Thursday, 14 April 2011

Review: The Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan

There are many things that Annah would like to forget: the look on her sister's face when she and Elias left her behind in the Forest of Hands and Teeth, her first glimpse of the horde as they found their way to the Dark City, the sear of the barbed wire that would scar her for life. But most of all, Annah would like to forget the morning Elias left her for the Recruiters.
Annah's world stopped that day and she's been waiting for him to come home ever since. Without him, her life doesn't feel much different from that of the dead that roam the wasted city around her. Then she meets Catcher and everything feels alive again.
Except, Catcher has his own secrets—dark, terrifying truths that link him to a past Annah's longed to forget, and to a future too deadly to consider. And now it's up to Annah—can she continue to live in a world drenched in the blood of the living? Or is death the only escape from the Return's destruction?

This book was one of the most tense and stressful ones I’ve read. Seriously, I didn’t realize until I’d finished and relaxed just how stressful it was to read – but it was so worth it, because this book is absolutely brilliant.

I love Carrie Ryan’s books, she’s an incredible writer, her prose is beautiful – haunting and morbidly terrifying all at the same time. But her true talent lies in her ability to make me feel for the characters, and the situations she puts them in to. See above and the levels of stress…

The first book in the series ‘The Forest of Hands and Teeth’ introduced us to a world that was sunk into despair and destruction. The undead roamed the world beyond the fences, and it seemed as though the village we were introduced to was the only piece of civilisation left. It was a brilliant book, the high terror of the undead making it a thrilling ride, and the clear cut way that Ryan set out that no-one was safe. No matter the love story or romance, people could die no matter what.

Then the second book 'The Dead Tossed Waves' gave us a fresh narrator and more threats. This time it wasn’t just the un dead that washed up on the beach and pressed against the fences, now it was the authorities that were chasing them, and it became horribly clear that actually when the world ends, self preservation comes above everything else.

And then here we are with the third book, and it’s not just a few undead pressing at fences and moaning. No this time it’s a horde. The entirety of New York city awash with undead until people are forced to travel over the rooftops or underground. And even then it’s no safe. The sheer scale of destruction and force that Ryan describes is real and electrifying, and absolutely horrific. She’s not afraid to shy away and make everything fluffy and ok and have a happy ending. There is always a terror that there is no hope – which is fairly easy to slip into when not even a third of the way through the book the main characters are trapped in the last out post of civilization with the entire city overrun with dead. I mean how do you get out of that situation? I genuinely thought that was it. That everything would be futile and they’d be battling against the inevitable, but Ryan is able to pull even the tiniest slivers of hope out of terrible situations.

Again the threat from the authorities is back, but it’s even worse than last time – the sports, the attitude, the horrors that Annah faces are so horrible I can’t even really describe it. Everything is bleak, and I admired her strength that she kept fighting even through all of this. And what for? For love, for a chance at happiness, for life. It’s just so heart breaking and achingly beautiful all at the same time.

I loved the flip side of getting to know the other half of the twin set. Gabry’s point of view guided us through the second book, and now we got to see her twin Annah’s side to life. In the second book I didn’t like the sound of this other twin, the selfish one that left Gabry alone in the forest. So it was strange to suddenly find myself caring about her and seeing Gabry as the nasty one, because she had had an easier time of it and she had already found love. Annah was tortured, and was the hardest and most brittle narrator we’ve had, but she’s also seen more, in some ways survived more, and it was fascinating to grow form that tiny perspective of the village in book 1 to come to this massive city and watching it destruct.

Annah suffered from so many normal problems of teenage girls – feeling ugly, un-beautiful, broken and hard and impossible to love, and terrified to care about others in case they let her down. I cried for her, and was so amazed at her tenacity to keep going, and I think of all the narrators, she ultimately has become my favourite.

And I loved the ending. Through all of the horrors of the book (and let me tell you, it does not let up until the last page or so.) it was nice just to take a breath and go you know, it might maybe just about be ok. Ryan isn’t afraid to waft the possibility of a happy ending at you, and then go, no, not yet – let’s put some more high terror in there before any of that mush happens.

So after all that, it was amazing to finally come to the conclusion (as far as I’m aware) of the series. I think of all the books this was my favourite, but it only became that because of the build-up we’ve had over the previous two books. Without those behind it I don’t think the impact would have been the same. So if you’re looking for a new dystopian series, get going with the first book ‘The Forest of Hands and Teeth’ and if you’re already immersed in the series, go and get hold of ‘The Dark and Hollow Places’ it’s an incredible finale to a truly great series.

1 comment:

  1. I love the way the relationship between Cather and Annah developed. They are two very broken people who think that they can never be loved by anyone. Cather has the virus alive inside of him and Annah has extensive scarring on the left side of her body. These two flaws are what they hate about themselves but make them unique to each other. Throughout the book, they're both trying to tell the other one not to worry about the flaw because they love it but they're having a hard time loving themselves.

    Overall, I really enjoyed the ending of a great trilogy that I've come to love. The ending is so open that it allows the reader to fill in the blank.