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Review: Messenger of Fear by Michael Grant

Monday, January 5, 2015

Messenger of Fear
Michael Grant

Series: Messenger of Fear #1
Genre: HorrorParanormal
Hardback: 272 Pages
Publication: September 23, 2014
by Katherine Tegan Books

I remembered my name – Mara. But, standing in that ghostly place, faced with the solemn young man in the black coat with silver skulls for buttons, I could recall nothing else about myself.

And then the games began.

The Messenger sees the darkness in young hearts, and the damage it inflicts upon the world. If they go unpunished, he offers the wicked a game. Win, and they can go free. Lose, and they will live out their greatest fear.

But what does any of this have to do with Mara? She is about to find out . . .


One of the things that drew me to this book is that the synopsis doesn't really explain anything—a pretty bad decision looking back. While I understand that a lot is kept from Mara until the very end, I wish that I had known going in that there was going to be a lot of violence and terrible scenes. The synopsis wasn't kidding that people will live out their greatest fear; it maybe only forgot to mention that we get to live it out with them. It also fails to mention that there is a lot more going on in this book than the "games," which serve mostly as a side plot. The main focus is on the story of a girl named Samantha Early and the unraveling of how her story relates to Mara's present situation.

For the first couple chapters, I was intrigued by Mara's situation. Why is the Messenger of Fear having her tag alongside him, and why is he showing her Samantha's story? What does Mara have to learn from all this? I even found myself fascinated by the same things she is curious about. It quickly got old and routine, however. Mara has little control over events, which means that she's forced to follow the Messenger of Fear, which means that the reader too is mostly tagging along for the ride. There's little suspense and action. We don't even have any stakes because we don't know what they are. I wish that Oriax's interest in happenings was explored a bit more. I feel like her presence in the novel could have helped amp the stakes and add more tension to the plot. As it is, her presence is like a spider crawling on the wall: ominous yet not much of a force to be reckoned with as of yet.

I think that it's really cool how Mara is half-Caucasian half-Chinese; however, not much is done with this element of diversity except for her appearance. While there's nothing wrong with that—it's important that we have diversity in books—being Chinese, I remember being delighted whenever I came across a book that featured an Asian heroine and which explored Asian culture and experiences. There are so few of these kinds of books. I'm not asking to explore the culture in depth but it would have been nice to see more of Mara's experiences growing up with a Caucasian father and Chinese mother. What was the culture like at home and what traditions did they have?

Overall, the characters and story fell flat. The characters are pretty stereotypical like the ones you'd expect to see in a caricature of high school life, and Oriax is like the busty seductress you'd expect to see in a mature video game. The Messenger of Fear is like the tall dark brooding guy from an anime. It didn't really feel like the characters grew. Mostly, this first book seems to serve as a prequel to events to come. Even as Mara strives to understand what the Messenger of Fear is trying to teach her, we the readers make our own revelations about this new world and how it influences our own world. Honestly, I'm not sure what the whole moral of the lesson is and what exactly the Messenger of Fear is trying to teach Mara. For the most part, it feels like this books is made up of a series of episodic events stringed together.

I do warn: though the writing is more youthful, seeming to target younger YA readers, there is a lot of violence and gory detail. I mentioned this earlier, but I want to stress it again. It's gross; it's terrible. And yet the descriptions aren't so vivid that I wanted to cringe. Rather, I was mostly grossed out. Regardless, if you're not into this stuff, I suggest passing on this book.

It definitely seems like there is more to this world than has been introduced in this book. I really wish we'd been given more information on what is to come. It would have helped me decide whether this is a world that I want to explore more (while giving the plot more tension and intrigue). At the moment, however, I'm not interested in pursuing the series further. I'll wait to see what other readers have to say about the second and third books when they come out. If it seems promising, I might be convinced to given the second book a try.

* The story kind of reminds me of the Ranger's Apprentice series by John Flanagan, the difference being that Ranger's Apprentice is set in a fantasy world and has a lot more action going on.

An ARC was provided by Harper Collins for review

Rating: 2 stars

  • Messenger of Fear
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2 comments on "Review: Messenger of Fear by Michael Grant"
  1. Aw sorry to hear that some elements fell flat. I enjoyed what I have read about his other series.

    1. I've heard great things about Michael Grant's other series. I might give one of them a try sometime :)


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