This book is a more direct continuation of Gathering Blue. Matt, Kira’s friend from Gathering Blue lived in the ghetto of Kira’s Tribe. His parents were NOT nice. At the end of Gathering Blue, Matt had went with Kira’s father to live with him in The Village. The Village was founded by people who are not welcome in their own villages. Some travelled far and wide, some, like Kira’s father and Matt, came from just beyond the Forest. Now this Village, this is Utopian. Jonas, from The Giver, is the present “Leader” and resident wise man of the Village. The Village is extremely peaceful with each person having their designation or their “true name”. This is an echo of the Community where everyone is given their assignments when they turn 12. But in the Village, naming seems more organic and benevolent.
Matt is living a pretty good life there. He is far from his former wild self and is seemingly content and happy with Kira’s father and is hoping that he will soon be named “The Messenger”. This is a job that he is already doing, in any case. He delivers message far and wide, even beyond the mysterious forest which actually kills other people who have been living in the Village for long and dare to venture its depths.
But Matt’s perfect world is slowly being changed for the worse. There is a mysterious trademaster who seems to be able to give everything your heart desires, at the cost of chipping away at your humanity one trade at a time. The forest is becoming more and more corrupt and dangerous. And the once benevolent and open villagers are planning on closing the village to outsiders, people, who, like the villagers when they first arrived, have nowhere else to go. Because of the planned closing of the village, Matt goes back to Kira to lead her to the Village. The way is hard and Matt barely makes it to Kira alive. And things are even worse on the way back. Someone will have to make a sacrifice.
The series, as it progresses, has less and less sci-fi aspects and has become very fantasy oriented. While I also love fantasy, this leaves me a bit disoriented. In this book, the mysterious trademaster seems like evil personified, a monster. And Jonas’ and Kira’s and Matt’s special abilities are more magical, as is the dark forest. As the series progresses, I like the books less and less. I found the story a bit clichéd and simplistic. And the ending, which was supposed to be really touching, didn’t really do anything for me. That is not to say that the book was bad. It was good enough to keep me interested. It is quite alright and might be good for a younger audience.