Reviewer: Lauren Swanson
Byrony Adams, the heroine of Mercedes Yardley’s novel, is decidedly accepting of her fate to die. She had been reminded of her fate every day since her youth. Every person she meets, greets her with knowingly somber eyes. Some respond with a desire to protect the young and beautiful Byrony, others respond by wishing to give her to that ominous end.
Byrony Adams lives in a world where one’s fate is written in their irises and combed through their hair each night. Her world is not one where the question “why?” exists. Rather, “why?” is predominated by another question entirely: “when?” “Why is Byrony going to die?” is not and should not be asked. Rather, it’s a matter of “When is Byrony going to die?”
It may seem that a fate to die would prompt a lifetime of adventures and experiences, however, Yardley’s Adams is emotionally (and often physically) numbed by her fate. She chooses the road most traveled, ensuring that it is well-lit its whole distance. She proceeds, in most aspects of her life, with extreme caution. However, Byrony proves to be naively trusting in interpersonal relationships. She navigates her life with a confusing juxtaposition of cautiousness and naivety. This can be frustrating to the reader who is looking for solid character traits. (Though of course, the “real” world has its own confusing juxtapositions.)
The protagonist does, in fact, take a risk, albeit a late one. After surviving childhood and young adulthood, Byrony makes the bold decision that she is ready to fall in love. This decision seems to be a misguided choice in many respects. As a feminist reader, I certainly feel that every woman has the right to experience love (especially when they are in a constant war with death). But at the same time, Byrony seems to reject other opportunities for life fulfillment in exchange for a chance at love. Additionally, Byrony’s journey to find true love is brief and unrealistic as she experiences no trial and error or heartbreak. Perhaps, if I too were destined for untimely and gruesome death, however, I would be numb to heartbreak. In her fight with fate, Byrony’s life does seem to be filled with rather positive fate in love.
Making this declaration to love drives the plot because Bryony previously could not commit—her fear of death and fear of commitment entwined. However, her decision seems more of the same: she falls for the (not surprisingly) dark and brooding musician, Eddie. Darkness, we find, loves company… but their love is spun positively by Yardley. Byrony was told to run from her fated death, but instead she runs towards love (even though this might, in fact, be her fated death). It’s not always clear why…but this is, in itself, part of the mystery.
Yardley guides the reader with beautifully, albeit brief, descriptions of Byrony’s world. Nature, in Byrony’s world, is far more realistic than any of the mystical characters that Yardley introduces. Those characters (Syrina, Stop, Rikki-Tikki) and their interactions seemed forced; their dialogues seemed about as impractical as a woman being marked for death since birth. But while impracticality may seem to prevail, the tale does make the reader think about humankind. Who amongst us is also marked and fated for a tragic ending or a tragically beautifully life? Despite my reservations about Bryony as a character (and despite my uncertainty about the core message), I found the book enjoyable and readable. Looking for a quick read and an interesting spin on life, death, and love? Hear more about Yardley and her work here: http://abrokenlaptop.com/about/
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Lauren Swanson is in her final year as an English and dance major with a journalism minor at Wittenberg University. She is the Design Editor for the student newspaper at Wittenberg and has worked for VIP Magazine in Dublin, Ireland. She is currently a contributing writer for the online music magazine SoGutsy. She is extremely passionate about 18th century British literature, environmental studies, psychology, and creativity.