The Village meets slavery meets a cult? Trust me, it sounds a LOT more interesting than it ends up being.
Ruby dreams of escaping the Congregation. Escape from slaver Darwin West and his cruel Overseers. Escape from struggling to gather the life-prolonging Water that keeps the Congregants alive--and Darwin rich. Escape from her certain, dreary existence, living as if it's still the early 1800s, when the Congregation was first enslaved. But if Ruby leaves, the Congregation will die without the secret ingredient to the Water: her blood. So she stays, and prays to their savior Otto, who first gave Water to the Congregants... and fathered Ruby before he vanished.
Published January 2011 by EgmontUSA
Read July 2011
Note: Snark ahead. I rarely get this snarky, though, so don't take it as a sign of things to come.
As you might have guessed, I was rather interested in this book based on the plot alone. Yes, it has bad reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, but it does not live up to the promise the plot gives. In fact, it falls flat thanks to 1.) stupid characters, 2.) implausible plot developments, and 3.) an ending that wrapped up 400 pages worth of action in 10 minutes.
Ruby has lived her entire life living practically as a slave, gathering Water (dew collected daily from plants mixed with her blood which gives extended life and healing powers). She's 200 years old but looks and acts like she's 16. One of the Overseers, Ford, is the designated love interest of this tale. He's handsome, 18, and working as a slave driver to provide for his mother's cancer treatment. Ruby's mother claims to be looking out for the interests of the community while serving as a reverend for a Congregation that worships Otto, the original man whose blood gave life before he up and left the community to hide in the woods to continue on, but only after impregnating Ruby's mother. The main villain is a man named Darwin West, who is in love with Ruby's mother and, scorned, follows the Congregation into the woods and enslaves them in order to procure and sell the Water to the Visitor. The Congregation has lived there for 200 years and still lives as if it is 1810, waiting for Otto while Darwin manages to live on as a member of the outside community, recruiting Overseers to serve as guards from convicts and the desperate unemployed.
Some tropes employed in this book include Instalove (Ford falls in love with Ruby at first sight, and she pretty much does as well). More importantly than that, everyone in the Congregation is apparently dumb. They make Ruby their leader and then when they realize she is in love with an Overseer they cast her out - by the end, Ruby's mother has become a secondary villain, even trying to kill Ford and tells Ruby she is an embarrassment and not worth love because she "betrayed the community" by trying to save them and not wait for Otto (who is now a Jesus-like figure).
The ending seems like the author realized she needed to wrap it up and after 300 pages of harvesting Water, talking about Ruby's power, love, and how Darwin is evil, so the Visitor shows up. I still don't get the Visitor - he just appeared and then left but managed to do so much in the process that concluded the novel in less than twenty pages. On top of this, Ford is also guilty of religious insensitivity, saying he can't love Ruby because worshiping Otto is heresy and a sin, but falling in love with her anyway. There was a great deal of yes, no, yes, no, okay, sure, let's run away. Ruby, meanwhile, is guilty of "I love him, but I can't love him" in every chapter. We get it, we don't need to be reminded every five pages. Forbidden love ran very thickly.
In the end, this book had promise, but just fell flat. Ruby was dumb, her mother was just as bad as the villain (all she had to do was marry Darwin - it was obviously she cared about him, but she was saving herself for Jesus - I mean Otto), and Ruby and Ford fell in love despite having nothing in common besides googly eyes. Oh, and there were several obvious editing problems (they're versus their came up at least twice, and punctuation usage was off). A good premise does not make a good book, but I liked the plot enough to save this from one star.
Recommend this to fans of The Village because of slight similarities.
♥♥ / 5 (two hearts)
VERDICT: Go watch The Village instead and eat some ice cream. You'll leave feeling less dumbfounded.