Wherever you step,
Whatever you seek,
May your tongue hold still,
May your heart live meek.
Haven; a small, intensely religious community built upon extreme misogyny, and all that remains of The World That Once Was after the greed, deceit, and lasciviousness of women led to war and the devastation of the planet. Or so its people are led to believe.
After five long years of living under the shadow of sin her unfaithful mother cast upon the family, she will now become a Saint. Shedding her given name, she will become Amity, protector of her people against the evil that lies beneath the the black mountain. An evil that has already horrifically murdered nine of Haven’s men. An evil that seems to taunt her and tries to lure her into its wicked grasp as it did her mother before her. But Amity is pious and strong. She will not succumb to the Devil, the scaly and mottled white eyed creatures that watch her, or the tortured spirits of faceless gray women that haunt her. She will endure alongside her sister saints, and through their piety, save those she loves.
But it is her sister saints who lure her from the village to the realm of Avazel and a coven of witches able to manipulate the power of extasia. Their stories differ vastly from those indoctrinated into Amity by the elders of Haven and rattle her beliefs. Surrounded by evils, and unsure who to trust, she must unravel the truth if she is to defeat the Devil and save her people. The witches of the coven are vengeful and powerful but it seems Amity is even stronger. Extasia has been waiting for her. The power speaks to her and when extasia speaks, a girl should listen. For unlike everything else in her life, the power never lies.
Pros And My Favourite Parts
Like the villagers of Haven during visitation day, this book doesn’t pull any punches. It is seething with a burning rage but as the flowers that can flow from Amity’s power, tendrils of hope and beauty are also woven through the pages. The lyrical writing fluctuates between moments of ethereal beauty, oppressive weight, profound darkness and the many iterations of sisterhood and love. The juxtaposition created a maelstrom of emotion that is still whirling through me. Rage and vengeance are the driving forces propelling the narrative, though they are tempered by hope and love taking us on an incredible journey of pain, discovery, reconciliation, and hope alongside Amity and her friends. I was emotionally exhausted after reading this but ever so glad for the experience.
The idea that violence begets violence and the concept of the perpetual circle of vengeance is not new, but here it is perfectly depicted and examined and I enjoyed how it played out in this book. The struggles Amity has reconciling her feelings for Samuel with the knowledge that he has been complicit in her and her sisters’ suffering is affecting. There were just so many things that hit me in the feels so damn hard.
Cons And Heads Up
This is a heavy and dark book indeed, and you should not dive into it expecting a light fantasy story. It is imbued with so much trauma which plunges into your soul igniting your own rage as you read with its obvious parallels to the real world. Its content of religiously driven physical, sexual and emotional abuse of women in a patriarchal society is set against a bleak dystopian backdrop. The horror elements are graphic and grotesque at times and there is murder, torture, and cannibalism portrayed. Having said that, the story is certainly not all doom and gloom. There is equally striking beautiful imagery and moments of discovery, growth and love to lift you out of the darkness. Speaking of love, this quote says it all; “The warmth rising under my skin bubbles, builds, melts me. It rises and rises, then spills over, flooding down my body. I cry out and shake in Sorrow’s arms…” phew! This description just slew me.
If you enjoyed The Handmaid’s Tale you will love this book. The magic system is unique, the themes are poignant, and the characters are engaging. It is dark and twisty and once you are buried in its depths, it is near impossible to crawl out.
Excerpt from Extasia by Claire Legrand
MY NAME IS UNIMPORTANT
The name my dead mother gave me is not really mine, not I who will today be made a saint of Haven. I am not like other girls. My father tells me so. He tells me I am greater than any plain girl walking, and now the other elders say it too. They heard it straight from God.
Never mind what my mother did.
Never mind that for years my neighbors have looked at me and my father and my sister — the Barrow family — as if we are Devil-touched, same as Mother was.
Never mind what I did that day five years ago, what I saw, what I said.
No, today marks a new beginning for us Barrows. The elders have deemed me worthy of my true name at last.
But when I wake on this day of my anointing, a great black bird sits just outside my window. A chill rushes through me. First hot, then cold, it steals away my wits.
This is not just any bird, but a mottled creature with ratty feathers and scaly skin. A jagged toothy beak hanging open, unblinking white eyes like big twin moons. Very still, it watches me, and I watch back.
Mother always told us of the frights, the little creatures sent by the Devil that swarm inside a girl and bring fear, doubt, dark thoughts. They claw and nibble, rake your skin with cold, tie your belly into knots.
Not once did I see a fright outside of Mother’s stories until this winter past. For weeks now, I have seen them in trees, real and perched and leering. In shadows, skittering. Overhead, fluttering like bats. More and more, they come.
And when they do, death often follows close behind.
And when they come, it seems that only I can see them.
But whatever of my mother’s rot lives inside me, it shall not drag me down to Hell as it did her. She brought our family low.
Today, I shall raise us high once more.
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Bits and Bobs
ISBN number: 9780062696632
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
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