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?
I remember reading these books years a ago and loving them. I came across them in passing online, which sparked my interest to read them again and so I decided to pick them up. I'm so happy I did because I really enjoyed this re-read.
It had been a while so I didn't remember every event that happened in the book, so I was surprised while reading a good chunk. Wither is definitely more of a character driven story vs. plot driven, but if I had to choose between the two I'd pick character over plot. So I found myself invested in the characters a lot more than I remember being invested years ago. I really did love the three sister wives. Rhine was headstrong and consistent. She promised herself and Jenna she wouldn't forget why she was there, and although she had moments where she was slipping she always came out of it. The thought of getting back to her brother and getting out of the mansion were on her mind pretty often. I liked her drive, but also her compassion. I loved Jenna, and would have liked more of her because I found her character to be incredibly complex. I would have liked more of Cecily too. Although I liked her, she drove me a little insane. I think it was mostly her immaturity, but also because of the fact of where she comes from. She is from an orphanage, and because of that I assumed she'd be less bratty and self entitled. She reminded me of a stereotypical rich brat sometimes, which felt odd because I assume she didn't have a lot to her name before she was chosen to be one of Linden's brides. I actually did enjoy Linden's character a lot, and I thought he was charming. The character I didn't really care for was Gabriel, but more on the reasons why in a bit.
The plot is one I found super interesting and it definitely kept me reading. I think reading it years ago versus now, with the political climate differences along with my growth as a human, definitely made some of themes of the book interesting ones for me.We don't get too much of life outside of the mansion so all I can comment on are the way the world works inside. The women are brought to the mansion in a horrible chain of events and then are basically forced to marry this rich man and they're expected to have his children. Cecily, the youngest, is thirteen years old. I understand she only has so long before the virus kills her at twenty but it definitely made me feel kind of gross. It was honestly the sisterhood between the three woman that was my favorite part of the story because I really loved seeing them all care for each other. They looked out for one another and helped each other. The three of them grew as women. The plot kind of reminded me of a YA Handmaid's Tale a bit, but not as political as Handmaid's Tale is (I assume, I've only seen the show!). I am hoping that the story expands on the themes that Wither started but also maybe gets a bit more political at times. I mean, it is a dystopian book afterall.
I don't have too many issues with the story. My biggest problem was the insta-love (my biggest YA book pet peeve) between Rhine and Gabriel. I wasn't invested too heavily in either romance, but I at least saw a spark between Rhine and Linden. They have a nice amount of time together where you see their connection grow. And you also get to know Linden based on how he treats the other wives. With Gabriel, you don't get to know almost anything about him, he barely had a personality, and he's not as prominent in the story as Linden. So for this romance to be happening between them felt weird. I know it came out in 2011 and love triangles were more popular at the time but it was really unnecessary. I would have liked it more if they just were friends and maybe it grew later on into something more. I think seeing them as friends would have formed a foundation for them to maybe be more in the future. However, like I said, Gabriel isn't too prominent in the story and I have no doubts he will be more in the story in the next book so I am assuming my opinion on him can and will change once we really get to know him.
Overall, I really loved reading this book! I definitely plan on reading the sequels (hopefully soon) and I would love to hear what you thought about it if you've read it.