linden has no clue where Rhine came from. If he knew she had a brother, would he have let her see him? We don't know, because Rhine never tells him anything. And yet she figures out that he's as much a prisoner as she is. That's common ground for them, and motivation for her to open up and tell him everything about her background. But she doesn't, and we're not given a reason why. A good, solid plot cannot be constructed by leaving a character in the dark for no reason. We need solid motivations for her actions, or else it comes across as contrived.
There was so much I didn't believe in this story, mostly because there were no motivations for anything. Things happened because they were supposed to happen, not because they came out of the story organically. It left me feeling frustrated and unsatisfied, and I wish we had a better understanding of why the characters did the things they did.
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