(Cover picture courtesy of A. G. Henley’s site.)
Seventeen-year-old Groundling, Fennel, is Sightless. She’s never been able to see her lush forest home, but she knows its secrets.
She knows how the shadows shift when she passes under a canopy of trees. She knows how to hide in the cool, damp caves when the Scourge comes. She knows how devious and arrogant the Groundlings’ tree-dwelling neighbors, the Lofties, can be. And she’s always known this day would come—the day she faces the Scourge alone.
A tale of star-crossed lovers, strange creatures, and secretive, feuding factions, THE SCOURGE introduces readers to a rich and exciting new world where nothing is as it seems.
[Full disclosure: I received a free ebook copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]
I thought I’d seen it all when it comes to zombie books. Zombies are religious retribution, a virus, a parasite, etc. But nothing prepared me for A. G. Henley’s zombies.
You see, what was different about these zombies is that Fennel, who is blind, can walk among them while no one else can. She’s part of the Groundlings, people who hide in caves when the Scourge comes around because the Scourge doesn’t like the dark. The Groundlings are kind of in an uneasy alliance with the Lofties, people who stay up in the safety of the trees to avoid the Scourge. But the problem with the Groundlings and the Lofties is that they need water to survive, especially in their hot, humid climate. So the Sightless like Fennel and her adoptive mother must walk among the Scourge with the protection of a Lofty called a Keeper, who uses his bow to protect her while she gets water. Although the Scourge often avoids the Sightless, they can be dangerous and Keepers like Peree (Fennel’s Keeper) are tasked with keeping Fennel safe.
So why will the zombies not approach someone who’s blind but will devour anyone else? Why do they fear the dark? I don’t want to give away the big twist, but I’ll say this: it’s horrifying. It’s terrifying in that it could really happen but also because of the implications of it that completely change how you view Fennel’s world in the first half of the book. Really, when I learned the secret of the Scourge it hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks. But I’ll let you discover that feeling for yourself when you read it.
Having a blind protagonist is definitely new to me and I feared it would severely limit A. G. Henley’s descriptions of Fennel’s world. I was wrong to worry because instead of using sight, Henley used impressions of colour (blue is like cold, red is like heat), sounds and even taste to give us a vivid picture of a terrifying and beautiful world. In the wrong hands a blind protagonist could result in absolutely no description at all, but I like how in The Scourge it probably resulted in more description.
Since being Sightless is a huge part of Fennel’s life I feared other aspects of her characterization would be affected. Again, I was wrong to doubt. Fennel is reasonably content with her world until the Scourge and her Keeper Peree turn it upside down. Following a punishment for being a good person, she begins to doubt whether the Groundlings are necessarily better than the Lofties, challenging a belief she’s held on to for years. I expected the romance between Fennel and Peree from the first chapter, but how it developed was gradual and satisfying. They go through so much together it would be hard for them not to fall in love so it doesn’t seem like A. G. Henley threw in the romance for extra tension.
I loved everything about The Scourge: its characters, the zombies, the plot and A. G. Henley’s writing style. I even loved the cliffhanger at the end. Seriously, if you love traditional zombie books try out The Scourge and I guarantee you’ll never look at zombies the same way again. I can’t wait for the next book!
I give this book 5/5 stars.