Wither, Ch4

Last time on Wither, we continue to dance around her impending rape.

Chapter Four opens with her in the basement of her house. She’s keeping watch for the night.

Thieves are constant, but she says they’re mostly little kids looking for food or something they can sell. She says she’d rather just feed them, but her brother refuses.

Feeding one is feeding them all, and we don’t own the goddamn city, he’d say. That’s what orphanages are for. That’s what laboratory wages are for.

Well, it’s obviously not what either are for if the kids are still starving. Also, you can’t run an economy like this. Someone has to be producing things, you can’t have some people getting paid to do research and other people getting paid to get research done to them. Nothing enters that system.

The majority of their population is going to be preteens. Kids can work on farms or in factories to produce the food/clothes/electricity they need. Kids must be because they’re the only ones left to employ.

Also – they’re not sleeping because there’s only two of them and someone always needs to be on watch. If they let some kids in, that’s more people to keep watch. Plus it’d be warmer.

The one time an adult comes, her brother’s asleep on watch.

He takes work where and when he can get it, and it’s always arduous; he’s always in pain at the end of the day.

He’s one of the only people who can actually do work! They should be desperate for workers.

Now, because there’s no importing, most of New York’s towering buildings have been converted to factories that make everything from frozen food to sheet metal.

Uh. Wow. No.

Weight. New York’s buildings were made to hold their intended weight. Even with safety overengineering, you can’t move huge machines into office buildings. And more, these buildings are also degrading over time without proper upkeep, and how on earth would you have proper upkeep under the circumstances?

Why would you even want to center factories in New York? New York was originally a base because of trade. If you’re not importing, you’re not exporting, all this stuff is going back to the rest of America. So why not just leave your factories on mainland?

Food processing should go near the center of farms. Metal smelting should go near coke mines. Especially as population numbers drop, lived areas should be shrinking and far-flung distribution networks are going to be discouraged, if they’re possible to maintain at all. I’d expect a lot of things shifting over to stuff like water power, because I can’t imagine the electric grid is all that stable these days, which means factories would start to be clustered around fast rivers.

(There is no elaboration on why no importing.)

I’m usually able to find work handling wholesale orders by phone

…how many secretaries would you need?

I mean, from the sounds of it the economy’s completely fucked. There can’t be many companies left to order large batches of things. Even if there were, you need very few people to manage distribution compared to the number of consumers.

Shopkeepers are so grateful to have paying customers—as opposed to the penniless orphans who always try to steal the essentials—that they give us deals on extras like electrical tape and aspirin.

The point at which shopkeepers are grateful to even have paying customers is well past the point shops can’t keep running.

Also, the jobs her brother gets appears to be of the moving a box from point a to point b type, which is about as untrained a labor as you can get, so why wouldn’t most orphans be able to manage?

But anyway, so one night she wakes up and there’s a huge twenty year old guy with a knife at her throat. Her brother wakes up and blows his head off, and then freaks out because it’s his fault for falling asleep on watch.

“It’s okay. He would have gone away if we’d fed him.”

Rhine is quite the pollyanna, isn’t she? I’m starting to see why she’s so given to assuming all the people around her are friendly and well-meaning.

I’m still unsure this is actually a good writing choice. Nothing about this book suggests it’s actually meant to portray psychological depth, and just because you might be able to conceive of a person who’s forgiving and thinks the best of people and is fine with getting kidnapped and raped doesn’t mean it’s a great choice for your YA everygirl protagonist.

Anyway, she’s especially wrong in this case: “Don’t be so naïve,” Rowan said, and lifted the dead man’s arm pointedly. It was then that I noticed the man’s gray coat. The clear mark of a Gatherer on the job.

So apparently the kidnappers have an established uniform.

Okay, so I guess this is legal, and the uniform is so police know not to bother someone breaking into a house or dragging a screaming kid off as long as they’re wearing grey. Except anyone could get a grey coat and just run around stealing silverware, because it’s not like it’s hard to get a grey coat.

Also, seeing as this is legal, why the kidnapping? Just say all girls have to get checked over for health and then the best ones get picked. You’d get much better results than relying on random thugs eyeballing girls for general attractiveness.

She explains that while they usually just grab girls off the streets, if they think there’s something special and valuable about a girl they’ll hunt her down in her home. So she continues to be super special since age thirteen.

They put in new locks and string up an alarm system of aluminum cans. Once again, having orphans sleep up there would be a better warning system.

She hears the basement door opening.

But instead of the darkness of our house, there’s sunlight, and the most breathtaking garden I have ever seen.
I barely have time to take it all in before the doors close in front of me. The doors of a gray van, a van full of frightened girls.

So, I’m pretty sure this is what I brought up at the end of the last chapter, that the luxury is supposed to balance the whole kidnapping thing, where on the one hand there’s the van, but on the other hand, there’s the garden, and she’s trying to figure out which one she should focus on.

This is missing that the garden is not the way out, it’s just a different section of her cage.

And she wakes up.

My legs and hips feel sore when I stretch them against the satin sheets. I peel back the blankets, assess myself.
I’m wearing a plain white slip. My skin is tingling and hairless. My nails have been rounded and polished. I’m back in my bedroom, with its window that doesn’t open and its bathroom so pink it’s practically glowing.

Her assessment does not include if she was raped or not. She was told they were getting her ready for her rapist. Then that she was going to be brought to a doctor before seeing her rapist. Then she was knocked out next to a bed that had ties for limbs.

I think this is more writing as if it’s the Hunger Games, where the getting prettified is just a bizarre sidenote. Although then that got creepy when the whole sex slave thing was brought up.

But then a servant came in and it’s the little girl, bringing Rhine’s wedding gown.

The dress is taller than she is, and it drags luxuriously along the floor as she holds it up. It glitters with diamonds and pearls.

Because sure, impending rape, but look how pretty the dress you get is!

Rhine does pull herself out of that a second later, at least.

The last thing I want to do is try on what is clearly my wedding gown, just so I can meet House Governor Linden, the man responsible for my kidnapping, and Housemaster Vaughn, whose name alone made Deirdre go pale in the elevator

Also House Governor Linden the man about to be responsible for your rape.

Rape rape rape. I’m going to search the book now to see if the term ever appears.


Well. It turns out my expectations weren’t low enough.

I feel like this whole Let’s Read is redundant. You can get across everything you ever need to know about the book from that one image. Does tumblr have a wither tag? I’m going to go upload it there because my understanding of the tags is they’re supposed to be for squee because they’re tracked by people who like the subject and fuck you if you like these books.

I’ve been saying that maybe there could be some reason to have a character who’s strangely okay with this. But there is no possible way you can justify writing a story that’s okay with this.

And that’s what this is going to be. It isn’t the character being strangely forgiving, it’s the author thinking things aren’t such a big deal in the first place.

Well. I might as well see how much worse this can get.

But she’s holding up the dress and looking so sympathetic and innocent about it that I don’t want to give her a hard time.

Okay, this I’ll give.

This is a little girl in a world where most orphans are starving. She doesn’t have any power. For all we know she doesn’t have any more rights than Rhine does. Being mean to her is futile and just making everyone unhappy.

But we’re back to the question of why the author made this decision, because it doesn’t seem like it’s under this reasoning at all. It’s just an excuse to make Rhine go along with things despite saying she objects, even though her behavior here is the same as how she acted with the older women earlier when there was no sympathetic and innocent person in the room. The author just wants to get on with talking about how pretty everything is.

Since it seems she’ll be sticking around, her name is Deirdre. Apparently she made the dress. This just makes things more confusing. If we’re accepting kids can be skilled seamstresses at this age with enough training, then why are orphans in general treated like they’re unemployable? And why is a skilled seamstress being employed as a general maid?

The dress is strapless, shaped like the top of a heart at my collarbone. The train is V shaped. And I suppose, from an aerial view, I could be a satiny white heart as I make my way down the aisle. At least I can’t imagine a lovelier thing to wear on my way to lifelong imprisonment.

And more lip service about the fact this sucks while the focus is on how very, very pretty and lovely everything is.

Rhine asks if Deirdre made all three dresses and she says no, just Rhine’s.

“You’re my keeper; I’m your domestic.

“Keeper” is an incredibly odd choice of word. I’m not sure why it was chosen.

Plugging it into google for the definition, I get:

A person who manages or looks after something or someone, in particular.
A guard at a prison or a museum.

custodian – guardian – guard – warden – caretaker

None of these apply. The only one that’s even within shouting distance is “manages” but she’s not actually managing a servant, she’s just being served by one. A keeper is either someone caring for or imprisoning someone else. The first is obviously not what’s happening. And if she’s meant to be Deirdre’s warden, what possible punishment could they have for looking the other way while her domestic runs off? One girl has already tried to commit suicide.

The only definition that makes the slightest sense comes from urbandictionary, which involves someone who’s a keeper in the marriage sense, and I really doubt the sentence is supposed to read “Of the people who my employer thinks is a good choice to marry, you’re the one I’m assigned, so I will refer to you as my person who my employer thinks is a good choice to marry.” because that makes no fucking sense for her to say.

Then she does the makeup. Again, this is a little girl. Skills take time to teach. Even if we accept she could learn both skills, the time spent teaching makeup is time spent not sewing things, and then employing her to do makeup is more time spent not sewing things. Even if sewing things wasn’t so much more valuable, with their short lifespans you should see hyperspecialization.

Then she starts talking about the wedding.

It goes in order of age, youngest first. So there will be a bride before you and a bride after. There’s the exchange of vows, of course, but the vows will be read for you; you won’t be required to speak. Then there’s the exchange of the rings

But how many weddings could she have ever seen? At most, she might just be old enough to have seen the previous wedding when she was a preteen.

How many weddings have there even been at all? She’s talking about this like it’s established tradition, but even going with the longer fifty years of knowing kids die and not the more likely thirty years, it would have taken a long time to realize they could do anything about the disease, then longer to start worrying about people not marrying enough, and longer still for people to get used to the idea of forcing women into polygamous marriages, and even longer for it to become established that you should have mass marriages and then end up finally at a traditional way of deciding what order to have kids in. Maybe you could have that happen within a century, at best.

And this has to be wedding rules specifically for kidnapped girls, because you’ll notice they removed the bit about speaking. That’s actually a really important bit – even when women were sold, people who tried to bypass that rule got smacked by societal disapproval. You can hold a shotgun to her head to get her to say it, but you have to get her to say the words. Weddings are serious business. And if you’re changing all sorts of other parts of society, you need to hew as closely to tradition as you can in order to give what you’re doing some legitimacy.

Deirdre is overflowing with knowledge about the wedding, but at least it makes sense she’d know about the way things are set up since she’s a servant.

even how softly I should speak.

Wait. So she’s also giving Rhine a crash etiquette primer. But how on earth do they expect the girls to behave for this farce? Is there a threat of death if you don’t behave? Because again, one of the girls already tried to jump out a window, so it can’t be much of an incentive. The only other kid mentioned so far was an only child, and Rhine only has a brother because they’re twins, so even if they were willing to threaten family members most kids probably don’t have them.

Why wouldn’t anyone scream?

But Rhine doesn’t think of that. Instead, she’s shown a mirror. Deirdre is apparently just as talented with makeup as she is with dresses.

My eyelids have been painted pink, but it is not the obnoxious pink of the bathroom here. It’s the color between the reds and yellows at sunset. It sparkles as though full of little stars, and recedes into light purples and soft whites. My lips are done to match, and my skin is shimmering.

You know Altas Shrugged? Reprehensible book, yes. But one of the things I liked about the worldbuilding was that at a certain point it didn’t matter how much money you had, there was nothing left to take. Once you let the bridges collapse, you can’t get anything from California if you live in New York. It doesn’t matter how much money you have. It doesn’t matter how many people you’ve hired. Once you let the farms fail, there is not food. There will not be food if you can find more money, because there is no food. While the author didn’t understand much about wealth, she at least understood that if your economy collapses, things just stop being there for anyone, even the wealthy.

But somehow, the fact that people die at twenty and the only servant they can find for her is a little kid doesn’t impact her beautiful outfit or how lovely her makeup is, the kid just happens to be a prodigy at both.

I look, for the first time, like I am not a child

BULLSHIT. Rhine is three fourths through her lifespan. She is old by the current demographics. When Rhine sees a nineteen year old woman, she sees someone who is a mere year from dying. Their concept of “child” and “adult” are going to be completely warped. Moreover, hitting puberty marks the point kidnappers start going after you – if that isn’t a clear sign that’s how they define adulthood I don’t know what is.

But no. Rhine says she looks like her mother when her mother dressed up. Even though her mother must have been sixty or older. Because the whole point of this section can be summed up as Rhine’s magical transition to womanhood. Sure, she was kidnapped from her home, but now she gets pretty things and a husband!

I am soon to become Governor Linden’s tragic bride.

The fatalism throughout is also pretty awful. Despite the way the book glories it how awful a distopia this is, it also seems to present it as just the way things are. She doesn’t seem to hold what’s going on against anyone – the most that can be said for her is she hasn’t said anything much about the gatherers, so it’s possible she at least blames them. But her rapist to be? She just seems uncomfortable she hasn’t met the man. She’s a tragic bride, but it’s tragic the same way Rose dying of consumption is, something that just is instead of being the result of deliberate actions on someone else’s part.

Anyway. We find out that Deirdre wasn’t even taught how to do makeup, her dad happened to be a painter and taught her some stuff and she’s using that experience to somehow do perfect makeup. Because there has to be someone on hand so Rhine can be the prettiest kidnapped princess.

She sticks Rhine in high heels which gets a passing mention of being “unsensible” and yet nothing about Rhine not being able to walk in them like you’d expect. She meets up with a little boy. The boy compliments Deirdre’s dress and she says he did a good job with his. So there’s presumably three little kids who are employed as regular servants but are all also talented costumemakers, and probably they’re all great with makeup too.

Anyway, she’s now finally going to meet the other two girls, who she never glanced at back when they were being led into the car – which, under the circumstances, I can actually understand.

a willowy bride with dark hair, who stares despondently at her shoulder and does not seem to mind being prodded

So that’s one character who seems to be reacting to this understandably. Then there’s:

a bride who could not tip the scale above a hundred pounds.

…Well, do most people? I mean, from the sounds of it kids are often malnourished. I got enough to eat and hovered around that for a good chunk of my teenager years. But I think this is supposed to mean she’s especially young.

The bodice has big translucent butterfly wings in back that seem to be hemorrhaging glitter

And for some unfathomable reason they decided to dress the youngest one in fairy wings to make her look younger? What the fuck. The only way I can rationalize this is if they’re trying to subtly signal THIS IS A LITTLE GIRL, IT DOESN’T MATTER IF YOU MARRIED HER, DON’T FUCK HER to Linden. In which case, good job little child maidslaves, I hope you don’t get punished for this.

On tiptoes the redhead wouldn’t even reach my shoulder

Oh. That young.

she is clearly too young to be a bride. And the willowy girl is too forlorn. And I am too unwilling.

First, Rhine, fuck off. What makes you assume the other two aren’t unwilling as well? Being incredibly depressed is not generally a sign you’re good with things. Second, what’s “too young”? We know gatherers think it’s twelve and under, so did they dip below that for some reason or does Rhine have different standards? What are her standards? What does marriage age even mean for her?

Rhine starts thinking of how much she wants out again. Again, she thinks of it in terms of how worried her brother must be. This is starting to grate, it’s like she can’t want freedom for its own sake, or be worried about the part where she’s going to get raped. I guess you could see it as her not wanting to think about that and finding it easier to worry about her brother instead of what’s happening to her, but fuck it, I don’t think the book deserves that much credit.

She also says her brother would look for her in the local brothels, which just raises the question again of how those function. What would her brother have done if she was found there? Because if she could just leave she would, so I can’t imagine him showing up would suddenly free her.

the little one, is hissing to Elle that her bodice is now laced too tight, and how can she be expected to stay still during the ceremony— the most important moment of her life, she adds—if she can hardly breathe?

Yes. Doesn’t deserve that much credit.

If people were willing to become brides – and yes, for the record, they should, needing to kidnap people doesn’t make sense when you think of the total population compared to how few rich men there must be – then they wouldn’t need to be kidnapped, chucked in a van, killed if they don’t pass, and then knocked out for the trip so they won’t have any idea where they are. So after the kidnapping/other kids getting killed/knockout/imprisonment, you can’t just say that the little girl is happy to get married.

In a few minutes we’ll be sister wives. It’s a term I’ve heard on the news, and I don’t know what it means.

So another notch for this all being perfectly legal. And another display of Rhine being inexplicably naïve and uneducated. This kind of thing is established to the point the news reports it casually, but she doesn’t know what it is? There’s no point in the news using a term if it means nothing to their audience.

The wedding is taking place at night, though it’s unclear why, and Rhine says that she’d never dare be out so late at home. So there’s another comparison between here and her previous life that’s come up in favor of here. And she says that at home they’d always watch TV to see about new jobs and hope there’d be some good news. Apparently there was a local lab but it blew up four years ago…which is confusing, because we’ve also heard that orphans regularly sell themselves as test subjects to labs, but now it sounds like there’s only one and it’s gone. She says it’s not rebuilt because people have given up.

the news is nothing but job listings and televised events put on by the wealthier class—House Governors and their sad brides. It’s supposed to encourage us, I suppose. Give the illusion that the world isn’t ending.

Well, for one thing I don’t see how the fact the wealthy kidnap your children and siblings, murder most of them and display the raped survivors on television is doing anything to encourage people unless we’re talking about to riot.

For another, the world seems to still be functioning enough that you have diamonds and pearls and silk and people can throw together this shiny little wedding, so it’s not really “ending”, now is it?

I don’t know much about traditional weddings; I’ve never attended one, and my parents, like most couples at that time, were married in city hall. With the human race dying off so young, hardly anybody gets married anymore. But I suppose this is how it used to be, more or less

Why would you think that?

This is just a bad writing thing, instead of all around awful, but it’s so sloppy. Why would this be traditional instead of something new? The author could easily have said that her parents told her of weddings, or she saw pictures or anything. But no, apparently our modern idea of a wedding is some sort of universal constant and anyone seeing it just knows it’s how weddings should be.

Also I don’t see why a shorter life would make you more nervous about entering into a til-death-do-we-part arrangement. I especially don’t when we know people got married all the damn time back when lifespans were short.

Anyway, her rapist is there and smiles at the little kid bride and Rhine says it’s like a parent would smile at a daughter except that instead the rapist intends for her to carry his children. This is about the only point she seems to realize everything going on is hugely fucked up. She finds this all nauseating, which is a nice show of some sane morality, but decides to play along so she’ll be trusted.

Linden looks us over. Maybe it’s the candlelight, or the mellow evening breeze, but he doesn’t seem as menacing as before, when he selected us from the lineup.

So this is the same man who was pleased by a bunch of terrified kidnapped girls, picked three and had the remaining dozen killed. It was that guy the whole time she was wondering when she’d meet her future rapist. But it’s okay! He doesn’t look scary! Also his bone structure make him seem almost frail, childlike and he’s got pretty green eyes so he can’t possibly be blamed for anything.

When he looks at her, she thinks, I won’t blush or flinch or look away. because apparently showing anger isn’t even on her list of possible reactions. Rhine thinks that the marriage doesn’t mean anything and she’ll still escape. This all would be a lot stronger if she wasn’t going on about how nice he looks or thinking of defiance in terms of not blushing sweetly.

The man in white says, “What fate has brought together, let no man tear asunder.”
Fate, I think, is a thief.

This is a good summation of the whole issue. Rhine keeps thinking she doesn’t want to be here, but the book keeps avoiding the actual issue. Here, we have her being defiant by disagreeing with this, but she doesn’t say Linden is the thief. She’s ultimately agreeing with the idea that she just somehow ended up here by nebulous “fate”, instead of because specific things done by specific people for a specific purpose.

As an aside, you’d think they’d want the language to be more focused on the act being sanctified and done, like “what God has witnessed” or whatever.

Then she’s brought back to her room and made up for her rapist.

this time painting me in dramatic reds and purples that make me appear sultry. I like it even better than the earlier look; I feel like my anger and bitterness have been manifested.

This is really putting how annoying Katniss was about makeup into perspective. Yes, Katniss did put way too much emphasis on how makeup made her look, and using it as a source of strength was very weird in context. But it’s still nothing compared to Rhine apparently feeling that getting made up so she looks pretty for her rape is somehow an empowering expression of her feelings.

Then she’s put into a red dress that only falls to about midthigh and is so tight that Every curve of my body protrudes through the velvet material

“It’s a symbol that you’re no longer a child,” she explains. “That you’re ready for your husband to come to you at any time.”

I am staring at this line and trying to find something to say and just, there is nothing more to be said, is there?

Well, I guess there’s this: Rhine doesn’t say anything either. Rhine doesn’t seem to care. Rhine is not embarrassed or scared or the slightest bit uncomfortable wearing an outfit designed to display her body and make her accessible for sex. The book is happy to tell her every “defiant” thought about how much she wants to see her brother again and this isn’t her real home, but on this subject it continues to remain silent.

Instead it just continues on, saying that she’s led out again to meet up with the other victims – oddly, they’re dressed in a black dress and a yellow dress, which I suppose is more sueism where only she gets the sultry red look.

Then they’re sat down at a table to eat. In lingerie. In incredibly short lingerie that only just barely covers anything if you’re standing perfectly straight and tugging the hem down. I can’t even figure out what the point of this is. Most of this could be interpreted as the usual romance novel fantasy, but where the hell did this come from? The author gets off on being paraded around in humiliating outfits just to go to supper?

The depressed girl, Jenna, seems a bit more alert.

Under the table her hand brushes mine, and I’m not sure if it’s accidental.

She seems like the only character in this who actually realizes what’s going on. I feel really bad for her. It’s a good thing Rhine doesn’t need any attempt she makes to be supportive or comforting, because Rhine continues to be fine with all this.

Linden raises each of our hands to his lips for a kiss, one at a time. Then he introduces the man, his father, as Housemaster Vaughn.
Housemaster Vaughn also kisses our hands, and it takes some effort for me to keep from squirming at the feel of his lips, which are papery and cold.

So. This is now confirmed to be going down the route of “the prince is such a nice man, if only the mean king/adviser wasn’t so evil it’d be fine!” The rapist doing things is fine, but this other guy is icky.

She goes on to complain he’s got pallid skin and he doesn’t smile, and beauty = goodness dammit! So does cheerfulness. Not grinning happily at the sight of three half-naked kidnapped girls about to be raped makes you a bad person.

There’s no sign of Linden’s mother. since she’s not here, I assume she’s dead. So apparently divorce doesn’t exist in this world either. At all, not just for the younger generations, since Linden’s mother could easily be a first gen.

Rhine is super happy because Gabriel is there bringing dishes! She was worried he might have been punished for what she did, that Housemaster Vaughn will decide to lock him in a dungeon for the remainder of his life.

Because she can just tell that Linden is a super nice guy who would never do anything mean to anybody.

She explains that’s the sort of thing she always worries about. I can’t imagine a worse thing than to be imprisoned which seems like more of arranging her character so we don’t have to say the bad word. All her worries have been carefully channeled to PG fears, and the reason she doesn’t want to be kidnapped and raped is because she is unusually bothered by being imprisoned, not because the whole thing is horrible.

More servants arrive and Rhine continues to not feel self-conscious about her outfit in the slightest.

Now it’s time for a cart of extravagant foods—whole chickens basting in caramel sauces, pineapples and strawberries cut and shaped like pond lilies.

Apparently pineapples can be grown in Florida, so that’s not telling us anything about the state of food shipping. What’s also unclear is what she means by “extravagant”. She might mean that even what we’d consider basic food is a big deal to her.

Still, chicken is cheap, caramel is just milk and sugar, and she recognizes both fruits at a glance when she’s shown a startling ignorance about everything else in her world. That means these things are better known than the virus that kills everyone. It seems more likely she’s just talking about effort – basting a chicken takes time, and so does cutting up fruit to look pretty. But that then brings us to the fact this is basically what a naive teen modern teen might think, not what someone in this world would.

She starts thinking about what would happen if she ran. She’s not sure if the servants would stop her but figures she’d be caught somehow, and then what if she was locked up?

Housemaster Vaughn is talking about the hundred-year-old gardens and how sweet the apples are. He even makes fruits and shrubbery sound ominous. It’s his voice, low and raspy.

Unlike Linden, the pretty little princeling. I’m surprised the author just have him be the one to pick the girls as well.

It was him, I think. He’s the one who hurt Gabriel yesterday when my door was left unlocked. Even with his smiles and harmless chatter, I can sense something dangerous in him.

The best part about this is that so far, Rhine’s primary character trait has been that she’s absolute shit at judging character. “Oh, the servant boy is secretly my friend!” “Oh, the man who picked who would live or die, is his smile kind?” “Oh, the people stripping me naked to make me pretty for my rapist are so well-intentioned and nice!” “Oh, the man with a knife at my throat was probably just hungry!”

And now she’s just as irrationally insisting this guy is the source of all evil.

Something, perhaps, more dangerous than heartsick Governor Linden, who stares past us, lost in love with a woman on death’s door.

Poor baby! Quick, let’s all feel sorry for him and not all of the people actually suffering.


  1. Colme says:
    Just to be absolutely clear, Linden was the guy who picked which girls to take? I don’t see how the book can try to play this game of father Housemaster being the transparently evil one when the love interest was complacent in the deaths of dozens of girls.

    It feels like the book and everyone in it has a three second memory.

    1. Kvo says:
      Unfortunately, this is why I’m wary of female protagonists in YA. You just know that an interesting setting/premise will be crushed under a romantic plot tumor usually within the first 2-3 chapters.
      1. Farla says:
        In the book’s defense, it’s not like the romantic plot is that much more idiotic than its handling of the premise.
    2. Farla says:
      He was Mr. Looking Pleased, yes. But you don’t understand, he’s got pretty eyes! It must be the fault of the ugly guy!
  2. Igloo says:
    This is now confirmed to be going down the route of “the prince is such a nice man, if only the mean king/adviser wasn’t so evil it’d be fine!”

    This is what probably bugged me the most when I read this book. Linden is supposed to be sweet and innocent and naive while his father is the big bad guy faulted for everything. It comes off as Linden being as dumb as a bag of bricks and Daddy being so obviously evil that it’s painful. Also, Linden is still a terrible person and a rapist, no matter what the book says.

    1. Farla says:
      Because Linden is hot, and it’s not rape if they’re hot. Or murder. Or anything.
  3. Maimh says:
    “her dad happened to be a painter”….alright, I am no artist, but just how does that make you good at makeup? Choice of colors I can get, but actually knowing how to apply it?

    “Every curve of my body protrudes through the velvet material” bad choice of words, now all I can see is her hipbones and ribs sticking out. Not very sexy.

    Also I think I like housemaster Vaughn, anyone who can make ominous comments about flora sounds awesome, and now I cant help picturing him as Alan Rickman.

    1. Farla says:
      Obviously being a painter makes you awesome at makeup, because otherwise Rhine wouldn’t have awesome makeup and that’s what matters.

      Not very sexy.

      I’m left suspecting Linden has some unpleasant fetishes, especially given the other girl is described as pretty thin as well. Two stick girls and a thirteen year old.

  4. Random Reader says:
    All the attention to the pretty things Rhine is seeing could have been handled differently to make it more realistic, I think. If she’s freaked out (which, from this, seems intermitent at best), then maybe she starts scrutinizing her surroundings to calm or distract herself. It’s a little shaky, but better than straight “-ooh, shiny” bird mentality.  Or maybe she’s studying the surroundings to start figuring the best way out and mentions the fancy stuff as a side note. She could feel resentful, because look at all the lavish squandering of money going on- couldn’t he have at least paid for the other girls so they weren’t shot? Or, perhaps, she could feel dismayed. Anyone who can afford this froo-froo stuff can afford good guards/staff/hard-to-break windows that will make escaping harder.

    Whichever way, we, as readers, get to see the sparklies while Rhine is noticing them. We get that now, but it doesn’t feel as rational.

    1. Farla says:
      Really, any reaction would be better than just luxuriating in it. We keep being told she doesn’t want to be here. At this point, I’d even accept her admitting that her situation was horrible BUT she did love the shinies.

      There are so many things about this. Like, being given gifts makes you feel like you should reciprocate. So being draped in indescribably expensive clothes and fed expensive food and all this stuff that’s completely out of her price range could leave her feeling like they’re expecting – and soon to demand – something equivalent from her. And that would make every day that goes by without Linden showing up a day when the tally increases further.

  5. Veracs says:
    “We find out that Deirdre wasn’t even taught how to do makeup, her dad
    happened to be a painter and taught her some stuff and she’s using that
    experience to somehow do perfect makeup.”

    Whoa, whoa. What?


    Many levels of what.

    I have done extensive amounts of watercolour, acrylic, and digital painting (and really, even the difference in media can be disconcerting at times) and my makeup skills are laughable at best. I can’t get eyeliner on without poking myself or scratching a cornea. And don’t get me started on that metal eye guillotine-thingy that looks like a medieval torture device and seems to be designed to only fit the eyes of white people.

    Knowing how to replicate skin tones and lighting with layers of paint has almost nothing to do with makeup, other than the fact that they both involve applying pigments to stuff. S’like saying that knowing how to paint automatically means that you’ll know how to dye fabrics or do hairdressing or something.

    1. Random Reader says:
      Here, here! I’m not an artist, but I’ve taken drawing classes and am decent and enjoy drawing. I’ve got a pretty good eye for set-ups, and I also have good taste in putting colors together for whatever.

      My makeup skills are almost nonexistent. My eye makeup skills should send you running if ever I come near you with mascara.

  6. Anon says:
    Was looking around tumblr. Saw this:

    just finished fever by lauren destefano

    I know none of my followers care, but I have to say this.

    LINDEN IS BREAKING MY HEART. How can ANYONE say he isn’t the best
    character in this series?  He has the kindest heart and oh my god. My
    poor baby is so heartbroken.

    I ship him and Rhine so hard, too bad they are kinda ruined since he doesn’t trust her anymore


    #rhine x linden




    Please say you posted that image of your search for the word rape.


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