This book is cool in a way "The Blood of Eden" wishes it was.
(Not trashing "The Blood of Eden" obviously. I kinda liked those books, even though I lost patience with Allie a lot halfway through "The Eternity Cure.")
So you know how it is, you're sitting around, reading your Julie Kagawa, and you suddenly get a feeling you're reading the description of a movie? When I reviewed that book, I described it as "cinematic", although "trying too hard" would have been equally appropriate. It just seemed to me that book really, really, wanted to be a movie and wasn't afraid to use minute descriptions of the protagonist entering a bar, snowflakes trailing in the air and the wind ruffling up their long leather jacket.
Why am I talking about Julie Kagawa's vampire dystopia romp, might you ask? Well, because if you take that, remove the "trying too hard" and ramp up the cool factor by a 100, you might just get "Messenger of Fear."
Full disclosure: I've met Michael Grant at a book signing. He's a pretty cool chap. This is the only book of his that I've read, but I'm already itching for the sequel because, really... it's action/horror in the best way possible.
Another disclaimer: there are no vampires in this book. Or dystopias. Instead, we have a Grim-Reaper-But-Not-Really type story with some mythology that some people would describe as "refreshing," others as "esoteric", or as "hackneyed" (or even "trying too hard"), depending on their mileage. I liked it it.
Our main character, Mara, wakes up without any memory besides her name. Nobody can see her, nobody other than a strange boy with the ability to manipulate time and space, who introduces himself as the "Messenger of Fear." More due to circumstance than choice, Mara follows Messenger as he goes about his duties, which are to find people who did wrong and challenging them to a game. Winning means atonement. Losing means punishment. And if you refuse to play, you get to face your greatest fear.
Fair warning: some of the imagery in this book might give you nightmares. Mine even came with a warning, both on the book jacket and in the author's dedication (which, again, thank you!) Michael Grant's very well-known for his "Gone" series and the "Brzrk" series, and those of you familiar with his writing will probably know what to expect. Those who don't, I would say this: If you are comfortable watching/reading "Attack on Titan", you will like this. Or, I suppose, if you liked "Anna Dressed in Blood," you'd like this.
Those of you who didn't, feel free to get the book and read it for the rest. "Messenger of Fear" is an action/horror/philosophical tale that balances its main components in just the right way to keep you hooked until the very end. Mara's quest to finding her identity is what starts the story, but it isn't by any stretch the most important aspect of it. The questions of what is good, what is bad, and what wrongs are the ones that we should be aiming to right, play a huge part in the narrative and, unlike some books, there is no clear, perfect answer by the end. The reader is left to ponder, just like one might do in RL after having to make a difficult choice.
The compromises we make are sometimes not perfect, but they are what they are.
Note: Image via BookLikes.