In our brave new future, DNA engineering has resulted in a terrible genetic flaw. Women die at the age of 20, men at 25. Young girls are being abducted and forced to breed in a desperate attempt to keep humanity ahead of the disease that threatens to eradicate it.
16-year-old Rhine Ellery is kidnapped and sold as a bride to Linden, a rich young man with a dying wife. Even though he is kind to her, Rhine is desperate to escape her gilded cage - and Linden's cruel father. With the help of Gabriel, a servant she is growing dangerously attracted to, Rhine attempts to break free, in what little time she has left.
I didn't realise it at the time, and it wasn't until I spotted another reader's comment on goodreads, that Lauren DeStefano's Wither has a lot in common with Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. Both are about women wanting to escape houses in which they have been forced to live, and have to procreate with a man they don't love for the greater good.
While Wither certainly doesn't come close to the genius and complexity of The Handmaid's Tale, it's still a good read. I may have been ill at the time and all my brain needed was fluff but that's not the point. I thought Stefano had created a good premise - plenty of secrets and lies to be uncovered throughout the trilogy- with interesting characters that were proactive even when they were trapped. Having been forced into a polygamous marriage, Rhine's relationship with her sister wives were complicated, sometimes heartfelt, and constantly changing throughout the book. Then there's the 'crazy lady in the attic' factor that is always interesting. For this story, it's Rhine's father-in-law in the basement conducting experiments in order to find a cure to prolong his son's life. Nothing explicitly is revealed about what happens in the basement, but this adds a sinister vibe to the story and another reason why Rhine should be plotting her escape.
I've already read the second book in the trilogy, and the review should follow shortly!