By age sixteen, Rhine Ellery has four years left to live. She can thank modern science for this genetic time bomb. A botched effort to create a perfect race has left all males with a lifespan of 25 years, and females with a lifespan of 20 years. Geneticists are seeking a miracle antidote to restore the human race, desperate orphans crowd the population, crime and poverty have skyrocketed, and young girls are being kidnapped and sold as polygamous brides to bear more children.
When Rhine is kidnapped and sold as a bride, she vows to do all she can to escape. Her husband, Linden, is hopelessly in love with her, and Rhine can’t bring herself to hate him as much as she’d like to. He opens her to a magical world of wealth and illusion she never thought existed, and it almost makes it possible to ignore the clock ticking away her short life. But Rhine quickly learns that not everything in her new husband’s strange world is what it seems. Her father-in-law, an eccentric doctor bent on finding the antidote, is hoarding corpses in the basement. Her fellow sister wives are to be trusted one day and feared the next, and Rhine is desperate to communicate to her twin brother that she is safe and alive. Will Rhine be able to escape–before her time runs out?
I had Wither in my wishlist for a long time before I finally got it. And it took me a few months to clear out my to be read list until I got to it. Although I was excited to read the book, I was not dying for it, so I let it go on my regular reading order, and now I’m glad I didn’t rush it before other books.
We meet Rhine as she is about to be sold as a bride. In her world, girls are kidnapped and sold to wealth men, and the ones that are not chosen are killed or forced to prostitute themselves. You could tell that she is lucky to be chosen, but, well, sometimes it makes us wonder if what waits for her it’s really better. Rhine, as the other girls born after the first generation, is going to die around her 20th birthday. They say it’s a virus, discovered 50 years ago, result of genetic changes that eradicated cancer and other diseases, that kills girls at age 20 and boys at age 25.
Rhine is forced to marry Linden, a wealthy man who also marries another 2 girls in the same night, Jenna and Cecily. Jenna is older than Rhine, while Cecily is way younger. As we get to know better the other girls, it’s clear that Cecily seems to be happy with their marriage, as Jenna and Rhine feel like they are trapped in that situation. Rhine becomes friends of Rose, Linden’s first wife, who is suffering because of the virus. As the first wife, she got to go outside the mansion with her husband, she attended parties and important meetings with Linden. But now she is ill and in bed rest, tired of all the medicines and attempts of Housemaster Vaughn to find the cure for the virus. Rhine also becomes friends with Gabriel, her servant, a young man who, as all the other servants in the house, was bought by Housemaster Vaughn.
We soon find out that everybody seems to fear Housemaster Vaughn, who was behind the purchase of the new brides. Linden is naive and blindly trusts his father, Rhine finds out. When Rose dies, the girl realizes her only way out is to become the first wife, if she can win Linden’s trust he’ll take her outside the mansion and she’ll be able to escape.
Wither shows a dystopian world where getting old is fatal. I enjoyed reading it but it didn’t blow my mind. I kept waiting for something to happen to surprise me, but what I found out is that the story is as predictable as I hoped it wouldn’t be. For a dystopian book, I missed a few elements of it, that may be presented in the next book of the series, once this one is just an introduction to the world DeStefano has created. The narrative was a little bit too slow for me in a few chapters, but overall I thought it was an okay book.
My favorite quotes on this book are bellow.
I’ve been stolen, drugged, locked away in this place, yet I’m being served a gourmet meal. The sentiment is so vile I could almost throw up again.
Seventy years ago science perfected the art of children. There were complete cures for an epidemic known as cancer, a disease that could affect any part of the body and that used to claim millions of lives. Immune system boosts given to the new-generation children eradicated allergies and seasonal ailments, and even protected against sexually contracted viruses. Flawed natural children ceased to be conceived in favor of this new technology. A generation of perfectly engineered embryos assured a healthy, successful population. Most of that generation is still alive, approaching old age gracefully. They are the fearless first generation, practically immortal.
No one could ever have anticipated the horrible aftermath of such a sturdy generation of children. While the first generation did, and still does, thrive, something went wrong with their children, and their children’s children. We, the new generations, are born healthy and strong, perhaps healthier than our parents, but our life span stops at twenty-five for males and twenty for females. For fifty years the world has been in a panic as its children die. The wealthier households refuse to accept defeat. Gatherers make a living collecting potential brides and selling them off to breed new children. The children born into these marriages are experiments. At least that’s what my brother says, and always with disgut in his voice. There was a time when he wanted to learn more about the virus that’s killing us; he would pester our parents with questions nobody could answer. But our parents’ death broke his sense of wonder. My left-brained brother, who once had dreams of saving the world, now laughs at anyone who tries.
The man in white says, “What fate has brought together, let no man tear asunder.”
Fate, I think, is a thief.
You want to know about true love? my father the geneticist said to my brother and me as we watched them dance. I’ll tell you something about true love. There’s no science to it. It’s natural as the sky.
Love is natural. Even the human race can’t claim to be natural anymore. We are fake, dying things. How fitting that I would end up in t his sham of a marriage.
And here we are: two small dying things, as the world ends around us like falling autumn leaves.
Rhine. The river that, somewhere out there, has broken free.
It scares me how easily I can pretend to be in love with this life, and the husband who comes with it.
“You look stunning, by the way. Stay close so nobody snatches you up.”
Right. Being snatched once is enough for a lifetime.
“I still don’t know where you came from,” he says. “Some days it’s like you just fell from the sky.”
“Some days I feel like I did,” I say.