The Chemical Gardens Trilogy by Lauren DeStefano

Set in the distant future, the world is reeling from a botched attempt to create the perfect race. Babies born into this world suffer from a virus which has left all males with a lifespan of 25 years and females a lifespan of 20 years. Geneticists frantically search for an antidote to the virus with little success. The human race has dissolved into chaos. Orphans are everywhere, crime and poverty are rampant, and young girls are being kidnapped off the streets to be sold as brides, forced into polygamous marriages to bear children, to the highest bidder.

Rhine and Rowan Ellery used to live a happy life with their mother and father in New York City. When their parents are killed when their lab is bombed, Rhine and Rowan, who are twins, are all each other has left in the world. When Rhine is kidnapped and married to Linden Ashby, along with 2 other girls, she vows that she will do everything in her power to escape and return to her brother. Rhine finds herself caught up in a world of illusions and try as she might, she cannot bring herself to hate her husband, Linden. She soon comes to realize that her real enemy is Linden's father, a doctor determined to find a cure for the virus at any cost.

As determined as Rhine is to leave, she also has reasons to stay as her relationship with Linden and her fellow sister wives grows. There is also Gabriel, one of Linden's servants, who she develops a connection with. Rhine has to remind herself daily that the life she lives is a lie. Together with Gabriel, Rhine begins plotting her escape, unwilling to live her remaining days as a prisoner. With the clock ticking and unknown dangers ahead, will Rhine and Gabriel be able to achieve the freedom they so desperately seek?

Rhine and Gabriel manage to escape the mansion only to find themselves trapped again, this time in a carnival, run by a Madame in the red light district, where girls are prostituted out. When Vaughn shows up to collect Rhine, she and Gabriel barely make it out. They make their way to Manhattan, only to discover that Rowan, Rhine's twin, is gone and their family home has been burned to the ground. As a mysterious sickness takes hold of Rhine, Gabriel desperately searches for answers and can't help but wonder if this sickness isn't somehow connected to her father-in-law. On the verge of death, Rhine has no choice but to return to the mansion when Vaughn somehow tracks her to the place where she has been staying. She knows that she will die if she doesn't go with him and Rhine is not ready to die, but she cannot fathom the nightmares that await her at the hands of her father-in-law.

Everything in Rhine's life seems to bring her back to her father-in-law. After spending months in the basement of the mansion, she is finally able to convince Linden that his father may not be everything he thought. With the help of Linden, she seeks refuse at his Uncle Reed's house. Although she is able to attain some level of safety, there is no peace for Rhine. Her brother, Rowan, appears to be leading an underground resistance movement against the pro-scientists, Rhine has no idea what has happened to Gabriel since she left him, and Vaughn seems more convinced then ever the Rhine is the key to finding the cure. She sets to find her brother and in the process discovers things about about her past that will have new implications for her future. These discoveries will leave Rhine questioning everything she thought she knew for sure and to the knowledge that she is destined to play a bigger part in finding the cure then she could ever imagine. While Rhine may have new reason to hope, this hope is not without consequences, and life as she knows it will change forever.

Overall this series is a 4 star read for me, although I liked the first book far better than the other two. I was a little disappointed by the third book...I can't quite put my finger on why, but I think I was just expecting more. There were things in the third book - information about Rhine's parents and their work, for example - that I wish had been elaborated on. I just feel like it was brushed over superficially. The suspense and momentum that was built by the first book just seem to putter out for me over the course of the other two books. Having said that, I think that this series is very imaginative and I loved the idea of the story. The characters are well developed and it was easy to become emotionally invested in them. This is definitely a series that I would recommend picking up.

1 comment:

  1. I forgot #3 came out this week... I have to go to B&N now. I love these covers... so beautiful