'Messenger of Fear' by Michael Grant
Review by Megan
“I could call him Messenger, but his full title was Messenger of Fear...”
A girl wakes covered in mist. She doesn't remember anything about herself: just her name. Mara. She walks into a church and finds a beautiful boy. He is the Messenger. And she is under his control. At first, Mara hopes this strange land and boy are all figments of her imagination, a dream, but soon it becomes all too apparent that this is real. He is real.
The Messenger has a job: he must keep the balance. Those who have darkness in their hearts – those who have done wrong – are his jurisdiction. He gives them a choice: Play... Or Pay… If they play his game and win, they go free. If they fail, they must face their greatest fear... And Mara must help him – she must help the Messenger of Fear... But why? And how can she escape? What is this place the Messenger and the other beings inhabit? And how did Mara come to be here too...?
“Who are you?”
That was the first question I asked the boy in front of me. The pale, solemn young man in the black coat with small silver skulls for buttons.
But he didn’t answer it. Instead he answered the question I never asked, but which was nevertheless what I really wanted to know.
Am I dead?
No. Not dead, he told me.
But surely not quite alive, either. How could I be? I remembered my name – Mara. But, standing in that ghostly place, still shuddering at the memory of the creeping yellow mist that had awoken me in that strange, silent land, I could recall nothing else about myself.
And then the games began.
I have adored every single one of Michael Grant's books that I've read. But in about five pages, Messenger Of Fear instantly became one of my favourites. I love the fast-paced, non-stop action of the Fayz and BZRK series, but this... it was freaking terrifying! Grant is king of creepy, but in Messenger of Fear he takes it to a whole new level. The amount of psychological suspense, fear, thrills and tangled webs in this book... whoa. He also takes some serious issues and manages to brilliantly incorporate them into this fantastical and creepy story. Plus, Messenger of Fear was just the star - I cannot wait to delve deeper into this world with the sequel!
I think it's kind of hard to judge Mara as a character: for the majority of the book, she herself didn't even know who she was, so how were we really meant to? I think she did have an impressive character arc though, and I look forward to seeing more of her. And then there’s the Messenger, who was absolutely fascinating to me. I do love the mysterious, dark types (though not quite as much as my snarky, borderline-bad-boys) and Messenger was just... so interesting.
There was a whole host of other mysterious characters – from Oriax to the Game Master. I'm very excited to learn more about them – about the whole world, actually! I'm not going to say anything else about the other characters – can't give out too many spoilers, can I – but I really did admire the way Grant made them all; different shades of grey, all of them. Because, yes, I hated some of the characters and liked others, but I really understood them all, and could appreciate their characterisation and purpose.
Oh, and guys! GUYS. There was no romance in the book! Seriously! I mean, Messenger is a guy and Mara is a girl and both were the lead characters, but no romance - amazing, right?! Sure, she didn't really trust him. Sure, if you touched him, something pretty bad happened (not telling: no spoilers). But still, I’m really excited by this romance-less plot. Hopefully it will invite more focus on the story rather than a relationship - don't ruin it now, Michael Grant!
On to the writing, which was really different from Grant's usual style: more elegant, more lyrical and more descriptive. Less bang-bang-bang, with everything being thrown at you; more refined and slow, like a mist that creeps into your mind and captures you. I liked it very much. On another note - and I’m not going to lie - fans who are used to Grant's signature bloody action might be a little disappointed with the plot of Messenger of Fear. But if you love exciting and intense psychological suspense, lots of mysteries to be solved, justice to be dealt and webs to be unraveled, you will lap this plot up, just like I did. I really did like the story. It wasn't the fastest, but it was brilliantly suspenseful – we were constantly given little clues, new mysteries and bundles of foreshadowing. As a gal who dotes on mysteries, I really did enjoy the slow build and the endless secrets to unravel. And that last reveal... maybe I should've seen it coming. But I really didn't. It shocked me. And left me desperate for more!
But don't get me wrong; as much as I enjoyed Messenger Of Fear, lots of it was really hard to read. There was this one bit... around eighty pages in... I found it so, so hard to carry on with that chapter – I was literally yelling (in my head) at the characters involved, begging. It was... rough, to say the least. And then towards the end... the violence... the blood of this one scene... That was hard too. But as well as these tough (and brilliantly written) scenes, lots of other difficult issues were tackled: bullying, secrecy, being a victim, injustice, pain...
Messenger Of Fear was a truly gripping and original book – one that completely surprised me and one that I really enjoyed. It might not be for all of Michael Grant's BZRK-er fans, but for those of you who love supernatural mystery books, with lots of creepiness and secrets to unwind, Messenger Of Fear is not to be missed!
So, what are you waiting for? Read or pay, people!
Rating: 4/5 Stars ★ ★ ★ ★
Read this book if you liked:
The Fayz series by Michael Grant
The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
Abhorsen by Garth Nix
Megan, The Book Addicted Girl
* This book was received from Egmont in exchange for an honest review