Bane of Kings reviews the jaw-dropping, penultimate (5th) novel in Michael Grant’s thrilling Gone series, entitled Fear, which was released in hardback in April this year. Fear is a young adult novel, published by Egmont Books.
I’m going to go out and say this right here, right now – Michael Grant is my favourite Young Adult author, and he has not only become my favourite Young Adult author, but he’s also managed to create a fantastic series that is easily one of my Top 5. He’s one of the few authors that can create a series that still has the last novel as good as the first. This is one that you will not want to miss out on, and especially with the stage set for a titanic finale in Light (coming 2013), Fear is a novel that you will not want miss out on. I’m struggling to find a negative thing about Fear – it’s just that good. It might even be one of the best novels (not just YA), of 2012. I for one, really enjoyed it – and I’m not alone. I’m yet to see a negative review of Fear.
It takes something bold to have a sticker on the front of the novel that says “More thrilling than The Hunger Games“. After all, many people out there love the YA Dystopian thriller/romance novels. I for one, loved the first book but was let down with the second – and am yet to read the third despite it sitting on my bookshelf. There’s this doubt that I have that Suzanne Collins won’t be able to produce an amazing endgame to the trilogy – however, I can’t say the same thing about Michael Grant’s Gone novels. The series has just been superb all the way through, and if anything YA can successfully claim that it is more thrilling than The Hunger Games (At least, the first book), it is Michael Grant with his large host of well developed characters that have changed and grown throughout the course of the five books. I can’t wait to see what Michael Grant has in store for Light, and I have complete faith in him that he’ll be able to deliver. So, without further ado – here’s the blurb, taken from Goodreads:
It’s not a long blurb, it doesn’t give that much away. It just tells you what the kids of Perdido Beach have faced in the previous novels (entitled Gone, Hunger, Lies, and Plague), and that there is still worse to come. The worst incarnation of the darkness yet. Fear. And wow, Grant certainly does deliver on that level. For all of those who thought that it couldn’t get any darker than Plague, think again. Fear is quite possibly one of the darkest YA books that I’ve read. Packed full of character deaths (including major ones), insanity, moral questions and epic fights all contained within 528 pages, which is possibly the biggest Gone novel yet. It’s clearly huge by young-adult novel standards.
So, that begs the question then, why did I speed through Fear as fast as I did?
Well, the first answer to that question is that I’m simply a fast reader. If you’re my friend on Goodreads (Bane of Kings if you’re not, I’ll add anyone who adds me), you’ll know that I set myself a challenge of reading 200 books over the course of this year. That’s right – 200. The current number so far stands in at 92, although this includes stuff like various issues of the e-anthology Hammer and Bolter and the Black Library short stories celebrating 15 years of the aforementioned publisher. So I have to be a fast reader if I want to achieve my goal. The second reason, and the more important one for this review, is that the Gone series as a whole are all page-turners. Every single one. Every time a new novel by Michael Grant comes around, I’m pretty much guaranteed for a sleepless night, regardless of whether I have to get up early in the next morning or not. Fear is no exception to that rule, and that’s another reason why I love it, and the series that it’s in. It’s unputdownable.
I mentioned earlier that the characters in this series have really developed since we first saw them in Gone. Sam Temple, the main character – is no longer who he once was. He’s changed. He’s no longer the carefree, surfer dude who we saw at the beginning of the first novel in the series. He’s clearly developed as a character, struggling with not only overwhelming leadership responsibilities for a teenager his age, but also the nagging doubt that if the wall does come down, he believes that he will be held responsible for all of the kids who have died in the previous novels. He doesn’t get as much page-time in Fear as he did in previous novels, but he’s still around, with the pages split between the POV of him and various other characters, ranging from main ones such as Caine, Dekka and Orc, to newcomers such as Cigar, and major villains such as Penny (who has become one of my most hated characters in YA fiction. I would say all of fiction, but I think Erebus of the Horus Heresy novels would have to take that spot.
The novel itself is fast-paced, relentless and now, to add to the tension, there’s deaths of people that we know and love, and suddenly as the pages continue we begin to realise that all bets are off on character safety in the final novel, Light, which hits the bookshelves in 2013.
In Fear, we’re also given a glimpse as to what happened to those who were either older than fifteen at the coming of the FAYZ, or had turned fifteen and ‘poofed’ during the events of the previous books. This is, if memory serves correctly, the first time that Grant has done this in the five books, breaking any hope I had for my theory about them being separated from the Earth on some sort of asteroid that is heading on collision course with a black hole. Grant also manages to create tension both inside the FAYZ, and outside as well, so that the pace is consistently flowing and we don’t want to skip the chapters outside the mysterious wall so we can get back to our main characters who are fighting for survival inside.
We get some much needed POV from Connie Temple, mother of Sam and Caine, and we learn why she made the choices that she did, which I found to be quite important. There are more big reveals though in Fear, but I won’t tell you more because of spoilers.
And, for those of you that hate Astrid? Well, let me tell you now – by the end of Fear - you’ll no longer hate her. I neither hated nor liked her character before Fear, but now she’s one of my favourites in this rapidly expanding cast of characters, that are all given their time to shine in this novel. Grant has got inside of the minds of these children brilliantly, and he knows exactly what makes them tick. He’s even made us change our feelings towards Caine and Diana, the original Coates kids and the main villains of Gone. He’s showed us that almost anyone (apart from Drake, that is – Grant has made us really hate him as well as Penny), can be redeemed. Fear is truly fantastic in that there are no heroes. Nobody is all-bad (again, apart from Drake), and nobody is all good… not even Astrid.
The book is full of twists and turns, which are each unpredictable and you don’t really know what’s going to happen next, which again, adds to the suspension level. And if you’re also wanting another reason why you should read the series as a whole, go on – wait for it, none other than Stephen King himself said, “ I love these books.”
Fear is mind-blowingly awesome. It’s just that good. Grant really excelled himself as an author here, and has managed to create a novel that reads like X-Men meets Lord of the Flies, only 1000 times darker and much more thrilling. You won’t want to miss this.
Gone Series by Michael Grant: Gone, Hunger, Lies, Plague, Fear, Light (Coming in 2013)