I have just eaten up this series! Seriously, I was shocked and blown away so much by the first book, that I put it on the staff recommendation wall when I worked at Barnes and Noble, years after the book was released. I sold this series to so many people. I just want everyone to know how great it is!
Sever (which is book 3 in the Chemical Garden Trilogy) begins right where book 2 finishes. Rhine is in the hospital. She was intensely drugged through most of book 2, but the results of her state at the end brought her to the hospital, alongside her husband (who she doesn’t love), Linden and Linden’s other wife, Cecily. Rhine has told Linden everything even though she knows he will most likely not believe her. Linden has been so ignorant in regards to his father. And to hear that not only he had Rhine in their basement all this time so he could experiment on here, but also that he was responsible for almost all the other deaths in the house…well, it’s hard to believe
Rhine soon develops an unbreakable friendship bond with both Linden and Cecily (who’s 4 months pregnant with her second child –at the age of 14!) Remember though that women all die at the age of 20, and men at the age of 25 in this novel. Linden and Cecily hijack Rhine out of the hospital before Vaughn (evil dad) can get to her. They bring her to Linden’s uncle’s house. Apparently, Linden has had a secret relationship with his beloved, quirky uncle that Vaughn has pushed away.
There, Rhine helps fix things. And Reed (uncle) loves fixing things! He’s even working on an airplane in his shed! This book is filled with secret radio news reports involving Rhine’s rebel twin brother, who she’s been searching for and wanting to get back to since book 1. There’s more politics, more science, and a whole lot more answers about Rhine’s parents and the disease that’s killing everyone so early.
And just when I think things cannot get worse for this newly joined trio, the book goes back to the scarlet district carnival of book 2! There’s plenty of hospital scenes, miscarried babies, accidents, death, murder, experiments, and all of the darkness I have come to love and hate at the same time in the earlier books. But, there is also a whole lot more hope. Everything sort of pieces together: the carnival, Rhine’s twin, Linden’s first wife, and Vaughn. Everything is connected.
Eventually Rhine has to make some super intense decisions. And what ends up surprising me the most is how super intense other characters’ decisions end up being as well. I got so wrapped up in Rhine’s problems that I sometimes forgot how traumatized everyone else was. And I guess this was good because there were some seriously shocking moments for me.
I’m still sort of deciding on how much I liked the ending. I’m not sure on how believable the end was. There were some things I was so glad for happening, but there were others that just seemed a little too easy.
It’s so nice to have a strong Rhine back though. She’s no longer drugged out of her mind, and she has such a unique mind! I loved watching her handle Vaughn, watching her react to the Madame of the carnival, watching her tell and not tell her brother things. I love how she is a character who learns from past mistakes, and never forgets anything! She is so observant, resilient, and loyal! She makes sure to take care of everyone even though she doesn’t see herself as the mothering type. She thinks Cecily is the mother hen. And despite all the terrible cards she’s been dealt (aka: short life span, abduction, forced marriage, drugs, carnival sex trade, experimentation, illness, and loss), she still manages to see the good in people. She still hopes for a better outcome.
I have grown to love Cecily too! She was never a favorite character of mine. She was the spoiled princess character who ratted people out. But as a mother, and as someone who has suffered through a miscarriage, she becomes this strong-willed, independent, force to be reckoned with! She becomes a true friend. She learns how to shoot guns and talk her husband into doing things. She is always there for Rhine in this one. And she works her hardest to convince Linden on how awful his father is.
I loved seeing more of the science in this book too! So much of this book deals with finding a cure, and I found it fascinating! Rhine’s twin was not as cool as I was hoping for, but it was really nice getting to see the two of them together again! I wish I got to see more of Gabriel. But, in a way, this allows for Rhine to be more of the strong one! She grows up so much in these pages.
Oh, and finally the title for the series makes a bit more sense! Again, I was blown away by this author’s ability to create such a dark, complex world. The characters were amazingly believable. The action, drama, and terror were never ending. And just when DeStefano has you thinking things are going one way (even at the very end), she’ll turn it all around and continue to surprise you. I loved the twists. I loved how strong all of the characters learned to become. I loved getting so many answers! I think the ending was a tad unbelievable, but I still absolutely loved it. I give this a 10/10. And I look forward to reading anything else this author will put her name on.