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Messenger of Fear

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I remembered my name – Mara. But, standing in that ghostly place, faced with the solemn young man in the black coat with silver skulls for buttons, I could recall nothing else about myself.

And then the games began.

The Messenger sees the darkness in young hearts, and the damage it inflicts upon the world. If they go unpunished, he offers the wicked a game. Win, and they can go free. Lose, and they will live out their greatest fear.

But what does any of this have to do with Mara? She is about to find out . . .

272 pages, Hardcover

First published September 23, 2014

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About the author

Michael Grant

96 books11.1k followers
Co-author with Katherine Applegate of Ocean City, Making Out, Summer, Animorphs, Everworld, Remnants, Eve and Adam.

Pseudonymous coauthor with KA of Christy (the TV spin-off books), Sweet Valley Twins, Girl Talk and various Disney spin-offs.

Pseudonymous author of Barf-O-Rama.

Author of Gone, BZRK, The Magnificent 12, Messenger of Fear, Front Lines, Monster and A Sudden Death in Cyprus.

AKA Michael Robinson (restaurant reviews and newspaper features).

AKA Michael Reynolds (legal name) political media producer. (Team Blue).

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 868 reviews
Profile Image for Jack.
83 reviews70 followers
Want to read
July 10, 2014


How's The Messenger look? DOES HE HAVE A CAPE?

(Really hoping he does)


Profile Image for Mike.
489 reviews170 followers
February 18, 2016
Original review, written before the book was released (preserved because Michael Grant himself liked it):

Messenger of Fear is going to be about a teenage boy delivering copies of the fifth book in the Gone series to people. A little... pretentious for its author to write about that, don't you think?

(Just kidding - I have no idea what this is about, but it's going to be awesome.)

My new review:

Whatever compliments you might give to Michael Grant's writing, he is not a subtle author. By any extent of imagination. And often, that's fine. When he's writing fast-paced, action-packed 'boy books', nobody really expects subtlety. But, unlike virtually everything Grant has written (since the late nineties, anyway), this isn't an action-packed boy book. There's very little action here. The pace is brisk, but not rapid-fire, like Grant's other books. There's no main antagonist. This is a more philosophical book, the kind that aims to be a Deep and Poignant Exploration of Morality. It's not at all the kind of thing Grant usually writes, and it's not what he or his writing style is accustomed to. (Although maybe Applegate would've handled it better, with all the literary fiction she's been doing lately.) The premise is this: our protagonist, Mara, has been chosen to be the apprentice to the Messenger of Fear, who punishes the wicked to appease Isthil*, the God of Balance. The plot follows three different sets of people with three different stories, and we see as the Messenger decides to punish one person from each story.

It's the kind of story that requires subtlety. We would have to see Grant present complex moral situations without telling us everything about them, without seeing him explain every bit of the situation. We, the audience, would have to do some work and to answer some of the tough questions about the characters we see. It's something Grant has never done before, largely because he's never had to. And, I'm sorry to say, he doesn't pull it off. Grant refuses to leave anything unexplained in these situations - none of the specifics are left ambiguous. Mara's discussions with the Messenger so perfectly mirrored my thoughts on the situation that, as a reader, I had nothing to think about. It was all spelled out for me. And that's what prevented this from being thought-provoking. How can it be, when Mara's conclusions are basically the only reasonable ones to come to?

This lack of subtlety also shows up in more minute ways. Take, for example, this scene that Mara and The Messenger observe together:

[Kayla was sitting in her room, writing. Her mom barged in without knocking.]
"We're going out," the woman said.
Kayla didn't turn around. "You're supposed to knock.
"I don't need to knock in my own home."
"Your home. Of course," Kayla sneered. "Yours and his now. Maybe he should be able to walk in on me without knocking, too. I bet he'd like to."
"Kayla, [...] unless you have something sensible to say, don't go there. [...] Do you have something to say, Kayla?"
"No, Jessica," Kayla said, her voice dripping with sarcasm. "Not at all. After all, I'm sure a man who is fifteen years younger than you, and only ten years younger than me, has no interest at all in walking in on me."
[...]"Listen to me, Kayla, if Arnie has done anything... questionable... you tell me. Otherwise, you stop spreading poison."
"Questionable? Has he done anything questionable? You mean, aside from moving into my house and sleeping with my mother in my father's bed?"

That was too damn convenient. I understand that Grant needed us to understand everything about the conversation as soon as we saw it, but I don't believe for a second that Kayla and her mom would just happen to spell out everything that made them hate each other that simply, in such a short conversation. It reads as cheesy and false - just looking at it makes me want to puke with how fake the entire scene is. There are a lot of scenes like this. That kind of thing would be a little annoying if it showed up in Gone, but it's really annoying in a more literary book.

However, Grant does seem to be aware that he's working outside his boundaries a bit. And in order to make this book feel more 'literary', he writes Mara's voice a little differently than he would otherwise. Most of the extended prose sections of the novel make it painfully obvious that Grant is trying to write in a literary style. But it comes off across more like a thirteen year-old trying to be fancy than what it should sound like: a teenage girl. Most of the standard mistakes are made - there are too many adjectives and adverbs, long words are often used for no particular reason, and Grant overuses compound and complex sentences. It doesn't sound as authentic as Grant's writing normally does. No teenage girl talks like this:

A mist pressed close, all around me, so close that it was more like a blanket than a fog. The mist was the color of yellowed teeth and it moved without a breath of breeze, moved as if it had a will. The mist swirled slowly, sensuously, and it touched me. I don't mean that it was merely near to me and therefore inevitably touched me; I mean it touched me. It felt my face like a blind person might. It crept up the sleeves of my sweater and down the neckline. It found its insinuating way under rough denim and seeped, almost like a liquid, along bare skin. Fingerless, it touched me. Eyeless, it gazed at me. It heard the beating of my heart and swept in and out of my mouth which each quick and shallow breath.

Grant's lost sight of what normally makes his writing so good - instead of being authentic, he's trying too hard. And at times, it's physically painful to watch.

All this is a shame, because there were elements of the story that weren't that bad. A lot of people didn't like Mara as a character, but I didn't really mind her. There was a bit too much focus on her angst, but she reacted pretty much the way I'd expect someone to react if they woke up and were forced to passively watch as people were tortured. Something about her portrayal resonated with me. The structure of the novel also had a lot of potential. A more subtle writer could've made it into a genuinely thought-provoking exploration of morality and punishment. (Tsugumi Ohba would've been great with this plot.) For all its flaws, at least Grant is attempting something genuinely innovative and experimental. Sure, most of what he writes is innovative in subtle ways, but this is the first structurally unconventional book I've seen from him. Thankfully, I didn't have trouble following the plot. And while the lack of subtlety meant that this was largely a graveyard of could-have-beens, there were a few moments that did genuinely strike a chord with me. The scene where Liam and Emma decide to run over the dog, for example, really did remind me of why I love Grant's writing so much. It was genuinely ambiguous, and in a surprisingly subtle way, I understood Liam and Emma as they made that decision. And then, alas, the moment passes, and I'm back to cringing at Grant's efforts to be literary.

I'm starting to think that Grant's just past his prime as a writer. Sure, Gone was one of the best series I've ever read, but that's the only series he's written without Applegate that I've liked. Maybe he's just not a particularly good writer on his own. Gone was good largely because Grant was imitating the feel of his collaborations with Applegate from the nineties - I'm thinking that as he comes into his own as a writer more, it's not a writer that I enjoy as much.

*Isthil, of course, comes from Aximili-Esgarrouth-Isthil, an Animorphs character. I could've hugged Grant when I made the connection.

This review can also be found on my blog.
589 reviews1,029 followers
October 2, 2014
See more reviews at YA Midnight Reads

Back from my hiatus but alas, the first book I read just had to be a disappointing read .-.

I think it's quite apparent that Messenger of Fear is a polarising read. I haven't actually read anything by this guy before, so I wasn't absolutely sure what to expect--what I knew was that his Gone series is crazy popular--so I hoped that this one would be just as amazing. Perhaps, it is just as amazing as his Gone series but clearly this book is not my cup of tea.

A girl wakes up in the mist and can only remember one thing: her name, Mara. Not long after, she meets a young man in a big coat. The story line only becomes more twisted when he reveals that he is Messenger--he targets young teens that get away with wicked doings, he offers them a game: win, and they can leave like it never happened, and should they lose, they must live out their greatest fear. See, I loved this concept, but that's where my adoration for this book ended.

We start with a few questions: what happened to Mara and why is she here? What does she have anything to do with the Messenger? These questions are answered, but what I didn't expect was for them to be all answered at the end of the novel. I was expecting that these questions were going to be answered earlier on in the novel so we could get to some actual plot and movement, but that didn't happen. In other words, my sole complaint was that the story was too simple. One plain (and rather predictable) story line with not much else. 320 pages. Seriously? You can tell that this is just the first instalment because all it did was set up the world and let us into the character's heads. Personally, I felt cheated. I dived into this book thinking that there was going to be a lot going on and a lot of substance but realistically, I just got a predictable story that really did not need to take up an entire novel.

Moreover, I didn't feel any connection between me and the characters. There was diversity, which was nice (main character is Asian) but that doesn't make up for the fact that Mara felt awfully bland to me. Maybe I'm lacking some empathy lately but it really all goes back to the simplicity of the plot. Nothing exciting or even interesting happened for me to think greatly of the characters because all the really did was sit around.

However, I like the writing. It was really descriptive and probably the only reason why I still bothered with this book. Some of the creepier scenes really stood out because of Grant's fantastic writing style and in the retrospect, I can see why a lot of people love his work.

Bonus: ROMANCE FREE! Even though there was a boy/young man and girl as the main characters.

In all, I did appreciate this book for a few small things but it could not suffice for the mundane and predictable story line as well as the bland characters. I'm not sure I'll be continuing on with this series, to be honest, but I am probably still going to give Gone a go.

~Thank you Hardie Grant Egmont Australia for sending me this copy!~

Profile Image for Dylan.
21 reviews6 followers
January 25, 2016
You know your a dedicated fan when you add a book to your to-read list before the title is released
Profile Image for Dannii Elle.
2,064 reviews1,473 followers
September 12, 2017
I was anticipating great things from this book after reading the warning for sensitive readers that adorns the back cover. I like my fiction dark and both the cover and the synopsis promised to deliver that.

This is the tale of Mara. The reader is introduced to her through her entrance into a dream-like phase of her life, where fantasy becomes reality and the rules that govern our world are continually broken. Both Mara and the reader are equally as disturbed and confused by the events occurring and are strung along on the dreamy sequence of events that unfold.

This shared confusion is what occupies much of the text and I found it quite draining to feel constantly one step behind the narrative, after a time. The otherworldly aspects of the story were interesting but with no foundation for the conception provided, I struggled to from a bond with the characters and their stories.

This felt almost like a series of interconnected short stories, as multiple character’s back-stories and plights were introduced to the reader and the protagonist. Mara was the link that brought them all together and whilst their stories were given a purpose at the end of the book, much of my reading was spent wondering what the point of it all was?

This was a dark read, but not as dark as promised. The multiple characters and stories meant that much of the text as taken up with introduction and back-story that both added to my lack of understanding and overwhelmed me with facts that I did not yet realize the point of knowing. Points of action were buried in pages of inactivity and I vastly preferred the former, in the context of this book.

The story did have an interesting and unforeseen culmination that drew it all together, and I can see my experience of the next book that much more enhanced, due to the foundations already set and understood in this book.
August 7, 2014
Oh.My.God. This was so...so...Yeah,you get the point.Most of you haven't read this yet so I'be carefull with spoilers.

The plot is about Mara a girl who wakes up surrounded by strange mist with no memories and meets a strange young man who calls himself Messenger of Fear.

The fiction part of the story was truly amazing (I was mesmerized by the strange and scary new world Michael Grant introduces us to) but what I really loved was that this book has at its center REAL-LIFE problems mixed with the awesomeness of fiction.

broke my heart a little and quite honestly
Actually the WHOLE story broke my heart a little. All three subplots. Everyone who was involved found themselves in the same terrifying situation yet their stories such as themselves were very VERY different. The Messenger payed them all a visit but everything else was anything but similar except maybe the deeper meaning.

This book is about the good and the evil in humans and the thin line between them. It shows the harsh reality that is today's world and the injustice in it. The cruelness people choose to show to certain others, an attitude that they justify in their heads.

Though the book you'll learn important things about life the most important lesson being that you should be careful of the way you act.
Unless you want a visit from the Messenger of Fear. And trust me you dont.

There are some prety gory scenes and the meaning of the story comes at you hard like a slap in the face from someone with really big,strong hands. It hurts.

The messenger's justice is harsh but as I read some pages there were people I wanted to be punished only not that harshly. And there were people I pitied and felt scared for.
I hope when you read it you'll understand. and bullying can have a big effect on people and you cant know what else is going on in someone's life, so be careful how you act towards them.

Ok. This is getting 'kinda' big so I'll stop. I hope you understand what I' m saying. This is an interesting book that's worth reading.

Reccomended to 14+.
Profile Image for Carly .
78 reviews24 followers
October 9, 2017
This book was so weird that it was really good! Michael Grant is king of the peculiar.
Summary: Mara wakes up one day with no memory of who she is, where she came from, and how she got there. All she knows is her name. To make matters worse, she is visited by a dark haunting boy who calls himself the Messenger of Fear. Not only is Mara enthralled because of his dark looks and mysterious past, but he can also stop time, time travel, read minds, and conjure up a strange green mist that seems more monster than mist. Mara soon learns that she is to be his new apprentice, and that Messenger's job is to visit those who have gone unpunished for their crimes. He offers them a game: win and they go free, lose and they will have to live out their greatest fear.
I definitely didn't expect this book to be as dark as it was, but surprisingly, I didn't mind it, and at at times i really enjoyed it. Going into this book, I assumed it would be a Christmas Carol type of story, but boy was I wrong. There was so much originality to this story, that I can't even compare it to anything else out there. It is wholly original, and I loved every minute of it. There were times where I laughed, cried, and yes, cringed, but it was all a part of the reading experience.
It's quite a short book and a quick read. What I really loved about the writing was that it had an almost poetic style to it and beautiful but terrifying metaphors. The descriptions of the monsters were my absolute favourite. They were so warped that I wanted to put my hands over my eyes, but couldn't. While they were scary, they were also intriguing and so abstract that I couldn't look away from the words on the page.
I was totally shocked by the ending. We finally learn Mara's identity at the end of the novel, and the reveal is earth-shattering.
My favourite character is definitely Messenger. His cold stoicism yet covert strength makes him a very intriguing character. If there was one person's head that I would like to enter, it would be his, though I suspect it would be a very dark terrifying place and I may not come out unscathed.
I highly recommend this book for readers who want something a little bit different in their fantasy or contemporary reads. The writing is beautiful, the characters are amazing, and the story sticks in your head for weeks afterwards.
511 reviews211 followers
August 13, 2014
Take your *insert whoever* to work day, is it???

Because, it seems, that's all Michael Grant deals with in Messenger of Fear. Our protagonist is introduced to a great deal of passive torment, and then some she herself doles out.

That is all there is to this book. All you need to know. And as such, the story doesn't really make much progress from the initial point. Just lessons learned, I guess? Who the fuck cares "aboot" that?

The tale is narrated to us in the voice of an amnesiac teenage girl who wakes up in a world bending to laws of another, creatures that seem thoroughly fascinated by her(despite their derision, contempt, exasperation); which doesn't seem like the voice of a teenage girl, of which I'm certainly no authority, but a party.

One of the few saving graces of this story is the scrutiny paid to the writing, palpable in just a few chapters. It is wholly mature, refined, careful in the ways of diplomats(I think) and ergo, bearing little semblance to the tone of a teenage girl. While that maybe so, in and of itself it's not such a bad thing, if one cares/manages to forget her, since it doesn't drive you away or at worst, make you hungry on account of all the energy you've wasted rolling your eyes.

The story reduces Mara(the MC) to a capacity in which she talks less, does lesser, becomes horrified all the more easily. And so she is boring.

The story is boring because all she does is observe the ways of Messenger and his version of justice. There are hints and outright statements throughout of tough lessons, times and observations over a loooooooong period of time, but rather thoughtlessly, there is none but one that we witness. We get to know fuck-all about the other characters, or hell, the Messenger besides that he is stone-faced but there be compassion in his eyes.

I personally can derive much more from emoticons' eyes than stupid, fickle, unreadable humans. -_- They're easier for sending across of covert feelings, too. Saves a whole lotta time and misunderstanding.

Fantasy elements incorporated, coupled with the writing that described them, retained my interest for the short duration of the story. However, the actual myths come into play obstinately late, ridiculously little. Add to that, there are simple, obvious questions that should have answered the moment Mara learns of who/what/why she is: what up with her mother? what up with her life? what up with those seemingly obscure lines that I shall not mention?

The way I see it, Messenger of Fear would have been better off as a prequel,-albeit a huge-ass one-instead of an introduction to a story as it sets out to be because based on the couple hours I spent on it, I'm not going back for more.

Grant and I are just meant to "bei."

Review copy provided by publishers.
Profile Image for Braiden.
359 reviews206 followers
August 4, 2016
3.5 stars.

Many people know that Michael Grant is my favourite YA writer, mostly because of the characters and themes he imbued into the Gone series. But unfortunately, unlike Gone and BZRK (which I have read and loved both in their entirety), Messenger of Fear did not have any characters that I liked. Maybe it was because most of the cast were spectral beings. Also, as it wasn't until the final chapters of the book when we actually got some answers, these characters had big question marks floating over their heads, making them essentially ghosts.

Messenger of Fear is the weakest work of Michael Grant's that I've read. But, being an eternal MG fan, I will continue to read this series in anticipation that the mythology that was revealed towards the end becomes grander and more pronounced in subsequent sequels.

Messenger of Fear will surely draw the supernatural/horror YA readers from their dark closets, though Michael Grant writes best for me when he writes science fiction and about large casts of characters.

This review was very difficult to write. Look at my reviews of Fear and Light and you will see how much I invested into the Gone series. I have yet to write a in-depth review for BZRK: Apocalypse, but I do miss reading about Sadie and Noah. Messenger of Fear, well, I don't miss anything about it.
Profile Image for Sarah Elizabeth.
4,739 reviews1,307 followers
September 12, 2015
(Source: I received a digital copy of this book for free on a read-to-review basis. Thanks to HarperCollins and Edelweiss.)

I have to say that I didn't really enjoy this book, although I appreciated the twist at the end.

Mara was an okay character and what she was going through wasn't very nice. I couldn't really relate to her though, and even by the end of the book I didn't really like her, if anything I liked her less.

The storyline in this was a nice idea, but the execution was just off for me. I got bored pretty early on, and I just didn't enjoy the storyline. It seemed unbelievable, and I just couldn't get into it at all.

There was a twist at the end that was interesting, but other than that this book just didn't do it for me. I haven't read anything else by this author yet, and I'm not sure I really want to anymore.
Overall; not for me,
4.5 out of 10.
Profile Image for Siobhan.
4,564 reviews475 followers
May 20, 2018
Michael Grant is an author who has caught my attention on many occasions. More than one of his series have whispered a ‘read me’ in the book store, yet I always found my attention pulled elsewhere. With how big a fan base Michael Grant has, however, I decided it was finally time for me to dive into his work. Thus, when I saw the two Messenger of Fear novels on offer, I decided to take the leap.

In reality, Messenger of Fear is more of a three-point-five-star rating rather than the three-star rating I gave it. Mostly, this rounding down is a reflection of my reading mood recently – most books have been rounded down rather than up, as nothing seems to be blowing my mind in the way I have been hoping for. Such is the case with Messenger of Fear, it is why I decided to round it down – even though I found this to be enjoyable, I had been expecting more from it than I was given.

If the truth is to be known, I read Messenger of Fear much quicker than I’d anticipated. A couple of hours passed and I was done, ready to pick up book two. It was a much easier read than I’d expected, one that had me turning the pages throughout. Clearly, based upon how quickly I managed to finish this one, I did enjoy it. I just didn’t enjoy it as much as I’d been hoping I would.

My main issue is that the story didn’t quite have the depth I had been hoping for. The concept was interesting, watching the story unfold was fun, but it never went as deep as I would have liked. I was left with far too many questions, too many things I felt were not explained as well as they could have been. The whole story was focused around one element that was obvious from the start, and I feel as though we sacrificed world building to focus upon unravelling a very clear mystery.

Don’t get me wrong, what world building we had was enjoyable. I will be honest and say I was surprised by how dark and gritty the book was, though. I love dark and gritty books, and this will never rank within my top ten, but it contained more than I’d expected from a young adult novel. In fact, I was rather surprised by the details that were given. This one certainly goes further than many young adult novels out there, to the point where certain details could almost have me forgetting I was reading a young adult novel.

Overall, this was enjoyable – even if it wasn’t quite to the level I had been hoping for. It left me more than willing to dive into the second book, especially as I was left with many things I wished to receive more of.
Profile Image for Rayne.
862 reviews288 followers
January 13, 2015
Messenger of Fear is basically what you would get if Hot Topic and an After School Special had a baby: from the obvious, cliched bullying, to the seemingly philosophical realization that, *gasp*, there's both good and evil inside all of us, and right down to the tight, faux leather clothing, the crazy and totes rebellious colors for hair and cosmetics, tattoos and the cheesy skull buttons in a black, long, Goth jacket, because why not? That's how creatures of the underworld/otherworld/whatever-the-hell-this-mythology-is-supposed-to-be dress, right? When they sign up for the job, they are automatically given a 40% discount on all of their Hot Topic purchases, otherwise, they wouldn't be creatures of darkness.

 photo tumblr_mds1sxxdtC1r4gei2o1_400_zps2pcklina.gif

Grant tried. He did put in a commendable effort in making this more than just the pseudo-philosophical, cliche, stilted, predictable mess it was, but, in the end, this book barely goes over the 200 page mark by being pointlessly long-winded, taking itself too seriously, trying to teach "valuable lessons" about the nature of humanity, and stretching what little is there of a plot that feels like the prequel to the actual story. Basically, the plot of this first novel is what authors nowadays reserve for 30+ page overpriced novellas on Kindle that promise to "explore" the world and the characters before delivering the actual story. What Messenger of Fear does is set the stage, introduce the reader to this world and this needlessly convoluted mythology through a blank slate of a main character with a very predictable story and forced, grating and stilted narrative voice that's supposed to convey the profoundly philosophical dimensions of good versus evil and everything that's in between (hint: us humans) but instead is at once boring and cheesy and definitely trying way too hard.

 photo tumblr_msmaogYkIN1srjep0o1_500_zpsga0nmpy7.gif

The story in this novel is so unstructured, so simple in basically every aspect except for the pointlessly convoluted and nonsensical mythology they tried to push in towards the end, that it ends up being kind of painful. It jumps back and forth between a couple of different, textbook bullying situations in the hopes of prolonging what little plot there is and giving new dimensions to the good and evil theme (hint: us humans, we are both good and evil, you're welcome), but it gave the novel a feeling of disjointedness. It didn't feel like it was that way on purpose, but rather because there were only about 15 pages of actual plot and they needed to pump all the filler they could into this novel to inflate it into an acceptable 200+ book, regardless of how messy, jumbled and loose the whole thing ended up being. I will give it this, the novel certainly has a good atmosphere, and I'm pretty sure that's about the only reason I made it to the end.

This is the first novel I read by Grant. I know the guy's a very popular author, so I was expecting something that lived up to that reputation. But Messenger of Fear is so pedestrian and banal, so simple, I have a hard time reconciling the image of an experienced, beloved and best selling author with this product. The novel is not terrible, hence the two stars, and it's certainly not one of the worst books I've ever read, but the book is so unremarkable, so mediocre, it left close to no impression at all. I'm making fun of the novel, but, honestly, I barely remember it all and it's only been about a week since I read it. This was not a creepy novel full of horror and the nuanced exploration of humanity I was promised. This book struggled to be at least engaging for 200 pages, let's not even talk about actually being fun, and being creepy and nuanced and introspective and horrific was entirely out of its reach. I don't know if this is just Grant's trademark style or if it is just one weak novel in a line of brilliant novels, but I'm really not interested in finding out. There was nothing in this novel that made me want to come back to this world or this author. It was far too ambitious in its premise for what it actually delivered and it was capable of delivering. Messenger of Fear is predictable, slow, disjointed and trying too hard, ultimately a weak offering in basically every single aspect.
Profile Image for Diamond.
340 reviews206 followers
July 23, 2015
Full Review on my blog @ Dee's Reads

One of the genres I rarely read are thrillers; but a thriller with a supernatural element? Messenger of Fear had me interested because of the unusual braid of genres and the really cool cover (I love that color blue). I guess it doesn’t take much for me to step out of my comfort zone. Add a little of a genre I tend to love and a color-pleasing cover and I’ll try you out! But seriously though, I’m so glad I did.

“Yes, Mara,” he said with a sense of finality, as though now we could begin to understand each other, though I yet understood nothing. “I am the messenger. The Messenger of Fear.” It would be a long time before I came to know him by any other name. -Loc 229

Michael Grant is a pretty well-known author when it comes to thrillers and such in young adult. I’ve never read any of his books before but did recognize the name because I see it around on Goodreads and in bookstores and stuff. That sort of thing really doesn’t influence whether I request/download the eARC, but after reading this book I can understand why he’s a popular author.

Messenger of Fear started off really good and I remember thinking, “this is an amazing premise for a book. If it delivers, it will be fantastic.” Although it wavered at times, the ending was so strong I definitely feel it fulfilled it’s ambitious premise of a supernatural thriller that kept me guessing until the end.

What was I guessing about? So here’s the thing, let me tell you a little bit about the book (don’t worry—no spoilers!) We open with Mara waking up in a coffin. Of course a pleathora of questions are spued forth by her, is she dead? Is she alive? What happened? Why can’t she remember anything? While we don’t get clear cut answers, she does figure a few things out pretty quickly. She meets “the Messenger.” He’s a mysteriously handsome guy who is the only one that can see and talk to her. Slowly she is shown the life, death, and in between of a teenage girl named Samantha Early.

Full Review on my blog @ Dee's Reads
(Sorry but I couldn't copy the whole thing, computer problems!)
Profile Image for Nicola.
229 reviews22 followers
December 15, 2014
I was looking at Michael Grant's Wikipedia page and was shocked to discover that he has written over 150 books. That's right, one hundred and fifty. How is this the first book of his that I have read?! Where have I been?

I don't normally read a lot of supernatural fiction. That means I don't necessarily know all the ins and outs of what makes a fantastic supernatural book. What I do know is that Messenger of Fear is a crazy, weird and creepy story that intrigued and captured my imagination from the beginning.

Mara wakes up surrounded by a weird yellow mist with barely a recollection of what her name is never mind any other important memories.

We soon meet the Messenger who dresses strangely and talks with an intimacy that sounds like he's whispering right into Mara's ears.

Mara eventually discovers that she is the Messenger's new apprentice. And what does the Messenger do? He visits people who have committed wrongdoings and offers them a game: win and you're set free, lose and you'll be punished. Both the game and the punishments are cruel and in some cases violent. There's some pretty gruesome stuff in here that I wasn't expecting but I loved it.

There are three different scenarios that Mara and the Messenger encounter. Here is the exploration of whether everyone deserves punishment or whether each case should be assessed individually. Should everyone be punished in the same way regardless of the crime or should circumstances be taken into account? What we learn is that these people are aware that they are doing something wrong and it's that knowing that warrants the punishment.

The plot twist at the end is a good twist, I thought. I guessed it was coming so I wasn't majorly surprised when it did but it was still a nice twist.

If you like something a bit creepy and a bit unusual then this is a book for you. I highly recommend reading it without spoilers though as the not knowing what's going on is one of the best parts.
136 reviews40 followers
February 7, 2017
Mara ontwaakt in een heuse nachtmerrie. Ze ontmoet de Angstaanjager, een jongeman die mensen voor een bloedstollende keuze stelt. Hij dwingt Mara om de meest angstaanjagende taferelen bij te wonen. Maar waarom? Lezen vanaf ca. 15 jaar. Je moet er even in komen, omdat het in het begin nog een beetje vaag is, maar hoe verder je in het boek komt hoe meer je komt te weten over de Angstaanjager. Dit boek is echt een aanrader!
Profile Image for Jacquelyn.
444 reviews203 followers
August 13, 2015
Ughhhhh... so confusing and I skimmed most. I did not like this one! I will not be continuing on with the series.
Profile Image for Paul.
197 reviews168 followers
September 6, 2015
I was given a free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. This has not affected my opinion of this book nor the content of this critique in any way.

3 1/2 stars

"He is not indifferent, that's the thing. His too-near voice that seems always to be whispering in my ear is held to a standard of cool detachment, but his eyes and his mouth and his forehead and the way he swallows all speak of reflected pain."

The opening installment to Michael Grant's new series seems largely a routine affair. As the introductory piece to a larger work, Messenger of Fear is rather simplistic in both its construction and its establishing of an overarching mythos and cast of characters. It's all mostly predictable (particularly the big "twist" near the end, which one will likely figure out very early on), following as it does the well-worn formula that so many YA authors have taken to since the meteoric rise of the paranormal romance genre.

This particular incarnation centers on Mara, who awakens in a sort of limbo with no clear memory of who she is or how she came to be in this new dimension. She soon meets the titular character, who is - as can be expected - mysterious, intense, tortured, and surprisingly pleasant to look at. Mara has no choice but to follow along as he shows her his duties as the Messenger, regaining over time fragments of her past as she encounters both mortals from her world and the other supernatural beings who toy with them.

Despite the familiarity of the novel's general schema, Grant's storytelling works because of his attention to detail. His mythology is a curious mix of adolescent drama, Gothic horror, contemporary societal concerns and celestial dogma. While the book features its fair share of fantasy in the form of warring deities, demonic retribution and dimensional manipulation, it also examines grounded notions of adolescent bullying, suicide, guilt and familial tension. The author does a commendable job at blending these two worlds together, using the former paranormal concepts as a foundation to explore the latter, more practical concerns. It helps that the more fantastical ideas are decidedly unique for the genre, and contain about as much originality as one may be able to reasonably expect from a medium that is so saturated with what seems to be every imaginable premise. While notions of the afterlife, purgatory, reapers and the like have been utilized by others, Grant interprets and combines them in a way that feels fresh, and Messenger's biggest strength lies in the fact that Grant reveals these elements gradually so as to be sure that the reader is perpetually curious to see how the world will deepen and evolve.

"I wondered if Messenger had come to this same duty by a similar path. I believed he had. I doubted he would ever tell me the how and the why of it, but in that I proved to be mistaken. It would be a long time coming, but in the end I would know all."

And while the real-world themes are tackled with equal gravity, they unfortunately do not work quite as well. Grant's willingness to consider serious notions of teenage persecution, mental illness, and death is commendable, but its done in a way that feels cliched and forced. One gets the clear sense that these scenes involving high schoolers and their everyday concerns were constructed by an older writer outside of the culture. There is an artificiality to the events that leaves the importance of the messages imparted diminished, because one's ability to immerse themselves in the story is interrupted by noticeable contrivances and stilted dialogue that is trying to hard to be "savvy" to the demographic involved. Events taking place in more otherworldly realms have a flow to them that is lacking in these other, earthbound incidents, and the result is a jarring flux between characters who manage to function as seemingly genuine people and characters who are obviously fictitious creations who are serving a plot point.

At less than 300 pages, Messenger is also problematic in the fact that it feels less like the first part of a much larger, much longer journey and more like an overly long prologue for that journey. The novel provides plenty of foreshadowing and hints at numerous storylines and mysteries, but really does nothing more aside from this. Being able to access later installments immediately after finishing this one may help in the future, but having only this standalone piece with which to consider the series at present means that the book's incomplete nature is very, very obvious. The ending concludes things in a manner that feels satisfying given its initial premise (Mara being trained to become the new Messenger of Fear), but is also such a clear setup for the rest of the series that it's as though the novel ends just as it begins.

Still, the length means that the story is an easy one to digest, and Grant manages to stuff what few pages he has with a good deal of character and plot development. And while it may end too soon, the self-contained arc at the forefront of Messenger still works as a fully realized, properly constructed story. It's simply a brief one. Mara and her companions are given too little time to really connect with the reader, but their individual personalities and roles are simultaneously likable enough to keep one reading and complex enough to encourage interest in later expansions on these starting points. Because of this and an approach to world-building that grows truly intriguing only during the final chapters (when the scope is expanded to touch upon lore outside of Mara's immediate perspective), there is enough potential inherent to the parts involved that the whole's abbreviated nature is ultimately not as problematic as it could have been, and makes picking up the sequel seem a definitive. Given how easy a possible rereading would be, there isn't much to lose, after all.

"And, in unworthy self-pity, I needed to cry for myself, because surely whatever I had done to deserve this, whatever had wrung soul-searing sobs from me, it must surely have been a mistake, an accident..."

Grant's writing is the final confirmation that this series is likely one worth watching. There is a fluidity and poetry to it that is consistent and satisfying, in contrast to the simplistic and only occasionally notable style that was persistent throughout his Gone books. His penmanship ensures that events are memorable despite their brief nature, and also goes a long way to make Mara a noteworthy protagonist and narrator in the face of how little we learn of her here.

To Conclude...

Messenger of Fear is a (too) brief taste of what promises to be an engrossing new series, and is proof that Grant's notable imagination has not grown lax. It may not be the most satisfying (or complete) of stories, but its potential is clear, and worth trying given the ease with which it can be read. I only hope that the next installment proves a bit meatier. Considering how Gone and its sequels progressed, however, we're all doubtless in for a rather wild ride regardless.
Profile Image for Jessica (Goldenfurpro).
893 reviews253 followers
June 6, 2016
This and other reviews can be found on The Psychotic Nerd

This was one of my most anticipated reads of the year, mostly because I loved Michael Grant's Gone series, but I also thought that this sounded like such an interesting book!
I was sort of mislead, though, because I was under the impression that this would be at least a little bit scary. But, no, it's about teaching those who've done wrong a lesson. I was okay with this. I actually thought it had a very intriguing idea. Basically, it's the Messenger of Fear's job to give those who have done wrong a test. If they fail, or if they decide not to take the test, they face the consequences.

I thought the tests were interesting, though I did have a few issues. One: The people who face the test, do they remember it? Because I would think that the Messenger of Fear would be more well known if that were the case. Two: People can basically disappear because of this. What do the people back home think about the person?
A lot of these might be answered in the next book, as well as many others, but they were bothering me during the book.

Oddly enough, I was more interested in Mara and not because of the mystery surrounding her. I figured out the mystery early on in the book, but I was very curious about how Mara would react to the information I knew.

This book was not what I expected, but I still enjoyed it! It had creepy, paranormal aspects as well as very realistic aspects. It gets kind of weird at times and I kind of wanted more answers, but it was a very interesting and original read. Michael Grant continues to be one of my favorite authors!
Profile Image for Gabrielle.
452 reviews
August 15, 2017
This book was unlike anything I've ever read and it was super interesting but it kind of fell short for me this is just a quick review.

Characters: i didn't feel connected to any of the characters the messenger i feel should've stayed ominous and mysterious that would've been a better approach. Mara was okay but rather boring i didn't care for her much. Oriax and Daniel were kind of unnecessary. i did like the other characters in the mini story lines i liked meeting each one but again i didn't feel connected to them.

Plot: The plot was fast i was never bored but i felt the storyline itself could've been developed better.
The plot flowed well and it kept me interested but not on the edge of my seat per say. The plot was very interesting and intriguing and kept me captivated though.

World building: The world building was the worst part of the book the world didn't make any sense the "beings" didn't make sense it just had so many plot holes. The mythology at the end was also confusing and unnecessary. I will say the world was crazy and insane and creepy and weird and i enjoyed that aspect it just didn't make for an amazing book. It felt disjointed and without purpose.

Writing style:The writing style flowed so well like water and thats what kept the pages turning for me i enjoyed the writing style and it felt together and to the point.

I would recommend this to those who want an interesting and weird unique book but don't expect to be blown out of the water.
Profile Image for Lisa.
327 reviews22 followers
August 17, 2014
From what I've observed in the last few years, all YA novels can be categorized under three broad headings:

One. Paranormal Romance. That's your typical novel, the Mortal Instruments, the Twilights, the Vampire Academies. The genre is saturated with these.

Two, the realistic or non-paranormal literature more often than not with their share of the romance, things like the Hunger Games, the Fault in our Stars, The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants.

And Three, my favourite and least common, science fiction and Fantasy that do not a romantic focus. Like Harry Potter, the Lord of the Rings, and Percy Jackson.

Grant's books fall into the last category, and Messenger of Fear is no exception. What makes it unique is how dark and twisted the tales are. If you've read BZRK, you know what I'm talking about. There's violence, gore, situations that will emotionally drain you, very deep, meaningful questions, things you wouldn't find in your usual YA novel. It's kind of like Game of Thrones for the younger audience, complete with the "I don't care if he/she's an awesome character, they are going to die anyways. There can never be too many deaths" attitude.

And you know what you're getting yourself into. It's obvious.

If you want to read something different, something unique, then read this or BZRK. It'll definitely be an eye opener.

Profile Image for Mlpmom (Book Reviewer).
3,008 reviews377 followers
August 9, 2014
I really liked the whole concept behind this story but sadly the writing style kept me from truly enjoying it as much as I had hoped I would.
I think because of the synopsis and this being my first Grant book, I was expecting a little too much and we all know what can happen when we go into a story expecting something and not getting it. It makes it hard to plow through and really enjoy what is happening in it and connecting to the characters like we need to.

Instead of getting into the story I found myself wanting to just scan the rest of it and be done with it. I don't think it has anything to do with the storyline or the author's writing abilities but rather, this just wasn't what I was looking for at the time I tried to read it. Under different circumstances I think I might have warmed up to the unusual writing style and liked it more, that sadly just didn't happen this time.
Profile Image for T📚.
49 reviews8 followers
October 4, 2021
I finish this in one sitting like oh boy, this book is so fast paced? Like I don’t expect it to be this fast forward 😳😳. Now I hate Instagram because I can’t post my review😭😭 anyway back to this book. I enjoy it, there is no romance, but I love the way the author writes the book and the plot twist, I was like wtf?!!! This book is so sad yet so gruesome. Gonna read the second book tomorrow 😭😭. I still hate Instagram for break down 😃💔💔. Anyway go read this book!!

Oh yeah, The Messenger is kinda hot 😤😤
Profile Image for Kari.
3,669 reviews86 followers
August 1, 2018
For the most part, I enjoyed the book.. It was a quick read and I didn't call the ending. I will admit to being confused in the beginning, but if you stick with the story, it mostly makes sense in the end. I may read Tattooed Heart sometime in the future. I have some questions that may be answered in the sequel. It is a bit gruesome in some parts as it details a suicide, so I would probably keep it to the older YA crowd.
Profile Image for Rashika (is tired).
976 reviews710 followers
January 31, 2015
When I finished this book, I had no idea how to rate it. I have no idea whether it was amazing, or meh or just plain old likeable and I think the reason for that is because while it deals with so many interesting things in such interesting ways, it also seems a little flat at times. Not as intense as one would imagine a book like this to be. But let me define what I mean when I say ‘a book like this’.

This is a book that deals with the idea of handing out justice. It deals with things like bullying and the affects it may have on a person. This book isn’t some silly little fluffy book, as it’s size might suggest. It’s actually pretty fricking serious and the problem I think was that even though it’s a serious book, I never took it as seriously as I should have. I was horrified but not in the way I *should* have been given the seriousness of the issues at hand.

Mara is an interesting character and I liked her. I predicted her role in this before hand and wasn’t surprised given the few details we got about her. Once my doubts were confirmed at the end of the novel, they definitely made some aspects of the story incredibly interesting.

Mara could be a little annoying when she refused to see the Messenger’s side of things but it was understandable. On top of that, I liked how even though she spend some time telling herself that this was all a dream, when it became evident that it actually wasn’t, she accepted the truth no matter how much it frightened her.

The Messenger was perhaps my favorite character. I am not sure what role he will play in the future instalments besides being a mentor figure but I liked getting glimpses into his character. We know he’s been doing this for a long time and at the same time, despite all the cruelty he dishes out or has to observe, he retains his humanity. He has a reason to hope. He has a reason to believe in himself and for that reason I cannot help but like him.

Before you all get excited or disappointed, so far, there is not even a hint of a romance and I am not sure I want that to change. I mean, the Messenger, at the moment, seems to be dedicated to someone else and I don’t know how one could possibly change that. Having said that, I definitely think they could be a great couple. So really, it’s all up to the author at this point and we can just stay here and wait for stuff to happen.

I adore the world Grant has built. I absolutely love some of the mythological aspects that were added but at the same time, we’re only teased with certain details of the world. The world building is very basic with us finding out very little aside from what we need to know for the story to make sense. It upsets me that we didn’t find out more but at the same time, I think Grant is saving the best for the next books considering how this book was about Mara adjusting to the world.

The plot wasn’t rah-rah amahzing but at the same time, I liked the moral ambiguity of what they were dealing with. What is justice really? Who should be avenged? Who should have to pay? Is there a way to separate ‘good’ people from the assholes? It explores all these kinds of ideas. One of the main stories dealt with a girl who killed herself as a result of excessive bullying and while the storyline wasn't perfect, I think Grant did a great job of dealing with certain issues.

I guess my main complain would be that in spite of everything that this book has going for it, it’s lacking some sort of ‘oomph’ factor, something that makes this book memorable instead of ‘just another book’ I read this year and I guess that’s why it’s so hard to rate the book.

If you’re wondering if this book was worth the hype or if you’re just curious, I’d say give it a shot even if you have doubts. It’s short and quick and you won’t regret it.

[This review was originally posted on Nick's Book Blog ]
Profile Image for Sarah Churchill.
472 reviews1,174 followers
November 3, 2014
I didn't really know what to expect from The Messenger of Fear, but it wasn't this. It's very cryptic but never boring, philosophical but also brutal (and at one point pretty gruesome). Something about this book reminded me of Hellraiser, if Pinhead had been into philosophy.

A perfect Halloween read, I'm really glad I picked it up this month. The only downside for me was the big finale, which I saw coming from very early in the story because there were just too many clues to ignore. I wish it could have been a shocking twist for me so that I could really experience it as Grant intended. Nevertheless, I recommend it!
Profile Image for Amber.
1,029 reviews
July 31, 2019
Mara wakes up only to find out that she is stuck in limbo with the mysterious Messenger of Fear who makes her witness other people who gets punished for their sins. Can she survive? Read on and find out for yourself.

This was a pretty good YA horror story. If you like stories that scare you, be sure to check this book out at your local library and wherever books are sold.
Profile Image for  ۰ ۪۫ Maja Haber ۪۫ ۰.
421 reviews44 followers
October 17, 2018
Mam dylemat wobec tej książki. Historia jest fajna, ale niezbyt fajnie się ją czytało. Dziwne, prawda? Po prostu dobrze byłoby mieć ją w głowie i wiedzieć o czym jest, a zarazem nie musieć czytać książki. Książka jest bowiem niesamowicie nudna. Wymęczyłam się okropnie podczas lektury. Nie mogę powiedzieć, abym polecała tę historię. Jest zbyt zagmatwana i chaotyczna. Momentami naiwna. Cieszę się że mam ją już za sobą.
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