The cover of this book has captivated me for a while - a beautiful young woman, a bird in a pretty cage.They are a couple of wonderful metaphors for entrapment and youth. The image, I can tell you now, does the story real justice. It includes the most important factors of the book, right down to circling the wedding ring on her finger. But no part is more important than what you will spot on the back cover; a depiction of an hourglass, nearly empty. The age-old symbol of time running out.
Could you imagine a world where men die aged 25, and women die at only 20? Where young girls are stolen away to be sold as prostitutes or brides to those willing to pay? Rhine is 16 years old when she is taken and sold to be a wife to 21-year-old Linden, whose first wife is already dying from the virus. At his mansion she is well-cared for, but she longs to see her twin brother and the lights of her home again. Down in the basement, something awful and terrifying is happening. Rhine desperately wants to escape, but time is running out, and in four short years she will be dead.
This story is heart-wrenching and beautiful at the same time. It is so full of emotion - of love, loss, sisterhood, anger, loyalty and even hate. It is despicably easy to read: You could get lost in it for hours only to find that you are much too close to the end. The plot is quite familiar and yet the way it is written and the difference in tone is entirely new. Notes of Margaret Atwood's 'The Handmaid's Tale' ring out from under the plotline; the take on the forced nature of being a wife for someone who you have never known is so akin to being forced to be a surrogate, like the handmaid. The absolute captivity and underlying fear is so extremely evident in the story.
The world is well-imagined and bursting with fine detail. The perfection of the world in which Linden lives, with his holograms, his golf course, his fine food and his servants is a stark contrast to the streets of Manhattan, where you board up your windows to stop orphans from stealing your food.
The characters are developed nicely. Each of them, even the minor characters, are multi-dimensional and so realistic. Rhine's voice is so strong that if you're not careful, it could start sounding an awful lot like your own, should you be stuck in such a difficult situation. You completely understand her thoughts and feelings, and she always does exactly what you think she should, or what you think you would do.
I could not put the book down and finished it within two days. I can't wait to know what happens next, in Fever (the second book in the Chemical Garden Trilogy).
An intriguing, realistic and achingly wonderful book. 10 out of 10.