By age sixteen, Rhine Ellery has four years left to live. A botched effort to create a perfect race has left all males born with a lifespan of 25 years, and females a lifespan of 20 years--leaving the world in a state of panic. Geneticists seek a miracle antidote to restore the human race, desperate orphans crowd the population, crime and poverty have skyrocketed, and young girls are being kidnapped and sold as polygamous brides to bear more children.
When Rhine is sold as a bride, she vows to do all she can to escape. Yet her husband, Linden, is hopelessly in love with her, and Rhine can t bring herself to hate him as much as she d like to. He opens her to a magical world of wealth and illusion she never thought existed, and it almost makes it possible to ignore the clock ticking away her short life. But Rhine quickly learns that not everything in her new husband s strange world is what it seems. Her father-in-law, an eccentric doctor bent on finding the antidote, is hoarding corpses in the basement; her fellow sister wives are to be trusted one day and feared the next; and Rhine has no way to communicate to her twin brother that she is safe and alive.
Together with one of Linden's servants, Gabriel, Rhine attempts to escape just before her seventeenth birthday. But in a world that continues to spiral into anarchy, is there any hope for freedom?
This has been sat on my shelf for nearly a year, so I'm really glad to finally get into it. I was originally intrigued by the concept of what would happen to society if we all died really young. The breakdown of knowledge and tradition is obvious, but this was set only a few years after the fact, with some of the first generation still alive and frantically searching for a cure for their children and grandchildren.
Rhine was kidnapped and sold to a rich man looking for women to bring him children. One of three of Linden's new wives, Rhine is trapped in this grand house, expected to bear children and grow "old" with Linden. I didn't really understand why they had been kidnapped, why this guy needed three wives; it's not like there were more women than men. But as I continued, it becomes apparent that Linden isn't the bad guy, his father is. Linden is just as trapped as the three girls.
It was really interesting to see how everything had affected this little world, as the house was so cut off from the rest of society. Apart from the Grand master Vaughn, Linden's father, and a few servants, everyone was under the age of twenty-five, the women dying at twenty. It took a bit of getting used to, especially Rhine's hand-servant being a young girl of about 10. It took some getting used to but it worked, especially once the girls started to trust each other. The youngest being only 13, the oldest a year from dying and Rhine in the middle, I really liked how they bonded, even though Cecily was too naive to understand the consequences of where they were. Rhine and Jenna, as the oldest, knew they were held against their will, knew the dangers of crossing Vaughn and knew not to forget what bought them here.
Although I didn't quite understand the reasoning behind it, I really liked the sense of community and seclusion being stuck in the house together bought. Rhine has to navigate the house between her sister wives, her new husband, her father in law who may or may not be keeping dead bodies in the basement to test the cure. You know, the usual! There was a lot of stuff going on, from Linden's dying first wife to a possible crush in one of the servants. It all blended together really well and I think it got better once Rhine had settled into the house. I'm not sure about continuing with the series; I'd like to know what happens next but I'm actually pretty happy leaving as if it was a standalone.
Published 22nd March 2011 by Simon and Schuster.