Obviously, something went terribly wrong. Genetic mutations have festered, reducing human longevity to twenty-five, even less for most women. To prevent extinction, young girls are kidnapped, mated in polygamous marriages with men eager to procreate. Sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery, a recent victim of this breeding farm mentality, has vowed to break loose from its fetters; but finding allies and a safe way out is a challenge she can only hope she will survive. A dystopian fantasy series starter with wings. Editor's recommendation.
Wither is the first of The Chemical Garden Trilogy by Lauren DeStefano. And I have to begin by saying if you like Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, I felt like this story went along those lines with Linton and the young Catherine (kind of, not exactly)...it just felt like that.
First thing that caught my attention with Wither is the cover. Isn't it beautiful? The way the girls hands are gripping the skirt of the dress in such a frustrated and almost confined way and how the bird in the cage looks connected with the line and circles to those hands? I love it! It really defines the story as a whole once you've read it.
Rhine is an orphan along with her brother, Rowan and they try to make the best of things in the house their parents left them after they died. They make it look like they are poverty stricken so as to not lure other orphans or anyone else not wanted to their door. They lock away their most precious possessions and items so they aren't stolen. They even take turns keeping watch each night with a gun to protect themselves and what meager things they have for themselves. That is until Rhine goes for a job and gets kidnapped by the Gatherers instead and taken to a large mansion somewhere far away from Manhattan and ends up becoming a sister wife with two other girls who were taken, Jenna and Cecily.
Being married to Linden Ashby couldn't be the worst thing in the world to Jenna and Cecily is in love with it all. Rhine, however, hates everything about the place, especially Housemaster Vaughn who is frantically working on an antidote to keep his son alive past twenty-five and maybe even try to help the girls to live past twenty. There's no way out unless you are escorting your husband to a party in the city and even then the way is blocked. Rhine puts on her facade and grits her teeth through all this living until she can figure out how to get out.
I will say this first, the only bad thing I found is that there is a lot of whining from the all the sister wives. I wanted to smack Cecily across the back of the head and say, "Chill out okay? You don't need to be so stuck up and rude to everyone." To Jenna, "Sorry about your life, but really, quit moping." And to Rhine I'd say, "Do something about it or just quit whining." Other than the whining that takes place, I love the characters.
Rhine is a strong willed heroine that determines after being forced into this marriage to Linden Ashby that she will earn his trust to be able to run away. I love the fact that she can be so determined and it helps her remember everything about her brother and never gives up hope that he may be out looking for her. I love that she is the favorite of the wives among the servants, they will do anything for her, even if it means they may lose their job, or even maybe, their life. Even when she starts to believe in her own facade in certain points and ways, she is able to shake it off and remember what her plan is.
Jenna is a quiet character. At first I thought Jenna was stuck up and didn't care about anyone else, but I loved her later on. She does everything she can to help Rhine leave the mansion and Linden behind without getting caught by their father-in-law, Vaughn. Cecily, yeah, I hated Cecily through the whole story until the last when I felt more sorry for her than anger.
Vaughn reminded me of Heathcliff of Wuthering Heights for parts of the story. The unrelentless, merciless being he is and how he creeps all the sister wives out. I shuddered with every moment Rhine had with Vaughn and even with what he may be hiding in the basement.
Overall, I really liked this story. It has great character development and is a character driven story. The imagery is realistic and Lauren weaved a fine new world for us to see and truly believe it may exist.