Aggie's life in the village is as normal and dull as any girl's; she has never questioned the rule of the Ministration or the power of the divine beings-the birds. Then, the crippled master of the nearby manor, Murkmere, sends for Aggie to become a lady's companion to his ward, Leah. Aggie accepts and even starts to befriend the wild and strange girl who seems to want nothing but to escape Murkmere and its powermongering steward, Silas. As preparations begin for the ball celebrating Leah's sixteenth birthday, Aggie finds herself further and further enmeshed in the sinister plots that surround Murkmere, Leah, and the mysterious Master. Suspenseful and haunting, Murkmere pulls the reader into an unforgettable world between history and myth.
Why I read this book: I got the book at the library, because for a split second there I wasn’t getting any books from publishers or contests or anything like that, so I decided to hit up my library on a Wednesday (everyone in the Library Business will tell you that is the best day to find books…something to do with low traffic at the library and a high return from the weekend)Then, according to my hit and miss policy…I randomly pulled books off the shelves based on title and cover and went from there. I have no clue why this book caught my eye…it is grey, kind of shabby, and the title is “Murkmere”…I believe subconsciously I was thinking “Ohhh something weird” and then of course I had to read it. If a cover is weird/different enough I am bound to at least pick it up and give it a look-see. They say don’t judge a book by its cover, but who are “they” and why exactly do they have the authority to tell me what to read?? Freedom of speech people! The cover is eye-catching and different, in that it isn’t very eye-catching or different… It isn’t explosive or seductive like a lot of YA fiction covers right now. I think the reason this one caught my eye was because it was so very plain, yet interesting.
The Story/Imagery/Characterization: The fact that this was a Dystopian book crept up on me, I suppose that I could have realized that from about halfway through, but it wasn’t until I was at the end that I realized the history that the “forbidden books” were talking about was actually history as it is right now. The story was dark and twisted, detailed without being boring and lyrical without being too corny sounding. I found the religion in the book to be fascinating. I am always interested in how religion is dealt with in other societies, particularly Dystopian. This religion was almost entirely dedicated to birds as gods, with a kind of weird Judeo-Christian concept of one Almighty Father…who was an Eagle. I liked how the story played with the brain-washing that some people and societies have when it comes to religion. They follow blindly, or with faith, and if they question the set order they are blasphemers and can be punished horribly. I liked how this religion was completely made up, and though you could draw comparisons to today’s religions, no one could honestly be offended because of the religion in the book. It takes the pressure off the discussion of brainwashing faith and all that, while still allowing everyone to discuss the book with clarity. The characterization was alright. Not amazing, but not bad either. If the characterization was a painting, it would be a water color: you can see what it is, but it’s kind of wavering and undefined. I ended up identifying with Aggie (the main character) and Miss Leah in the end, but at the beginning I thought Aggie was just a stupid sheep-like creature. Miss Leah was rude and disrespectful and occasionally crazy…it is only as you get deeper into the book that Aggie starts thinking for herself and you start to like her. Also, you can catch a glimpse into why Miss Leah is so crazy so you begin to understand her more and her ways don’t seem so odd. That is always the best kind of character development to me, because it reminds me the most of real life situations.
Comparisons: I really don’t think that there are too many books out there like this one. It draws some similarities to the myths about Selkies, or seal-people that can shed their skin and come on land as people, but will forever be tied to the Sea. Many times in selkie stories, the selkie’s lovers hide their partner’s seal skin so that they can never leave them or in the worst case scenario, the lovers burn the seal skin with disastrous results…though somehow that’s always seemed a little control freak and misogynistic to me…’No Honey, you can’t go out and swim with your family and friends…and to make sure you stay with me I’m going to literally maim you with fire”…sounds like a fabulous relationship to me. This book was also quite gothic in the old-school sense of the word.
I am having a hard time rating this book. It was truly original, but it irritated me in a lot of parts. It was well written, but some of the characterization was sloppy and vague. I think I’m going to give it 7 and ½ feathers out of 10….A good read, but be prepared to be left with a little feeling of disappointment and dissolution as the book closes.