Publication Date of Book: September 2014
Michael Grant has spun a universe in which we catch a glimpse of what occurs behind the scenes of normal mundane life, and thus we enter the world of Messenger of Fear. Mara is a young teenage girl who wakes up in a strange field of dead grass and a living mist surrounding her. She has no memory of who she is, her past, or what she has done to end up in such a place. Out of the mist comes the Messenger of Fear, or simply, the Messenger. He is a pale teenage boy who seems to be more than human, a supernatural being with a dark past and trove of secrets. Mara must take up the role of the Messenger's apprentice and enter a dark realm of the human mind and heart.
Messenger is one of many servants of a strange force, known only as Isthil. He watches over humans and is drawn to the wicked. He must seek out those who have done wrong. The sinners must acknowledge their mistakes and are offered a game. If they win, they are free and can live the rest of their lives in peace, but if they fail, they must live their worst fear, a nightmare that their mind may never recover from. Mara accompanies Messenger throughout the book and watches the lives and mistakes of several individuals, including a young girl who commits suicide (and her jealous tormenter), a murderer and those who pushed him over the edge, and a couple that kills an innocent animal. Mara witnesses the Messenger's powers, his responsibilities and duties, and cannot withstand the agony and torment that he causes. She views him as nothing more than a monster, a being that may possess absolutely no mercy and a creature that destroys future happiness of those who fail to win the game. She refuses to accept Messenger's idea of "justice."
"People are free to make choices, even terrible ones. But when they make bad choices, when they do evil, then it may be that justice, fairly and ruthlessly applied, can show a person a new path. Justice is our cause, not human happiness."-Messenger
Mara must take up the Messenger's mantle one day, but she must first learn to understand who and what he is. He controls her memories and knows that Mara is not ready to regain her past. She must come into her new life slowly and she must comprehend what this life truly entails. Mara slowly learns about the people that are singled out by Messenger and discovers that they are targeted not because of what they've done, but because of their intentions. They allowed events to unfold and yet they could have prevented horrible consequences from ever occurring. These actions upset a balance, a balance that is the center of an ancient battle between right and wrong, good and evil, light and darkness. Messenger must help to keep the balance, he must not allow one side to grow stronger than the other. He cannot abandon his role, he must follow through even when his heart feels the pain that he causes. Mara begins to notice that perhaps Messenger is not the monster she once thought him to be, she sees compassion within his expressionless face and realizes that witnessing his actions upon the wicked is not easy.
"The balance of this world is not upset by accident. It is not upset by those who blunder accidentally into wrong. Evil comes when those who know better, who have seen the pain they cause, nevertheless cause more pain. The drunk driver who has already had near misses and knows that sooner or later he will take a life. The thug who has already seen a victim's blood and goes searching for more. The liar who has already destroyed a life and feels empowered by that ability to destroy. Those are the people who must be confronted. It will become a hunger for them, a need to cause a witness pain. Having done it once and escaped punishment, they will be drawn to it again. Each case had a chance to correct course, to learn and atone and to move on. When they don't...." -Messenger
Mara must soon come to terms with her past. She will learn the legacy of the Messenger of Fear, how the current boy who possesses the role came to enter such a life. She will discover the hundreds of others that walked the same path before her and how such a terrible existence befell them. She will understand the chaos and order that must be controlled. She will soon become the Messenger of Fear.
My thoughts on the book:
I have to say that Michael Grant has gained a new fan. My sister, B, has been reading his books for years and has thoroughly enjoyed his writing. This is the first book of his that I have read and I absolutely loved it! It is great to enter a new world, especially one that entwines both reality and the supernatural. Mara is just a seemingly average girl who is whisked away into a world of darkness. She was definitely an interesting character. Grant wonderfully revealed small parts of her past as the story went on and it was done in an exciting manner. He also strongly portrayed the emotions that Mara felt as she witnessed the pain that the sinners had to withstand. She watched some crumple under the consequences of their actions and she also saw those who were able to prevail, triumph, and change their lives. I felt Mara's emotions and held her disgust for Messenger. However, I also felt sympathy for Messenger because of what he had to endure. I felt as if I understood him in a way that Mara had not yet discovered. This entire book is packed with waves of emotion and empathy!
Grant also formed characters that were believable and complex. He revealed Mara's true self with skill and I felt her agony as she learned about her sins and their consequences. When I learned of Mara's mistake, I truly hated her, but then I felt the remorse, sorrow, despair, and regret that she had originally felt after coming to terms with her actions. She knew that that even if she won the game, it would not be enough to atone, and she wanted to truly make up for what she had done.
I have always found books that bring together a tangible reality and believable supernatural elements to be fascinating. Grant's mix of believable main characters and exhilarating mythology formed a truly exciting realm that seemed as if it could actually exist. Overall, I found this book to be a page-turner and I cannot wait for the next two books in the series!
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