This book starts out somewhat normal, as far as dystopians go. We have an isolated village, fenced off from the rest of the world. The rest of the world is full of shambling undead or, as the book likes to refer to them, the Unconsecrated. Okay, cool. Not too bad.
It only gets worse from here.
Mary’s father is missing, presumed dead, possibly unconsecrated. Her parents had a loving marriage despite the fact that the marriages in the town are mostly arranged. The boys in the town get to pick which girls they wish to marry. With minimal courtship and theatrical ceremony, they are bound together in holy matrimony for the rest of their lives. Mary, of course, has a crush on a certain boy, Travis, who she wishes to catch the eye of. Unfortunately, his brother, Harry, called dibs. Harry’s proposal delays her and when her undead father comes to the fence, it drives her mother into a frenzy. Her mother is bitten.
The village is run by a group of creepy nuns, they take Mary’s mother in and allow her to chose if she wishes for a clean death or to become unconsecrated. In her grief, Mary’s mother chooses to stay with her husband and join the legion of the undead. Mary stands vigil as she sickens and turns, out of respect. Mary is then cast into the Sisterhood by her brother as he blames her for their mother’s demise.
In the sisterhood, Mary is rebellious and unbelieving of her fate and everything the Sisterhood tells her. When her crush is in a terrible accident, he is brought to a nearby chamber where Mary nurses him back to health and creates intricate stories to whisper to him in the dark. She’s head over heels by the time the mystery deepens.
A stranger appears! But, there is supposed to be nothing out there, beyond the fence.
Mary, I should mention, is obsessed with the ocean. To her very core she needs to see the ocean and nothing will stop her. Knowing that people can travel about without becoming undead only adds fuel to the fire.
The evil Sisterhood eventually brings the unconsecrated down upon the village. And so, with no village to go back to, Mary heads out onto a fenced in path away from the city. Travis, Cass (her best friend and Travis’s betrothed, even though she’s in love with Harry), Harry, her brother, and her brother’s wife all end up tagging along with. There is still plenty of mystery and tragedy during their travels.
At one point, they find another village. Upon investigating, they turn up so many undead that they are forced to take shelter. Mary ends up with Travis, playing house. Yet all she can think of is to be morose and fatalistic. Instead of spending the hours doing exactly what she wanted to do to begin with, she spends them thinking about the lives of the undead outside and how exactly to leave and get to the ocean. Seriously. She now has everything she ever wanted before they left the village and all she can think of is getting to the ocean. Someone needs to slap her.
This wasn’t what I was expecting from a zombie book at all. The romance was convoluted and over-complicated. Everyone knew who liked whom. They were just making each other miserable. I have no idea why they would do that. They’re supposed to be friends and relatives. Wake up and knock it off!
The action scenes were interesting. I still wanted to find out what happened next.
I want to know where the paths lead, because Mary and company only went down one of them and their mysterious stranger came from another route.
The concept was sound and also interesting. The characters were not. The romance was not. The obvious plot twists were not. The book still had a solid base to work from, the subsequent layers just seemed lazy and less thought out.
SoSo for me. I may or may not pick up the next one in the series. I am curious about the world as a whole, but I really abhor Mary.