Monday, 6 June 2011

Review: The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan

Published in Great Britain in: 2010
By: Gollancz

Gabry lives a quiet life, secure in her town next to the sea and behind the Barrier. She's content to let her friends dream of the Dark City up the coast while she watches from the top of her lighthouse. Home is all she's ever known and, and all she needs for happiness. But life after the Return is never safe and there are threats even the Barrier can't hold back. Gabry's mother thought she left her secrets behind in the Forest of Hands and Teeth, but, like the dead in their world, secrets don't stay buried. And now, Gabry's world is crumbling. One night beyond the Barrier . . . One boy Gabry's known forever and one veiled in mystery . . . One reckless moment, and half of Gabry's generation is dead, the other half imprisoned. Now Gabry knows only one thing: if she has any hope of a future, she must face the forest of her mother's past. 

My review:

Hmmm. Now my love for Carrie Ryan's first book is known and I didn't adore this companion novel quite as much. It actually took me around 150-200 pages before I really got into it - I did get into it, because Ryan is still masterful at creating an exciting story, but it didn't immediately engross me the way The Forest of Hands and Teeth did.

The first reason for this is that the setting isn't as compelling as the one in Forest. That was so evocative - the huge stone cathedral in the tiny village, the metal fences and the constant moans of the Unconsecrated from the surrounding forest - I could picture it vividly and it sucked me in. The Dead-Tossed Waves is set in the beach town that Mary washed up in at the end of Forest and is the story of Mary's daughter, Gabry. Gabry's generation has been protected from the zombies (now referred to as Mudo) and on the surface their lives are like those of any small-town teenagers, looking for thrills. It's an oft-used device for a horror story, so while it's comfortably familiar, it's not as distinctive as Mary's world.

I also didn't like reading about Gabry as much as I did Mary. I appreciate that Ryan made Gabry a very different character; Gabry is frightened and timid where Mary was headstrong and determined. I also trusted Ryan enough that I knew Gabry would develop as a character and find her inner strength and confidence and she did. Unfortunately, the reader is stuck with the weak, sappy Gabry for quite a while. I also got more frustrated with Gabry's romantic dithering than I did with the triangle in Forest - at least there, it was reasonably straightforward: Mary was betrothed to Harry but in love with Travis. In The Dead-Tossed Waves, Gabry changes her mind about her two guys so much that I lost track of what she was feeling about either. And the fact that she angsts more about her lovelife than she does about the life of another human being didn't sit right with me, either.

However, there were definitely some things about this book I liked. The world of Forest was suffocatingly small and little expanded upon; it added to the atmosphere, but I definitely wanted to know more. In The Dead-Tossed Waves, we start to find out and we see a lot more of how the wider world has been affected by the zombies. In Forest, there was just the Sisterhood and the Guardians - now, we have a Council House which runs the town, the Militia who guard it, Recruiters who recruit people to fight the zombies and Soulers, a religious group that worships them. Yes, zombie worshippers. It sounds amusing, but the Soulers spark a thought-provoking idea for this series to introduce and that's of what the zombies actually are and whether they retain anything of the person they once were. I don't know where the stories will go with that, but I'm certainly intrigued.

There's also a lot more going on in this book than there was in Forest - at one point I counted 5 different plot threads. At first I found this confusing, but the story starting working for me at the point when all these things fused together in a cool way. The nods to the first book were also very cool and appreciated by me. I'm looking forward to the third book because it seems that this is not just a story about zombies, but also about the people of the forest and I want to see how everything wraps up.

What Ryan still does best is thrill and the shocking moments that make me jump a little are done just as well in this book. Ryan is also not afraid to show that there are consequences for our actions and while that means no totally happy endings, it does mean we get organic and realistic ones.

My overall verdict is that this won't be my favourite individual book of the trilogy, but it's retained me as a fan of the whole.

Rating: 3 stars

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