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Wither by Lauren DeStefano
I was astounded by the complexity of this story. I expected just a simple plot where the girl gets kidnapped, falls in love with her kidnapper, and decides to remain with him, or where the girl falls in love with someone else also confined in the palace, and escapes with him, or where the girl is in love with someone outside of the palace, and escapes to return to him. At a stretch I thought it might have had some type of plot where the girl *gasp* isn’t in love with anyone and escapes the palace all on her own simply because she doesn’t like being cooped up, or wants to return to her life as a diamond and rose quartz thief or something. However, this story was a delightful mix of all three.
The relationships in the book defied categorization. The bonds that grew between Rhine and her sister wives had elements of sisterhood, friendship, and mother-daughter relationships, but couldn’t exactly be described as any of those. They grew naturally out of the wives’ personalities and positions, and were refreshingly not forced on the characters. The relationship between Linden and Rhine was likewise complex. As she got to know him, she began to care for him in some indefinable way, but she didn’t suddenly fall head over heels in love with him. For that matter, I don’t think their relationship ever involved romantic love on Rhine’s part. The complexities of her feelings for Linden, combined with her love of her brother and her longing for freedom, put Rhine in moral quandaries throughout much of the book as to whether, when, and how she should leave.
That being said, I felt that the book fell short in a few respects. I thought that it ended a bit too abruptly, without ever really resolving Rhine’s confused feelings for Linden. However, as this is the first book in a trilogy, I’m sure that all that will be addressed later on. I also found Rhine’s feelings for Gabriel and Vaughn to both be a little canned. In contrast to the other characters, the Villain and the Love Interest both seemed to arise more out of plot necessity than out of natural evolution of thought. On the whole, though, this was a refreshingly innovative and surprisingly believable book. I look forward to the sequels.