Saturday, 12 March 2011

Book review: The Forest of Hands and Teeth

By Carrie Ryan
Published by Orion Books

The Forest of Hands and Teeth is not the kind of book that I would normally go for but I was attracted by its cover and – after reading the blurb on the back – I was hooked.

Carrie Ryan describes a world dominated by fear. Fear of the Unconsecrated, zombie-like creatures that populate the forest surrounding the village that’s home to Mary and her family. Life is governed by the rules of the Sisterhood and is protected by the Guardians, who strive to keep the mass of hungry Unconsecrated on the other side of solid fences that run around the whole perimeter of the village.

Despite making the village a safe place, in Mary’s eyes the fences become the symbol of her imprisonment. She was born after the Return and she craves a life that she has not known but that she has glimpsed through the tales of her mother. She grew up hearing about the ocean and buildings so tall that touched the sky. “Fancies,” people call them. To Mary, however, they are as real as the fences that separate her from the vastness that she is sure lies beyond the forest.

Her quiet life suddenly changes when her mother is bitten by an Unconsecrated and becomes one of them. Not being allowed to live on her own, Mary is taken in by the Sisterhood, where she understands that secrets are being kept from the villagers. This knowledge shakes her already dwindling faith in the edicts of her society, which, for example, have turned marriages into pragmatic unions rather than romantic relationships.

The order of the village plunges into chaos as the fences break and a ferocious attack of the Unconsecrated begins. Mary manages to escape with a few others – including her betrothed and the man she loves – and starts following paths that they had never been told existed. Where do they lead? Which trials will she have to face on her way towards the unknown?

All in all, I must say that I have enjoyed reading this book. The characters are developed in a way that makes you care about their fate, the story reads well and gore is kept to a minimum. After a while, though, the attacks of the Unconsecrated started to sound a little repetitive. I would have loved to read less about these assaults and more about the Return, the Sisterhood and the secrets it hid.

I have just learnt that The Forest of Hands and Teeth is the first of a series of three books, which include The Dead-Tossed Waves and The Dark and Hollow Places. Perhaps all my questions will be answered once I read them. However, I am unsure whether I'll want to risk reading two more books which I fear might be exactly like the first. I feel like I should have been given something more to tickle my curiosity.

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