Friday, June 25, 2010

Friday Flashback Review (3): The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan ★★★★

Created by JG, The Introverted Reader,  "Friday Flashback" is a weekly feature of older review from another source (Goodreads, LibraryThing, Amazon, whatever) on the blog. As I've just started my blog, and I have quite a few reviews on Goodreads, this is perfect for me.

In honor of the on-going battle between Zombies (defending army commander: Sharon) and Unicorns (defending army commander: April), I thought I would take my own little stand. Current unofficial, totally biased count taken by me has the score at Zombies:1, Unicorns, zilch. I do believe that my review here will have Zombies up 2. What's your play, Unicorn?

So, without further ado... On with the winnage. ;)

The Forest of Hands and Teeth (The Forest of Hands and Teeth, #1)Description: In Mary's world there are simple truths.

The Sisterhood always knows best.
The Guardians will protect and serve.
The Unconsecrated will never relent.
And you must always mind the fence that surrounds the village; the fence that protects the village from the Forest of Hands and Teeth.

But, slowly, Mary's truths are failing her. She's learning things she never wanted to know about the Sisterhood and its secrets, and the Guardians and their power, and about the Unconsecrated and their relentlessness. When the fence is breached and her world is thrown into chaos, she must choose between her village and her future-between the one she loves and the one who loves her.

And she must face the truth about the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Could there be life outside a world surrounded in so much death?

My Review:
I ♥ zombies.
I know, I know, big secret. I say so on my profile page. But what I really love are zombie apocalypses. I love the terror of feeling that you're alone and there are legions of the undead swarming around and the only thing between you and certain (but temporary) death is a marginal amount of luck and maybe a little skill.

I love apocalyptic fiction on its own, of course. But there is just something about zombie apocalypses. Now you're not just on your own to fend for yourself in an empty world... Now you have to fight off zombies who want nothing more than to see what you taste like. Gives me a shiver every time.

This book was a really good ZA story. The zombies were exactly the kind that I love. Ruthless, eternally hungry, and persistent. Dead, broken, and hungry, just the way I like them. The zombies, or the Unconsecrated, as they are called in the story, set the tone for the rest of the book, and it's pretty dark.

Set an unspecified number of years after the Return (I'm guessing probably about 100 to 150?), we're shown what the world has narrowed to: a little village surrounded on all sides by teeming undead and run by the fervently religious Sisterhood. We're shown that at this point in time, nobody currently alive in the village has ever been or even seen outside of their village/world, and believe that they are the only remaining island of the living left.

The Sisterhood does well to encourage and teach this line of thinking, with the "For The Good Of All" mentality that's so popular among those who hold power. They don't want a breach in their fences when people go looking for something else, which is understandable. They don't want people to harbor a hope that may never be realized when instead they could simply live their small and semi-sheltered lives within the village. So, to this end, they teach and believe that the world outside is gone, and the village is all that is left. Until everything changes with an outsider showing up.

The story was pretty suspenseful, and I never really knew what was coming. I enjoyed the concept of love vs. duty and commitment, and the confusion that arose from that.

I loved Mary's character and her conflicting desires to follow her heart in two different directions while still trying to do the right thing. She was completely believable in the situation that she was put in. I also loved Travis's character. He stole my heart from the moment he covered for Mary in the Cathedral to prevent her from being caught breaking her vow of silence. I have to say that he was my favorite character, and I loved him for his sadness and devotion to Mary when she wanted to risk everything following her dreams.

I devoured this book... The zombies, the conflicts and confusion and romance and terror and hope. I wish I could give it 5 stars, but unfortunately, I can't. I had a bunch of unanswered questions, and there were quite a few things that just didn't make sense to me. The ending was left pretty ambiguous, but I'm OK with that. I have other issues that I wish were addressed in a more acceptable way.

For instance, Mary talks about how important it is for everyone to marry and have babies so that they can keep the village alive, and how there was an illness that reduced the number of marriageable people her age to a whopping 4: her best friend, her two brothers-in-law (whose sister is married to Mary's brother), and herself. Now, I find it a bit unbelievable that an illness would wipe out all but two intact families and one loner who happens to be Mary's best friend.

Also, Sister Tabitha, who heads up The Sisterhood, has an uncanny knack for knowing exactly what Mary is up to at pretty much all times, yet when Mary makes a big discovery (and a LOT of noise doing it), not a soul shows up to find out what's going on, and it's never mentioned.

In addition to this, I think that the writing was a bit clumsy in some places, and the editing could have been tighter. Sentence structures were such that the line would read differently in my head than it should have, and I'd have to reread it again to understand what was going on. And Ryan used far too many sentence fragments in her writing. I understand that sometimes they work and work well, but they should fit the flow and enhance the story, not detract from it or cause confusion, which they did in a couple cases.

But, overall, I thought that the story was well done and intriguing. It certainly kept me guessing, and didn't pull any punches, so I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it.

(Unicorn brains are a zombie delicacy! :P)


  1. Great review! Im #TeamZombie as well, I have tons of zombie contests going on till monday if you want to stop by, like your blog :)

  2. I tried so hard to like this book, but I just couldn't. Of course, I'm not a zombie fan at all, so that surely has more to do with it than anything! I agree 100% with your assessments of the writing/editing. There were some inconsistencies that had me scratching my head in places.

  3. This book has been on my TBR list at the library. I've never read a zombie book. Thanks for the review!

  4. I really liked this book as well, but I understand the flaws in the writing and the story. Great, honest review! Go Team Zombie! :)