There’s really no rewrite necessary at this point. Everything makes a horrible, horrible sense.
In Wither, I suggested a bit that Linden was taking advantage of Rhine’s determination to invent goodness for him, but he’s not doing enough for it to be clear if he’s manipulative or just doesn’t care.
Sever changes that. Linden is talking much more, and everything he says says is calculated by the author to make Rhine stay and punish her for leaving, which leaves us with a Linden who is calculatedly saying things to hurt Rhine and make her stay.
And it fits so, so well, doesn’t it?
In other circumstances I might argue with Rhine’s role in making up excuses and justifications for him, but look at the world she’s grown up in. It’s a world of men doing terrible things to women, where your only safety is to find other men to protect you. Her parents die and she’s raised by her brother, who’s always embraced the role society had for him as the responsible one even though they’re twins, just as Rhine embraced her role of being an ornament. As young children her brother dreamed of finding the cure and she dreamed of pretty pictures in books. Learning was for people who can live all the way to twenty-five, people who aren’t likely to just disappear one day and have their murdered corpse found months later. They always got jobs together because Rowan was always scared that on her own she’d be taken, because girls on their own don’t make it but a girl with a boy might, just might, live long enough to die of the virus instead.
Then she’s taken by men. And another man picks her. And the first men kill all the other girls. But she’s alive because he picked her and wanted her, and now she’s safe from the rest of the men who might take her again and she doesn’t need to worry about finding a job or staying up all night in case of burglars or seeing frozen children. Everything’s so nice. And it’s all because he picked her while everyone else died.
And if he isn’t good – if he isn’t, then she’s never safe and all the horrible things could still happen to her, because she’s trapped by him. Rhine makes fun of Cecily for saying that everything has to be good now that they’re picked, but that’s exactly how she treats things. The only difference is that she pushes all her fears onto Linden’s father.
This too makes sense. She can’t pretend Linden came upon the gatherers and heroically rescued her. She knows what wives are. But she can pretend someone else kept him from knowing, no matter how absurd it is, because he’s her protector and that means he can’t be the sort of person who’d order girls killed for not being exactly what he wanted. He can’t be because if he is he might still order her killed.
Linden has to be good. She’s locked in. There is nowhere else to go. He has to be good and she has to be safe. But she’s been kidnapped and locked up and she knows all the other girls were killed and she’s sick with guilt over her brother not even knowing what happened to her and thinking she’s dead like the rest, and she can’t make that something good. She needs someone else to blame so it won’t be Linden who did them.
And who is the father? The father is the one who does something to her in the basement she isn’t clear on but involves being a medical doctor. What a perfect target for everything wrong. Rhine hates science and medicine. She and her brother blame science for the fact people who hate science murdered their parents and left them alone, which also gives a good insight into why Rhine’s response to everything now is to blame the victim. And here Linden’s dad is. He must be evil. Even his love for his son must be tainted and terrible, because if he loved his son, he wouldn’t pursue a cure, because if Rhine’s parents had really loved her they wouldn’t have run a lab and gotten killed and left her behind. Of course he secretly poisoned his son for science and nearly killed him! Parents who care about medicine and science are selfish and only hurt their children.
That’s why she’s so stuck on the dissection thing, on the combination of corpses and science. The basement is a lab studying the disease, just like her parent’s lab. And that blew up and took her parents with it, and now she’s living over the same thing.
Look at how she goes on about how Linden’s dad will just move on to Bowen when Linden inevitably dies. It doesn’t make any sense given the guy’s entire motivation is built around not wanting to lose another child, but it does make sense if the act of being a scientist means you don’t really care about your own kids.
All of this, though, only gets you so far.
She refuses to blame the guy who controls her life for anything. That’s too dangerous. But it doesn’t change the fact that she never even said goodbye to her brother, or the fact that she finds the attendant boy who treats her halfway decently a lot more attractive than the guy who only got her because she looks like his previous wife, and pushing all the blame onto his dad doesn’t prevent the fear from leaking in, because his dad is still there. And so is the lab, and the lab is proof the dad is evil and science is evil and bad things are always, always lurking. And so is her fear in general – she’s still scared enough of what Linden might do to her that she never dares tell him the truth about being kidnapped and missing her brother, even as she insists to herself that he’s good and all that stuff only happened because he didn’t know about it. And every time she deals with Linden, there’s fear again, no matter how desperately she tries to pretend his father is the only problem.
She manages to go because the house is increasingly unsafe, another girl has been murdered for not being good enough, and her only justification for how Linden isn’t evil by the end is that he’s powerless, which means he’s powerless to protect her too. She’s also worried Gabriel will get killed if she can’t get him out, and for a while afterward she’s okay enough because she has Gabriel with her to protect her and the hope of her brother when she gets home.
But then her brother is gone and she finds herself dying. The guy she’s poured all her fear into shows up to change the story – running away was partly to save someone else, but now staying will get that person and others killed.
And once she’s back again she just falls apart. She spent all of Wither desperately trying to convince Linden he didn’t need to do anything to her because she didn’t even want to run, and then she bolted for freedom. Her belief he was good was tied directly to her belief she would be safe if she didn’t do anything to fight back and give him reason to hurt her. And now she’s being hurt and it’ll never stop because she left the only person who would protect her and it’s all her fault for doing that.
But then – then Linden is helping her! Linden is keeping her safe, he’s all that stands between her and more torture.
Of course she’s now pathetically desperate to believe in him, even as it gets more contorted because she now has to believe he has the power to keep her safe even though he can only be good if he’s powerless. She’ll accept anything he says – it’s not his fault Cecily’s pregnant or dying, it’s not his fault he doesn’t care what his dad does, and she deserves every bit of judgement from him for her deceptions and betrayal.
Does it matter she was wrong about his dad keeping him in a bubble? No, what matters is he’s keeping her safe. Does it matter this new guy treats her like a pet he can rename, treats the whole kidnapping and rape thing as one big joke? She’s safe. She’s safe.
Perhaps this is part of why Rhine has issues with Cecily. Cecily’s beliefs are very similar but differ on the particulars. It’s like people fighting over very specific differences in doctrine. In Cecily’s canon, both men are kind gods and they’re for-real safe. In Rhine’s canon, the son protects them from the father’s evil. Talking to each other leads to challenging the flimsy excuses they’ve made.
And something must be up with Linden himself. In the first book he seemed to content to coast along on the goodwill of terrified trapped girls. His behavior seems to have changed in response to finding out his dad thinks there’s something special about Rhine, and he certainly makes something of the fact Rhine’s a twin. Suddenly, he’s much more interested in controlling and manipulating her. I think part of it is he can’t just lock her up at the mansion, since his dad could get her again, so he needs other ways to keep her from leaving.
Linden doesn’t have the ability or motivation to hide scientific leanings, so he can’t have any desire to use her directly, but whatever it is about her must be a valuable bargaining piece. It may simply be that her parents inoculated her with an experimental cure at some point before dying. Maybe she and her brother were attempts to reconstruct the original human genome/reproduce the first gen superbabies. Whatever it was, it’s not so well known Linden recognized her from the eyes when he picked her, but he’s able to work it out by his dad’s interest. He may not have even been sure exactly what was going on until she admitted she had a twin.
My best guess is whatever it is about her is relatively well known of but may not be directly applicable to fixing the existing second generations, which is what his dad cares about. Linden doesn’t seem particularly invested in his own survival or that of everyone else, so he may have no interest in keeping her to try to figure out a way to save him and his son – he’s made his peace with his own death and he likely thinks success is a longshot here, while, say, selling Rhine to the president or whoever else knows the same story is better from a risk/reward standpoint.
It may also be that you need the matched set to get anywhere. His dad was trying to reverse engineer it from just her, because a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, but if Linden does want to survive past twenty-five, he has less time. If he pretends she’s free, she might lead them to her sibling.
(This could also explain why it takes forever for Rhine to be picked up in Fever despite having a tracking device. That was his dad taking a calculated risk in hoping she’d meet up with her brother again. He only comes to get her when she spends ages in one place, and his first attempt seems amateurish – once she’s over the carnival’s fence she’s safe again, despite her being on foot. The second time, once she’s reached home, searched for her brother and given up, is when he makes sure to come for her in a way that won’t let her escape.)