When Mara wakes up she finds herself surrounded by thick mist, lying in a field of dead grass and having no idea where she is or how she got there. All she can remember is her name and she isn’t even sure if she’s still alive or if she’s wandering through some kind of weird afterlife. Taking a few insecure steps she soon finds herself inside of a church and in front of a lonely coffin in which lies the dead body of a young girl. Suddenly a young stranger with pale skin and a black coat with silver skulls for buttons is standing next to her who seems to have all the answers to Mara’s pressing questions, but the boy prefers to keep them to himself and thereby only reinforces her insecurity and confusion. Calling himself the Messenger of Fear the weird stranger wants Mara to become his new apprentice but not only has she no idea why she of all people has been chosen for this task – she’s also afraid of what lies in front of her. But soon Mara realizes that she has no other choice than to follow the Messenger’s plan for her – but her journey is going to be tough and painful…
„More than this“ meets „13 Reasons Why“
One of my favorite kinds of books are those where you get thrown into the story and have absolutely no idea what’s going on, but where there is this one big secret that has you hooked right from the start and makes you rush through the book because you can’t wait to get the explanation for all the weird things that are happening. Michael Grant „Messenger of Fear“ has all the attributes to be exactly that kind of story and like most of the stories of that kind this one also starts with a protagonist that suffers from some kind of amnesia and has no idea who or where she is. To make it even worse there are strange things happening to her so that she doesn’t even know if she’s dead or alive and the only person that could enlighten her seems to be playing a wicked game with her which begins with the dead body of a girl that has just killed herself due to being the victim of bullying. With this starting situation „Messenger of Fear“ reminded my a bit of „More than this“ by Patrick Ness (because of the „amnesia“) and of „13 Reasons Why“ by Jay Asher (because of the girl’s suicide) and since I loved both of these books it wasn’t a big surprise for me that I was intrigued by this story almost immediately.
Fast-paced and mysterious, but also a bit superficial
Compared to Michael Grant’s „Gone“ series where the author takes a lot of time to unfold his story with lots of in-depth characterizations and a huge amount of side plots „Messenger of Fear“ is a rather fast-paced and straight read with quite a limited setting and only a few different characters which mostly remain quite mysterious and don’t give away a lot about themselves. On the one hand this is a very clever means to make the reader curious and keep him attached to the story but on the other hand I found it a bit difficult to relate to characters because they offered so little that one could identify with and I often felt like I didn’t really care about what happened to them. I also really liked how the book dealt with topics like bullying, fear and guilt but even though there were some controversial parts the story was a bit too superficial for me and I think the reason for this lack of depth can be found in the low number of pages of this book. 300 pages is already a bit short for a story to properly evolve but since „Messenger of Fear“ has an almost ridiculously big line-spacing and huge margins it really doesn’t leave you with a lot of text to read which leads to my biggest point of criticism: The book is simply too short and it feels more like a novella than an actual novel.
An interesting (but much too short) start to a promising series
Overall it’s a fair start to a new series with an interesting basic idea and Michael Grant definitely knows how to play with the reader’s curiosity but even though the story offers a nice (but not completely unpredictable) plot twist the ending will most likely leave you a bit unsatisfied because it simply provides far too few answers. Of course it’s only the first part of a series but to me it just didn’t feel like a proper book but more like a prologue that lays the foundations for an interesting story with quite some potential. That’s why I’m having quite a hard time to find an appropriate rating for „Messenger of Fear“ because I really enjoyed reading it but overall it also left me a bit disappointed because it just gave me so little to work with.