It’s been several years since I read the original Razorland trilogy, but still when someone briThis review was originally posted at Vampire Book Club.
It’s been several years since I read the original Razorland trilogy, but still when someone brings up Enclave I can’t wait to talk about the fascinating worldbuilding and character arcs Ann Aguirre crafted in this YA post-apocalyptic series. So it’s probably not a shock that I was thrilled to see another book in the same world. While you’ll see Vanguard listed as Razorland #4, it’s truly a companion novel. While reading the trilogy first will enhance your enjoyment of this one, it isn’t really necessary. Aguirre hits the details of the past to catch you up, but keeps her focus on her main characters and their journeys.
Those character journeys are what make Vanguard sing. Tegan was a secondary character in the original series. Now time has passed, and she’s been apprenticing as a healer. The Uroch and the remaining humans are coexisting, but it isn’t a smooth relationship. Szarok acts as the go-between for the Uroch and the humans. He’s on a mission to find a place his people can call home, but the human settlements still aren’t welcoming. The Freaks of the earlier Razorland books look like the Uroch. They were the Uroch until they were awakened. They helped defeat the horde and save everyone, but the divide is still strong. Szarok’s people hate the humans and are continually tempted to go to war to claim back what was theirs. The humans see the faces of people who killed so many of their kind.
If you want to know where this is going, I’ve got you: enemies to lovers.
For those not in the know, enemies to lovers is my absolute favorite romance trope. It’s delightful to see it blossom set against a recovering dystopia. Tegan has zero issues with the Uroch, and is welcoming when Szarok unwittingly becomes a travel companion. He, on the other hand, is constantly concerned that people will treat him poorly and cast judgment when they see him. He avoids speaking his native language, he wears a cloak to cover his head. Tegan doesn’t see the big deal. Over time, Szarok starts to see her bravery and sincerity as something real.
The more time the two spend together, the more clear it is that they are alike. …and the more they try to avoid admitting it. When they finally cave, it’s glorious. First kiss scenes are heady affairs when done correctly, all tension and restraint and, eventually, explosions. You know what makes that even better? When the heroine has to teach the hero the concept of kissing as well as the act. This added layer of “is this right” and “does he/she like this” takes the scene to a whole other level.
I’d say more, but I try to avoid spoilers. Suffice it to say, if you like a hero’s journey tale with a dash of enemies to lovers and kissing scenes that will curl your toes, Vanguard is for you. ...more
Funny and engaging with a dusting of darkness, Falling to Ash is a fresh vampire tale—and thThis review was originally published at Vampire Book Club.
Funny and engaging with a dusting of darkness, Falling to Ash is a fresh vampire tale—and that pleases me so very much. It’s my favorite Karen Mahoney book thus far. (Read reviews of The Iron Witch and The Wood Queen.)
Moth (neé Marie O’Neal) has spent the last several months in a kind of vampire lock-down situation. She’s not your typical newly turned vamp. Her maker broke the rules in creating Moth (not in an Ethan/Merit way, but in a lost control way), and so she’s had to keep under the radar until they’re ready to introduce her to the vampire Family at large. She finally has better control over herself and her need to feed. She won’t tap a vein if she doesn’t have to and tries to ration out the bagged blood as best she can. But waiting around for her maker to give the all clear is, well, not enough.
When Moth’s friends from her human days start dying, the police to come to her. She doesn’t know why they think she’d be involved, she dropped out of college and now avoids humans except her sister. Still, she has to know who did this. That means investigating. What she finds exposes a much bigger problem that could turn her life upside down and maybe change the vampire hierarchy, too.
Complicating her issues is the son of a famed vampire hunter. He’s on the trail, too, and the two must work together to try and stop more kids from being murdered. Expect serious sizzle between these two, even though neither wants to admit it. Also: Jace is hot. So, you know, selling point.
The plot throws some nice curve balls at the reader and Moth’s geek-girl nature makes me want to hang out with her. Sexual tension, humor and big fight scenes make me give Falling to Ash a big thumbs up.
The latest installment of Meljean Brook’s steampunk romance Iron Seas series is heavier on theThis review was originally posted at Vampire Book Club.
The latest installment of Meljean Brook’s steampunk romance Iron Seas series is heavier on the cultural elements and airship travel than the romance.
The first book The Iron Duke was dark, aggressive and sexy. In the second book Heart of Steel, Brook built on the world and gave us more adventure with lots of bedroom action. This third foray into the world of airships, steel body parts and nanoagents has a much slower build on the romance side. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but previous novels would likely give the expectation of kissing before one reaches the halfway point of the novel.
David and Annika are both held back from making advances in their relationship by emotional pasts and wariness of the other gender. David has mechanical body parts—a lens over one eye, an iron hand and metal legs and feet—and scars. His previous attempts with women have resulted in disgust over his body. So, he’s decided no one would really want to see him or kiss him or touch him.
Annika has a whole other problem. She’s not sure if she’ll ever be attracted to anyone. She thought she might like women (and, in fact, feels like she should due to plot points) but that hasn’t really panned out. David stirs her blood, but she’s not sure what to make of it. Any hint he gives her at being attracted she shuts down. Then communication complications ensue making for a long wait before romantic action really kicks in.
That said, when it does kick in, it’s wonderful. These two explore what it means to be in love. Once they’re honest with one another, a flame is lit and Riveted takes off in both romantic plot and super-charged action.
Riveted was a good read, but much more of an adventure novel with a strong romantic subplot than a straight-up romance. Like Brook’s other books, it brings robust characters and detailed world building. While not my favorite of the series, but still a thumbs-up read.
Any author who can weave wit, subversive undertones and clever world building into a novel getsThis review was originally posted at Vampire Book Club.
Any author who can weave wit, subversive undertones and clever world building into a novel gets my attention.
Cassie Alexander demanded my attention with Nightshifted. She took a scenario that could become very campy very quickly — namely a nurse working in the supernatural ward of a hospital — and molded it into a tale of self-strength, desperation and noble causes.
Edie works the crappy shift at the bottom-run hospital. She’s new to working on Y4, the secret ward for supernatural types. And she’s only doing to because the beings in charge agreed to keep her drug addict brother clean. Her work there finds her embroiled in vampire affairs, trying to save a child-like vampire girl.
But she’s not doing it because she wants to save the world. Just this one girl. Because something deserves to go right here. Atonement is Edie’s game.
Things on the romance front are awkward for her. She tends to be a one-night-stand type of woman, which is working just fine. Until it isn’t. And she meets a zombie — not the rotting kind, but a kind fireman. And he cares. And maybe she cares. And it’s complicated. And messy.
The merger of dark tone and wry humor make Nightshifted a must read for fans of Jaye Wells, Stacey Jay and Stacia Kane. I’m eager to read the next book, Moonshifted, to see how Edie progresses.
The first Razorland novel, Enclave, opened heroine Deuce’s eyes to the real world. In that firstThis review was first published at Vampire Book Club.
The first Razorland novel, Enclave, opened heroine Deuce’s eyes to the real world. In that first book, she learned not to blindly accept what elders told her. She learned what her world was really like. She began to question how she was raised, how the world came to be destroyed and learned it wasn’t such a bad thing to have a boy, Fade, touch her. Together, they escaped the tunnels and the ruins of Gotham, avoiding human and Freak predators alike. At the end they were taken to a Topside village with fortified walls and so much food.
The town is called Salvation, and it’s here that Deuce gets to discover what it means to have connections to others, to have family.
Initially, Deuce is stifled by Salvation’s rules. The town enforces stereotypical gender roles, and for a Huntress like Deuce that doesn’t make sense. She wants to fight, not sew. She’s better at hand-to-hand combat than any of the men in town. She has to prove herself again and again, but gains resolve by the new relationship with her foster parents.
Throughout Outpost we watch Deuce open up to emotion. Everything is new to her, not just the sparks she feels when kissing Fade, but the concept of having a mother, of having people who care if you live or die and what friendship really means. She is forced to balance this new, emotional Deuce with the Huntress version of herself. Reconciling the two is a journey that only makes you care more about Deuce.
It was hard for me to wait 50 pages until Fade becomes important in the book. I missed him. While Outpost, like all the Razorland books, is about Deuce, her journey is so tied to his that their relationship is key. Trust me, readers, once Fade is back in the picture the novel explodes with energy. Romance, danger and a bit of espionage make Outpost an excellent afternoon read.
Expect plenty of threats from the Freaks and some big changes on that front. The dangers in the Razorland world are constantly changing. When I finished Outpost, I could only imagine where things would go and what was about to happen. I expect you’ll want more, too.
I never thought I would describe any portion of a zombie book as cute, but well Married withThis review was originally published at Vampire Book Club.
I never thought I would describe any portion of a zombie book as cute, but well Married with Zombies is just that. As the tale progresses it takes on a heavier tone, but always juxtaposes the darkness accompanying a zombie infestation with heavy doses of laugh-out-loud humor.
Sarah and David have been attending marriage counseling for six months, and it hasn’t been doing any good. Even the little things – like David taking all six slots in the CD player – are enough to invoke vitriol from both sides. They show up to their most recent appointment, both on the verge of calling it quits, to find their therapist eating the couple before them. She turns, blood and black sludge pouring from her mouth, and tries to eat Sarah and David.
This is their first encounter with the zombie problem. Through the course of the book, the two are forced to work together to save themselves and in the process finally start to take some of their dead/undead therapist’s advice. They talk, they work together, they even laugh. Yes, the zombie apocalypse saves their marriage.
The journey has plenty of sad moments, but nothing beats arguments over the ill-fated doctor’s advice that includes lines like: “Just because she tried to eat us doesn’t mean she was wrong.”
While the core relationship aspect lightens the mood – as does some of the laugh-inducing dialogue – this is still a story of survival. Expect gore, expect the main characters to become accustomed to braining zombies with the butt of a shotgun and expect that not everything will go to plan.
Married with Zombies is a quick read sure to provide laughs and a few thoughtful moments. The premise is creative, and if you’re looking for something new (or a less heavy zombie book) it’s a good call.
Chess Putnam has always struggled with feeling unworthy. Having someone genuinely love her andThis review was originally posted at Vampire Book Club.
Chess Putnam has always struggled with feeling unworthy. Having someone genuinely love her and tell her she matters is altering. She’s sure she’s living a lie with Terrible. A beautiful lie. He makes her feel something real, something True and she would do anything to keep him happy — and that means staying with him.
Before when faced with the possibility of losing him, Chess did the unthinkable and marked him with magic and killed the creature sent to ferry his soul to the City of Eternity. Now dark magic is sweeping Downside, turning dealers and street men into zombies set on murderous tasks. Terrible, as an enforcer, has to intervene, but the dark magic takes him over. Chess needs to find a way to correct what she’s done to him. To protect him, the way he protects her.
Because he matters. And maybe she matters a little bit, too, because Terrible says so.
For those who love delving into Chess’ anxieties, her difficulty accepting love and just how our Churchwitch’s mind works, Chasing Magic is a win. While Chess still is every bit the flawed heroine we’ve come to love — drugs and all — she’s also growing. She won’t always do the absolute worst thing imaginable (she’ll consider it), but she’ll still dig a deep hole that will have you muttering “Chess. Oh, Chess. No. No. No.”
And, really, would you have her any other way?
Expect epic relationship growth with Terrible, Lex causing problems, zombies, dark magic and Elder Griffin getting married.
Sexual content: Dirty sex — but she makes you work for it...more
Note: While this review is spoiler-free for At Grave’s End, it will give away key points fromThis review was originally published at Vampire Book Club
Note: While this review is spoiler-free for At Grave’s End, it will give away key points from earlier Night Huntress novels. If you haven’t entered the great world of Cat and Bones, please read my review of the first novel Halfway to the Grave instead.
Jeaniene Frost has never been one to give her characters a break. One might think after ill-advised sacrifices for love, being kidnapped by one’s own father, impromptu vampire marriage and, well, having to deal with Cat’s mom in general, it’d be hard to find Cat and her husband Bones in worse situations. But, of course, it just gets worse — and I ate up every little bit of it.
I won’t give away the big double-take, freak-out moment. But, in other events, Cat’s mom does admit she wasn’t raped by a vampire, but it doesn’t make her any nicer to her half-vampire daughter. Dear ol’ dad is back in action and thinks taking out his daughter will make the other vampires quit teasing him about siring the half-breed Red Reaper.
In At Grave’s End, Cat and Bones’ relationship is solid and the focus shifts more to their interactions with others — and how those around them deal with C&B as a team. Tate refuses to give up on Cat, and her internal conflict over her good friend making blatant moves on her — in front of her husband — showcases the character depth of this series.
This third book in the Night Huntress series is when the door is opened to more of the supporting characters. We meet additional vampires that will make frequent appearances later including Vlad (yep, that one). The robust characters in this book help keep the reader grounded as the plot takes us to emotional highs and lows.
Dealing with the potentiality and reality of death, what happens when love is one-sided and the importance of knowing who truly has your back are heavy themes, but At Grave’s End handles them with humor and honesty.
You’ll still get Cat and Bones in love, but At Grave’s End is when you get to meet more Night Huntress characters worthy of your love.
Let’s just admit the cover art alone would be reason enough to read Diana Rowland’s My LifeThis review was originally published at Vampire Book Club.
Let’s just admit the cover art alone would be reason enough to read Diana Rowland’s My Life as a White Trash Zombie. Luckily, the book’s content exceeded expectations of a cheeky zombie novel.
Rowland manages to make becoming a zombie a soul-searching event. The book is still filled with snarky dialogue and dark humor, but at its core its about a woman reinventing herself – with a big push from the undead.
Angel was a high school dropout. She couldn’t keep a job, mostly because she didn’t care enough. She and her boyfriend Randy were on-and-off and their relationship consisted of drinking, popping pills, fighting and makeup sex. Her boyfriend’s “help” in getting a new car, lead her to a felony conviction for possession of stolen property. To say things were not great for Angel wouldn’t cover it.
She wakes up in the emergency room convinced she’d been in an accident – complete with memories of blood and broken bones – but there’s not a scratch on her. To make matters worse, the nurse tells her she was brought in naked from an overdose. Angel wants to argue. She doesn’t remember trying to kill herself or taking that many pills, but if someone were going to OD, it totally could have been her.
A mysterious letter arrives telling her she now has a job at the morgue and if she doesn’t want her probation officer to hear about the OD, she better start up her new gig. She takes to the new job with as much fervor as expected, but when she starts craving brains left out post-autopsy, she’s sure she’s going nuts.
While there is a mystery subplot (people are being decapitated), the heart of this story is Angel’s progression. In My Life as a White Trash Zombie, Rowland has given her main character the ultimate wakeup call. This is her second chance. She may have to eat brains now, but she finally has a job she cares about, people who care about her and no interest in drinking or drugs (they only cause her to need to feed sooner).
Equally gross and heartwarming, disgusting and riveting, My Life as a White Trash Zombie is a clever read. If you like to see a flawed heroine pull herself back up, and can handle visceral imagery, it’s a brilliant book. Fans of Carolyn Crane, Stacia Kane and Allison Pang will dig on this one. Big time.
Feed will stick with you. After you’ve re-shelved it and moved on to another title, you’ll stilThis review was originally posted at Vampire Book Club.
Feed will stick with you. After you’ve re-shelved it and moved on to another title, you’ll still be thinking about Georgia Mason, her brother Shaun, the lives of post-apocalyptic news bloggers, government conspiracies and just how a zombie apocalypse might go down.
It’s a lot to digest, and it is all given fair time in the 571-page Feed. Georgia was born after the Rising. She and her brother were adopted after two miracle cures mingled to create a virus which reanimates the dead. Their generation is accustomed to taking a blood test to enter the neighborhood, vehicle and home. They understood why people didn’t have pets more than 40 lbs., as those animals could had the virus amplify and transmit it to humans.
Georgia and Shaun shouldn’t have been used to open spaces, to small crowds or to spending time outside of safe zones. But they both were. The two are part of a team of news bloggers. Georgia is all facts, she discovers the truth and reports on it. She’s the post-apocalyptic version of a gumshoe. (I’m pretty sure my favorite college professor would love Georgia Mason. She’d run most beat reporters into the ground.) Shaun is more of the Gonzo type. He’s the one who goes out in the field to poke zombies so you don’t have to; leads the dangerous life for you.
And these two, with their friend and partner Buffy, manage to snag the prime placement on the campaign trail of a presidential hopeful. Senator Ryman is young enough to know bloggers are the trusted media these days, and by granting them full access to his campaign he’ll earn the trust of the voters. It doesn’t take long before it’s clear someone has it in for Ryman and his press corps of bloggers. Just who is behind the attacks is the big surprise.
Grant managed to fake me out plenty in this one. Some of my predictions were right, some of them were so very wrong and while I was guessing who was behind the attacks on Ryman, his campaign and the blog team, I never saw some of the big twists coming. Shocking and sad moments are peppered throughout this novel, and both are handled with grace, honesty and a realism that can be a bit haunting.
The landscape presented in Feed feels real. While zombies are a catalyst for much of the plot, really Feed is about fear and what happens if you let it take away your choices. We always have options. They may not be good ones, and may not lead to a happy ending, but we always have a choice.
Also, a word of warning for your time-management, once you hit about page 250 prepare to run the gauntlet. It’s the point of no return; the shift when you realize you will not be stopping for more than a bathroom break for the next few hours. It’s masterful work.
There is something to be said for a purposeful slow build, and Melissa Marr does it masterfuThis review was originally published at Vampire Book Club.
There is something to be said for a purposeful slow build, and Melissa Marr does it masterfully in Graveminder.
The small town of Claysville has special rules and almost all of them involve the dead. Everyone born in Claysville is required to be buried within the city. No one is to be embalmed and must be interred within 48 hours of death. And one woman, Maylene Barrow, attends every funeral. She’s the last to leave the graveyard, always whispering and pouring drink over the fresh grave.
But that’s not the only thing different about Claysville. The citizens have accepted they can’t ever leave. Those born within its limits who attempt to move elsewhere will fall ill, and even those who only lived in the town for a short time are stricken with a wanderlust that leaves them never feeling at home anywhere but Claysville. Rebekkah falls into that latter category. She’s always run from commitment. She ran from the boy she loved back in Claysville, she ran from her crazy mom and each new city still doesn’t feel right. When her grandmother Maylene dies, she has to rush back to Claysville. The moment she crosses the town border, she feels home. And she doesn’t like it.
To make matters more complicated, Byron is back, too. She ran from him years ago, but as one of the undertakers, he’s there to help her though it all. Plus, he’s still in love with her. She wants to run, but being near him makes the whole ordeal of her grandmother’s death more manageable. Unfortunately with Maylene gone, there is no one to mind the graves in Claysville. Rebekkah knows the basics without realizing it’s to keep the dead in the ground, but no one told her she was tapped as the new Graveminder. They didn’t tell her it’s now her job to make sure the dead stay that way, and to lead the Hungry Dead to the land of the dead.
And no one told Byron it was his job to protect her, to save her. He just did it on instinct. Quickly these two try to learn their new roles, but with everyone else forbidden from knowing the details of the pact that keeps Claysville free of disease and death, they’re on their own.
And that’s what makes the slow build work in Graveminder. We know a bit more about what’s going on in Claysville than either Byron or Rebekkah do, because we get peeks into other points-of-view. However, for the most part, we’re learning along with them. We’re along for the journey as they stumble onto the reasons why the dead rise, why people are tied to the town and just how the Graveminder and Undertaker are expected to interact with the dead. Additionally, the two main characters are struggling with their feelings for one another, which can only become more complicated as they discover their new role as a team ushering the dead.
Marr created rich characters and a fascinating mythology in Graveminder. There’s a bit of dealing with the past to accept your future happening, and you’ll be happy to watch as Rebekkah and Byron come to accept their roles. (Though, Byron is of the mind his job as always been to protect Rebekkah, now it just includes keeping her from becoming too enamored with the dead.) The novel is a beautiful blend of self-discovery, family drama, light romance and the supernatural.
Meljean Brook’s Heart of Steel is a straight-up adventure. Daring escapes, explosions, zombiThis review was originally published at Vampire Book Club.
Meljean Brook’s Heart of Steel is a straight-up adventure. Daring escapes, explosions, zombies, treasure hunting and one man’s quest to fall in love with the woman with a heart of steel.
While Heart of Steel is set in the same world as The Iron Duke, the tone is different. At times it’s rollicking, others deep, but where the first Iron Seas book brought the heat often, the second offers a slow burn. We met both Captain Corsair and Archimedes Fox in the first book. She the captain of Lady Corsair (Yasmeen), a mercenary airship, and he the hero of adventure novels. At the end of the last book, Archimedes had found himself flung overboard into a zombie-infested Paris. And Yasmeen was sad to see him go.
He wasn’t gone though. Not Archimedes Fox. Months later, he finds his way back to her determined to fall in love with her. Yasmeen’s past won’t let her open her heart, but she’s willing to take him to bed. He declines, sure he can make her long to kiss him. Instead he helps her seek vengeance and she helps him seek treasure. Both looking for purpose and a new place in the world.
Watching these two fall for each other is poetic. It’s never easy or quick. The gradual building of trust and complete acceptance resonates and makes the wait for that kiss very much worth it.
There are some nice twists and Yasmeen is ruthless. Sometimes you just need a hero who knows when to let his lady do the ass kicking. Archimedes gets this, and it’s undeniably sexy. Expect bar brawls, wild use of machetes, assassinations and the like.
Bottom line: Heart of Steel has characters worthy of adoration, a gripping adventure and a romance to cheer for.
Cassandra Clare knows how to give us what we like. Clockwork Angel is full of vampires, steampuThis review was originally posted at Vampire Book Club.
Cassandra Clare knows how to give us what we like. Clockwork Angel is full of vampires, steampunk, urban fantasy and oodles of mystery. The first novel in The Mortal Instruments prequel series, Clockwork Angel is set in the same world of Shadowhunters (those who keep the law between Downworlders like demons, vampires and the like and humans). But book one in The Infernal Devices series is 100 years before TMI and in London.
Tessa came to London from America. Her aunt just passed away and her brother, who recently moved to London for work, sent for her. However, things don’t go as planned. Upon arrival in London she’s kidnapped and told her brother is being held, too. She’s told if she doesn’t do as she’s told her brother will be murdered. She complies for his sake. Eventually, she finds herself in the care of the Shadowhunters, who agree to help her look for her brother. They’re sure Downworlders are breaking the law by taking him and will help her seek him out.
But things are not as they seem, and Tessa has more power than she knows. Yet, she’s still human. Isn’t she?
All the others at the Institute are orphans, too, and there’s this firm sense of family — even with the requisite bothersome little sister. Tessa isn’t sure she can trust them after her earlier experiences in London, but she doesn’t have any other options.
Victorian Shadownhunters? Oh yes! But they aren’t all gentlemanly, because we all like the difficult boys. You thought you loved Jace from The Mortal Instruments series (and, really, we all do), but we promise you’ll have trouble deciding which guy in this one is best for our heroine. Tessa is fantastic and both Will and Jem will have moments where you’ll just be screaming, “Kiss her! Kiss her!”
The visuals in Clockwork Angel are very strong. You’ll picture yourself inside the walls of Dark Sisters’ home. You’ll imagine walking down the hallways of London’s Shadowhunter Institute. You’ll bite you lip seeing a clockwork automaton the first time. And you might just get taken away by the surprising beauty of a nighttime walk in foggy London.
It’s not a quick read (it edges up near 500 pages), but with such a finite and encompassing world it’s easy to drop yourself into any character’s shoes in Clockwork Angel.
In short, with Clockwork Angel you’ll get Shadowhunters, snarky guys, strong women, deviants (human and vampire), cool transformations, vampires, magic, romance and even see a parasol used as a weapon. Clare continues her reign as a queen of YA urban fantasy.
Bonus: You do not need to have read any of The Mortal Instruments novels to read Clockwork Angel. So, dive in!
Sexual content: A make-your-toes-tingle kiss...more
Everyone who recommended this book to me billed it as a zombie romance. Each time I heard or read that phrase, I kept picturing two of the living deadEveryone who recommended this book to me billed it as a zombie romance. Each time I heard or read that phrase, I kept picturing two of the living dead presenting brains instead of flowers as tokens of affection. While that would be totally funny, it’s not akin to what I’ve been reading. Luckily, I read the inside flap on the dust jacket, and didn’t see any hints of the main character being a zombie.
I sank my teeth in, as it were, and was impressed by both the plot and themes of Carrie Ryan’s novel. The Forest of Hands and Teeth is not a zombie romance book. It’s a love story that just happens to have zombies as outside forces impacting the living characters. And, despite the dark tone, it’s a refreshing read. It’s not a story you’ve read before. (Though one could draw some similarities to the film The Village.)
Mary’s world is sheltered. Everyone knows it, and they’ve been convinced they should be thankful for the cloistering. The community is surrounded by a towering fence. Outside lies the Forest of Hands and Teeth, home to The Unconsecrated. Throughout the day The Unconsecrated will attack the fence, breaking fingers and limbs, attempting to get at the living inside. The Sisterhood (a religious authority, as you may have guessed) runs the town, and blames the wanton ways of society before The Return for the existence of the aforementioned zombies. All are taught that their community is the only one left. Everyone else has been killed or turned into one of The Unconsecrated.
Mary doesn’t believe that. For one, why are there paths leading away from their village? For another, her mother passed down stories of the ocean — such a vast body of water could surely keep The Unconsecrated at bay. She passes along her mother’s stories of the ocean, of the world before The Return to her friends, and knows there must be more out there.
As Mary doesn’t work hard to toe the party line, she finds herself under the watchful eye of The Sisterhood. She spots a girl in vivid red enter the village from outside the fence, but the sisters keep her hidden. The Sisterhood is keeping secrets, and Mary realizes she has options. But then the fence is breached, people are dying and she must flee.
She always wanted to leave, to prove there was more to the world, to find the ocean. But now she has her friends with her, including the guy she loves, his brother who loves her and her best friend who thinks leaving the village even when it is in shambles is a bad idea. Choosing to build the life she thought she wanted with the person she loves is hard when the chance to find the ocean, and maybe escape The Unconsecrated, is nearly in reach.
Often doing what is best for ourselves can be hard, especially as we grow. Carrie Ryan does an excellent job of depicting the internal strife that comes when you realize you’ve outgrown your dreams. When you realize you want something bigger, and are forced to make the hard choice to act on it. In a much more secondary way, it paints a picture of why transparency in government is vital. If the citizens had known more about The Unconsecrated, about the creation of their village, it’s likely they would have been better prepared.
While this review doesn’t focus on the romance angle, mostly to avoid spoilers, the interactions between couples are real, not storybook. Each of the characters in The Forest of Hands and Teeth feels honest to the reader, which is something I highly value.
Carrie Ryan recently released the sequel to this novel titled The Dead-Tossed Waves, which has been pushed toward the top of my to-read list.