Thursday 26 March 2009


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?

Carrie Ryan's post-apocalyptic debut novel is brilliant - from the story, to the characters, the bleak world it illustrates, as well as the wonderful way it was written.

Mary lives in a village surrounded by fences. Behind these fences lurks the Forest of Hands and Teeth. This is where the Unconsecrated exist. A horde of undead who surround the village. It seems a macabre way of surviving, but since the Return swept through the planet, the survivors had no choice but to close themselves off like this. So, they continue to live, survive and breed, living under the rules that the Sisterhood have established. But they have their own dark secrets to help keep order within the village.

Death faces the villagers at every turn, the moans of the Unconsecrated the soundtrack of their survival and always reminding them of their mortality.

Mary's mother told her stories of how the world used to be, and she cherishes them. Especially the story of the ocean, something that consumes her very existence. In spite of her love towards a boy called Travis, she still wishes to know what's out there and refuses to believe that the village is all there is left.

The day the fences are breached, Mary and a handful of others are forced to leave the village. And so begins her physical and inner journey of getting the one thing she most desires - no matter what the cost.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth is a coming of age story. A story of survival in a dead world. A heartbreaking tale of love, of following your heart no matter what the obstacles are. And the obstacles Mary faces along the way are not only dangerous, but scary and unavoidable. With death all around her, she still manages to find the strength from within to keep going.

I found this book intriguing and all-consuming. Mary's narration was intoxicating and brutally honest. I hated to put it down for too long, and ended up reading it within 24 hours. If I didn't have other responsibilities as well as the need to eat and sleep, I'm sure I could have read it in one sitting. The tension grabbed me so tight that I was pulled into the story, every heart-stopping moment made me feel the events and had me on the edge of my seat.

When you pick up this beautiful book - and I think every reader owes it to themselves to experience this fantastic tale - be prepared to be captivated until the very last word. And even then, you'll wish there was more. I know I did.

The Forest of Hands & Teeth, April 2009, ISBN 0575090855, Gollancz Paperback

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