Messenger of Fear
By Michael Grant
Michael Grant’s Messenger of Fear is a haunting narrative that examines the nature of good and evil in every human. Fans of Michelle Hodkin’s Mara Dyer trilogy and Stephen King will love this satisfyingly twisted series.
Mara Todd wakes in a field of dead grass, a heavy mist pressing down on her. She is terrified, afraid that she is dead. She can’t remember who she is or anything about her past. Is it because of the boy who appears? He calls himself the Messenger of Fear. If the world does not bring justice to those who do evil, the Messenger will. He offers the wicked a game. If they win, they go free. If they lose, they will live their greatest fear. Either way, their sanity will be challenged.
It is a world of fair but harsh justice. Of retribution and redemption. And mystery. Why was Mara chosen to be the Messenger’s apprentice? What has she done to deserve this terrible fate? She won’t find out until three of the wicked receive justice. And when she does, she will be shattered.
After a lot of begging from Shayla (check our her blog!), I finally read this book. She’s been dying to talk to me about it and well, I have and it was the best decision I’ve made. Kinda. Sorta. Well, now I have another series to wait a year until the next released. More torture for me, yay!
Book 1 and Book 2 already released, I caught up in one day. Yup. I read these two books in one day. I went on a serious rampage with these books and I couldn’t continue doing my homework until I finished the second book, The Tattooed Heart (review to come). However, these books are pretty small so it made it easy to read in one day. As I write this review, my pile of assignments are feeling rather neglected. Sorry not sorry.
In my opinion, there rarely are times where a book can 100% suck me in from the very first page. I’ve had those moments before and those novels or series have a special spot on my favourites shelf because of that. Messenger of Fear is another one of those novels. But, this novel sucked me in in such a different way that I’m finding it hard to explain the extent of my experience. I can’t pinpoint the moment where I knew this was going to be a good book, other than the fact the first chapter was written in such a poetic prose yet it was paragraph writing (wrong lingo, but you get what I mean 😛 ). The main character, Mara, had such a prominent voice in my head that it placed a spell on me; it forced me to continue to turn pages. I can’t process how this novel was written in short chapters that ended in curiosity and mystery could bring my mind to its knees in complete surrender to the story, to the realism and to the inevitable fact that this novel is the definition of carrying out justice in such a honest yet morbid way.
“This wrong demands a punishment,” he said. “I offer you a game. If you win, you will go free, unbothered by me or by my apprentice… If you lose, then you will face the thing you fear most.”
There is nothing that can compare to this novel. Grant took the essence of justice, humanity, and evil and created a world where Messengers, servants to the balance, exert the justice required through punishing and rewarding. This novel is full of fantasy and darkness and it was woven like a monster using precious thread in order to create an enchanting image. This monster could create something beautiful, but this monster could also destroy the beautiful. The Messengers are the monsters, but they’re also the beautiful. That is why this book pulls me to opposite ends of the room. There is nothing but balance and beauty and the reality of some wickedness some humans can do and to be given the chance to read the consequences of that is absolutely humbling. Alas, it would be an understatement to say that this novel changed me.
Mara wakes up in a cemetery and is immediately thrown into a world where the laws of physics cease to exist in order to veil her and the Messenger from the real world. Mara’s voice had a great effect on my reading experience in the way that her thoughts, and her words were so honest and had a speck of pain and sadness. As the apprentice to Messenger, this main character sees things that no one should ever see. She is pushed headfirst to face the wicked, the painful, and the sadness in this world that could very much be the one we live in. Through her, I was also subjected to the gripping reality of the world and that is where the speechlessness lies. Her character along with the unmistakable honesty of this novel gave me such a rich experience, that I felt that I was there right along side her, witnessing, executing, and thinking.
“We left the house and were somewhere very different, ready to witness, ready to offer, ready to punish, to keep the balance of the world. To be Messengers of Fear.”
Messenger is what he’s called. Juuuuust Messenger. You don’t get to know his name until Book 2. His backstory is pretty much non-existent; Mara can barely read his emotions. He’s pretty much a big fat present ready to be opened. And that is only the beginning of the alluring mystery that is him. I love how human he is. I love how blunt he is. As his duty makes him indifferent and harsh, there were many moments in the novel where he softened and his hard exterior melted a little for Mara. From how she reacted, how she talked and how she never took his shit, it showed us readers the person he was before. As a result, I got very attached to Messenger very quickly.
“There’s something about him that seems unnatural. He’s a marble statue brought to lie, unreal. Isn’t he? He can’t be real, not really real, if no for no other reason than no dresses that way. Any yet there is a weight to him, like a distortion of gravity, a bending of light, as if he was made of the stuff of collapsed stars.”
And that brings me to the wonderful imagery and symbolism present in this novel. Few novels extensively use literary devices throughout the story, save for the typical, imagery, irony, foreshadowing, blah, blah, blah. I mean, it’s boring to talk about this is a review, but these devices play such a huge role Messenger of Fear that I can’t help but mention them. To me, this is the secret to why I so strongly enjoyed this novel. It made it realistic. It made it powerful. It made the storytelling come to life. It made the whole concept of punishing the wicked by offering them a game and how if they lose, their deepest fears are imposed on them a terrible yet justifying (in some twisted way) thing to do. They say that words can give you chills, and that is simply what happened. I got chills. I mean just the description of Messenger above is artistry. Grant is a magical word bender. (Yes, I just made that up. Go with it.)
It’s when a book leaves you with chills when you know it’s a good one. The thing is, Messenger of Fear was good. Nothing that blew me out of the waters, other than the amazing themes and concepts the book possesses. It was a quick read with a steady pace, and a good story line. The simplicity of the novel may seem “bad” but I think it made it that much more powerful when telling Mara’s story. It was to the point and its impression gave a feeling of realism that I’ve been repeatedly praising. If you like a book that raises questions about humanity, justice and the influence of fear, I certainly recommend this book!
Messenger of Fear is a great combination of horror, realism, and fantasy. It was wonderful to read and I’m so overwhelmed with the imprint t it has left me. This novel rips away the bandage of ignorance, and gives us a world where the things we do can affect the balance of justice and wickedness.
Keep calm and read on,
Shayla has also reviewed this novel so check out her review here.