Monday, September 15, 2014

Triple ARC Review: Messenger of Fear - Michael Grant

Messenger of Fear
Michael Grant
Series: Messenger of Fear #1
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Release Date: September 23rd, 2014
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Word Rating: More or Less Traumatizing.
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Kayla sucks eggs.

This novel is just . . . wow. It blew my mind.

It's hard to describe something when it's so completely brisk and fresh.

As far as I can tell, Messenger of Fear is a meditation on the morality of just punishment wrapped in a loose narrative. For me it's hard to contain it in the word "novel" . . . it's more of an exploration.

What I mean by this is best described along with the book itself. The narrative is about Mara Todd, a girl who, in the first few pages has lost nearly all of her memories and meets an enigmatic stranger called Messenger. Mara must journey with the Messenger because of something that's happened to her, maybe something she's done, but she can't remember. She is taken to see people die in various ways, wrought from fear and mistake, meeting interesting characters like the sexy, disruptive Oriax and the even more mysterious Daniel. And all of this is written so naturally, so well, it seems as though it is meant to be completely secondary. Mara is written without memories and thus acts as a more or less regular human with predictable responses -- she is written to be an objective, detached narrator, at least at the start. And the other characters give us nothing about themselves. Oriax? Nothing, except that she works for a higher power and she knows Messenger. Daniel? Pretty much nothing at all, that guy is an enigma wrapped in enigmas. Even Messenger, who Mara spends nearly all of her time with, gives us only tiny fragments into his life and the mythology of the books: there was a girl in his life called Ariadne, he is repenting for some mistakes, etc.

That isn't to say the characters have no depth. Mara and Messenger are fleshed out emotionally and developmentally, but Grant does not give us a lot of time and concrete backstory to understand them -- indeed, the minor characters like Samantha Early are fleshed out than Mara. What I loved was the precision to which this was done -- it's much easier to try to write a full, rich character with lots of details. That's what most people are like in the real world. But Grant has to work almost entirely on the present events of the novel to provide an objective platform, and it works and that's just amazing, I've literally never seen anything like it in YA fiction.

If that's not enough, the humor, the wit, the beautiful descriptions, and the genuine terror and apprehension of Michael Grant books is readily available here!


- Marlon

Noor's Messenger of Fear Review
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Word Rating: Haunting 

After receiving a signed ARC of Messenger of Fear at BEA, I knew it was at the top of the list of books I wanted to read this summer. Now that I've read it, I can say that it definitely does not disappoint and is honestly such a new and fresh book that I can barely string together the words to describe how I feel about it.

Okay, I don't even know where to begin. The whole concept of the book was so interesting and I really enjoyed the way it was executed. The Messenger of Fear visits those who have done wicked things and offers them a game. If they win, they walk free. If they don't play or they lose, they face their biggest fear and then eventually do get to walk free because, you know, he's not a reaper or anything and can't go around killing people who bully classmates or hit animals with their cars. And Mara, the protagonist, wakes up in the field with no memories and finds out she is now his apprentice and is training to herself be the Messenger of Fear.

I just thought the whole idea of it was something that hadn't really been done, especially in this way before. And then Michael Grant introduced more characters from Messenger's world, such as Oriax, who is mysterious, sultry, seems pretty manipulative, and always appears at the most climactic moments of Mara's journey. There's also Daniel, who seems to know everything and generally be present when all the major stuff is happening. There's a very interesting dynamic between the "real" world and the one involving the mythology of the book and I liked how the characters all had their own stake in the situation and their own part to play in the outcome. I especially liked Oriax, she was honestly one of my favorite characters. I thought she was so entertaining and I loved the mystery that surrounded her, even at the end, when we came a bit closer to finding out who exactly the Messenger and his associates are. Although, I thought she'd try harder to get Mara to join her side, whatever exactly that encompasses. Messenger himself was done very well. He was very drawn into himself and stoic, and possessed quite a bit of mystery. From the fact that touching him is a huge no to the woman he's in love with and searching for, he is a puzzling character and one that I found myself wanting to explore more.

Mara was a very interesting character as well and it was fascinating to see her develop and to see which aspects of her personality would prevail when she had no memories of her life to base herself off of. As the book progresses, the Messenger slowly reveals more and more of her memories to her, eventually revealing everything by the end, which has this big twist that isn't rocket science or anything, but not, in my opinion, too plainly and obviously there for the reader to guess. It's hinted at in a few ways but they're pretty subtle and the impact of the revelation still gave me chills even though I had a pretty strong idea of what was to come. The big scene where it all comes crashing down on her was done so well that I don't think it matters whether or not you figured out the twist.

A lot of the appeal for this book has to do with Michael Grant's writing itself. His prose is so fluid and refined, it just made the words so digestible that I finished this book in one sitting even though I had told myself "Oh, I'm just going to read a few chapters and then go do something productive." Every description is done so well and when he writes about the way the Messenger feels the pain of every one of their "victims" I feel it too, and can feel sympathy and emotions towards a character whose identity I barely know and who has shown very few bits of himself.

I feel like there's a lot to say about this book that I can't encompass in a review and just need to tell you to read it. I love the writing and I love characterization, and I love the direction he plot goes and watching them take the people through the trials and would definitely recommend this book. My only qualm is that I wish some things were a little more elaborated on, and that the book just needed to be longer in general. For example, at the end, Grant tries to explain some more of the mythology behind the characters but it opens up all new questions and the book would generally just do better with more details and explanations. I know a lot of it is supposed to remain a mystery but some of it isn't and those parts could use a little more explanation. However, besides that one thing, I found everything else about this book to be phenomenal and I hope to read more of Michael Grant's works in the future.


Amrutha's Messenger of Fear Review
Rating: 3.75 out of 5 stars
Word Rating: Enticing 

Before standing in line for Messenger of Fear at BEA 2014, I had never read a Michael Grant book, nor had I any idea of the premise of this novel. But, while standing in a crazy long line (only good/really famous authors have lines like this), I got really into the premise of this book, which Noor and Marlon have both explained, involves Mara and the Messenger. 

The concept and realm of the Messenger of Fear was so interesting to me, and I feel like it was executed phenomenally. Although I did not like how I didn't have a huge backstory on Mara, I did understand how it was necessary to the plot of her waking up in a field with no recollection of how she got there. It also upset me a little that there wasn't a lot of backstory about most of the characters, especially about the Messenger himself. As someone who is unendingly nosy and just incredibly curious about other people's lives, I really wanted to know the backstory of these characters. Mara, the Messenger, and the other major characters in the novel were incredibly rich in terms of description and emotional depth, which just made me want the back story that much more. 

I agree with Noor about Oriax, who also does not have any real backstory, but is super awesome and is probably my favorite character from the book altogether. Oriax is another reason I wish I could've known more about the background of her character other than job working under some higher power. She was, like Noor said, super intriguing with her mystery and I really wanted to continue reading the book for her.

Speaking of mystery, I just want to say the climax/mystery/twist part of this book was executed flawlessly. Sometimes, with a twist that is sometimes guessable (to the right reader) it is hard to pull off a twist ending that everyone will enjoy reading. The ending was easily the best part of this book, climaxing with an interesting bang that is a good read even if one guessed what was going to happen. 

Just a general note about the writing in this book: it's phenomenal and clever and all around provides for a great story. The real lack for me was just the lack of background description which I so crave. This book is a def. recommended novel for everyone who likes to read a book that is good from start to finish. 

If you could keep one memory if you were in Mara's position, what would it be, and why?
Let us know in the comments!

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