Messenger: Whaaaa?

Messenger by Lois LowryMessenger by Lois LowryMessenger by Lois Lowry

The book flap describes Messenger by Lois Lowry thusly: “For the past six years, Matty has lived in Village and flourished under the guidance of Seer, a blind man, known for his special sight. Village was a place that welcomed newcomers, but something sinister has seeped into Village and the people have voted to close it to outsiders. Matty has been invaluable as a messenger. Now he must make one last journey through the treacherous forest with his only weapon, a power he unexpectedly discovers within himself.” Do you want to know why I used the book flap description for the first time ever? Because I don’t trust myself not to get all snarktastic just describing the book.

Warning: Review is going to be snarktastic.

Okay, I freely admit I am getting more and more irritated by this series as I go further along. You want to know why? Because it makes absolutely no sense at all. This book centers around Matty from book two and Jonas from book one. They are now in village number three in the series. Apparently it’s a village a book. And bad stuff is happening in village three, known oh, so creatively as Village. What kind of bad stuff? Well, people are being selfish. And there’s some whisperings about a Trade Market where people are trading… stuff. And then the forest is coming alive and killing people. Whaaaa?

So, apparently, either Forest (not the forest, just Forest, like Village and Mentor) is feeding off the bad feelings of the villagers and becoming sentient and evil. Or it’s the other way around and the villagers are absorbing the malevolent intent of the Forest and becoming selfish, but either way, how in the heck is Forest sentient? If Forest is absorbing the bad feelings of the villagers, then the village in the second book, which also borders on the forest, should have made it become evil long ago. And because conditions have improved in the second village, we should expect to see a decrease in evilness in the forest, but we are seeing the opposite. That would mean that Forest is not responding to the intentions of the villagers. But apparently Forest has been killing villagers for years, but not before giving them Warnings. (Yes, there are lots of capitalized things in this book.) Which would argue for a certain level of benevolence to Forest, but still, Forest is alive and killing people and the villagers accept this as normal. At least the villagers in Village do, but apparently, this wasn’t a topic of concern in the second village, and yet, it is the same forest/Forest. Continuity is hard, y’all.

Also, we have learned that things have gotten better in the first two villages. Do we know how? NO! Do we know how the main characters get their Gifts? NOPE! Does anyone explain why the nature of Jonas’ gift has shifted from seeing the true nature of things to farseeing? NEIN! Do we know how Forest has become sentient after all these hundreds or thousands of years? OF COURSE NOT!

I don’t have a problem with evil sentient forests. I do have a problem with forests on earth becoming evil and sentient with little to no warning and there being no discernible causal mechanism. I’m okay with mutant trees caused by ionizing radiation from the nuclear war that destroyed the world. But you need to mention that there was a nuclear war and other things needs to be affected besides just Forest.

Also, I have a bit of a problem with the idea that Jonas, who runs away from a village dominated by central planning and lack of individual choice, is now the leader – in fact, he is Leader – of a village where he is responsible for giving everyone names that replace their individual name and define them in a role for the rest of their life. That’s right, you lose your given name when you hit puberty, right about the time you get assigned your life career in the first book, and get a Title to replace it. It as if he has gone from one not-so-utopia to another. And that’s not even getting into the heavy handed, “We don’t like foreigners ‘cause they’re dirty and talk funny” rhetoric that is given to the villagers who fall under the influence of the… evil influence. I mean seriously, I don’t even know why the bad people are being bad. But it was a big strong evil influence, because that’s what the heroes have to fight in this book.

Lowry does manage to write characters that the reader cares about, and even though this installment lacks the detailed world building of the previous two books, she still does a good job of turning Forest into a main character (even though it is one with no backstory and confusing motivation.) Messenger was originally supposed to be the final book in the trilogy, but Lowry has a fourth book planned to come out in October, which is good, because if this had been the end of the series, I would have been severely irritated. I am holding the severe irritation in abeyance until after I have a chance to read the conclusion which had better answer some serious questions or I am going to throw the book across the room and break its spine.


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RUTH ARNELL is a retired professor of political science in Idaho. From a young age she has maxed out her library card the way some people do credit cards. Ruth started reading fantasy with A Wrinkle in Time and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe — books that still occupy an honored spot on her bookshelf today. Ruth and her husband have a young son, but their house is actually presided over by a flame-point Siamese who answers, sometimes, to the name of Griffon.

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5 comments

  1. Ruth, Ruth, stop! My sides hurt! I’m about to fall out of my chair laughing! I can’t breathe!

  2. Please tell me you have something waiting that you really want to read. I love your reviews.

  3. 1 1/2 stars, bitch, bitch, bitch, and you’re still going to read the next book? Whatever.

  4. A lot of series have weak books in them and yet one keeps reading to find out whether it will get better. Ruth liked the first book and had mixed feelings about the second–I don’t see anything wrong with her wanting to know what will happen in the fourth…

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