Monday 8 December 2014

Messenger of Fear

Messenger of Fear by Michael Grant (Hardie Grant Egmont)
ISBN 978-1-4052-7622-1
PB RRP $22.95
Reviewed by Nean McKenzie

Following on from his successful Gone series, Michael Grant has now begun quite a different young adult series in Messenger of Fear. It's about a young girl Mara, who needs to understand and make amends for something terrible she has done wrong in her life. The only problem is, she doesn't remember who she is, or what it is she has done. A mystery guy called Messenger shows her other people's lives, where those that have escaped punishment for doing wrong are offered a 'game' they do not want to lose. Through this journey, Mara recovers the truth about herself and must then face the consequences.

This story begins and continues for some time with the main character Mara (and the reader) in a state of confusion. Mara wakes up in a field of dead grass, surrounded by yellow mist. She travels from one place to the other in the blink of an eye, where people can't see her. She doesn't know if she's dead or alive, or something in between. Mara's memories return as she witnesses young people like her making wrong decisions. Finally she understands why she is there with the Messenger, and what she has agreed to do. 

This is not a light read and deals with some dark issues such as suicide and bullying. On the back is the following warning: 'contains scenes of cruelty and some violence'. It is probably the torture scenes that are most difficult to read, although the dream-like aspect of the book takes away some of their reality. At its heart, the story is a about people who are punished for bad deeds by an ancient system of Gods called the Heptachy. This is revealed in the very last pages, along with the fact that Mara is apprenticed to become the next Messenger of Fear.

There's a mystery aspect to this — finding out what exactly is going on keeps the reader guessing. It is definitely a page turner. There are red herrings and a twist. For most of the story Mara is an observer and because of that she is quite a distant character. There are many sad stories but there is a lift at the end when one ends happily. Messenger of Fear is the first in a new series and adequately sets up this rather chilling world of crime and retribution.

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