I just finished reading this book literally 5 minutes ago and I immediately had to blog about it. I don’t even know how to begin describing this book or what it’s about… all I know is that it took me less than 2 days to read it and I never wanted it to end. I was so completely wrapped up in the world of Harbinger that reality seems all too plain to me now. *sigh*
Fun Fact: I read the Author’s Note and discovered that Sara Wilson Etienne actually got the idea for this novel when she heard about a group of ancient people off the coast of Maine who disappeared suddenly and without a trace. This is her fantastical theory of their disappearance.
Harbinger by Sara Wilson Etienne
First and foremost; that is a b-e-a-utiful cover. I work at a bookstore, I see a lot of book covers and this one immediately caught my eye. After reading the book the cover takes on a whole new meaning and, if possible, I appreciate it even more. Secondly, great title. There are all too many teen books with witches and vampires, ghosts and goblins, psychics and immortals – what’s a harbinger?
Sixteen-year-old Faye is betrayed by her own parents and abandoned at Holbrook Academy – a boarding school for loonies and problem children. The teachers at Holbrook have some unconventional punishment methods and a headmistress that makes Dolores Umbridge seem saintly. The world outside Holbrook Academy has gone to hell (to put it lightly). There is no food and power is scarce, global warming has ravished the planet and society is falling apart. Life inside Holbrook is not much improved, though the forest still grows around the school it is protected by a tall fenced topped with razor wire – an effort to preserve the trees from society’s destruction… but more likely an effort to keep the students imprisoned.
Everyone has their own secrets, the reason they found themselves at Holbrook. Faye’s happens to be a little darker than her peers. Since she was very young she suffered from night terrors that eventually became daytime hallucinations. At times she can’t tell her illusions from reality. And she can see people’s darkest secrets, just by making eye contact. For that reason Faye has spent most of her life as a total outcast, a freak, a terror. Despite her complete contempt towards Holbrook she actually starts to feel at home, for the first time Faye has friends. Then she and her friends begin to suffer from the same mysterious visions and they wake up each morning to find their hands stained red. Faye begins to unravel a mystery that begins and ends with her, a mystery that has tied her to Holbrook Academy from the very start.
This book was not only well developed and original, it was actually extremely well written. Never once did I stumble over a strange word or awkward phrase. The author writes in a way that is both beautiful and terrifying, my brain had to work harder to conjure up the images she was describing. She writes from Faye’s perspective, a perspective that slips in and out of reality and stumbles through the emotions of a teenage girl with an incredible gift and an incredible curse. The story isn’t scary but just creepy enough that I had to flip another light on when I read it at night. The setting and characters felt so real that I had to stop reading every now and then to look around and let reality sink in before I continued. Overall a really great psychological thriller.
The ending was fast paced and unexpected but the psychological thrill ride ends before you get there. The author takes the book in an entirely outlandish direction that I did not see coming. The last few chapters reminded me of Wall-E; a not-so-subliminal message about going green and saving the Earth before everything and everyone dies out.
A truly great book that I would recommend. However, it left me feeling like I need a serious reality check so I’m going to refrain from reading anymore fantasy for a week or two.