Marysvale (Book 1, Marysvale Series)
by Jared Southwick
Release Date: October 5, 2010
2010 Two Roads Press
Hardcover Edition; 388 Pages
Genre: Fiction / Fantasy
Source: Review Copy from Cheryl Christensen at Media Guests
4 / 5 Stars
John Casey was ten years old when his mother was murdered...and ten when his father hid the truth from him. Without that knowledge, he has no idea of the enemies that lie in wait.
Now grown up, John lives a solitary life, in a world enslaved by ignorance and superstition, when anyone unusual is treated with distrust and even killed...and John has some very unusual gifts. When he is accused of witchcraft, John does the ony thing he's ever done - Run! That is, until he meets Jane, who lives in the bleak, imprisoned town of Marysvale. Life outside the safety of the town walls means certain death from the brutal monsters that hunt there. However, life inside, under the rule of a tyrannical leader, means no life at all.
As the love between John and Jane grows, the dangers of Marysvale unfold; and for the first time in his life, John discovers that there is something worth dying for.
Marysvale was a fun, entertaining fantasy, full of monsters, tyrants, secrets, and enough action to satisfy even me. There was a little bit of everything in Marysvale; there was intrigue, suspense, horror, romance, fantasy, fledgling use of the paranormal, and adventure.
John Casey was a character in whom I could defnitely sympathize and empathize. With an ability to see into the souls of others and perceive either good or evil intentions, he often got himself into delicate situations with people who did not understand his power or did not trust it. Continuously on the run, John thought he had finally found a place where he could fit in until he got in trouble with the local magistrate who thought nothing of beating on his wife and child. Forced to flee into the woods in the middle of the night, John found himself in greater danger as the whispers he heard were actually true, and found himself facing things he would not believe possible. I really enjoyed John's personality and found myself rooting for him over and over again throughout the novel. There was something so endearing about him, and about the way he helped people who needed help, even when he put himself in jeopardy, that was great. The author's great writing style certainly came into play here as he made you sympathetic to John and his plight, even when John was going through his moral dilemnas or debating what to do in certain situations. It takes great skill to manipulate readers into wanting you to feel a certain way throughout a novel.
The secondary characters were great as well, and I found myself particularly interested in Hannah and the strength she developed as the story unfolded. At first she seemed like silly young girl, but what she went through changed her and she showed she had more strength and determination than all of them. It made me think that perhaps it is so easy to judge people and not give them enough credit until they are in situations which are dangerous and that is when their true characters come to light.
The setting was fascinating as well, and the contrast between the wealthy and the poor was very well done. Some of the scenes made me angry, and I wondered how people could be so apathetic towards others. Fear can certainly cow a lot of people into obedience. While at first this novel seems light, that is very misleading as there is a deeper element at work here, one that deals with abuse and subjugation and it is prevalent throughout the novel. It is handled very delicately and thoughtfully by the author, but it is there nonetheless, and there are some scenes that are not necessarily pleasant. He makes no excuses for the people, and makes them accountable for the horrible conditions in Marysvale through the way he writes and explains the situations. It definitely makes you think how people can let things happen without interfering and how they can sleep at night knowing they let it go on day after day without fighting back.
Marysvale is a novel that will draw you in right from the beginning. With plenty of twists and turns, it's good, clean fun, with a host of interesting characters. While I enjoyed the novel tremendously, there were still a lot of unanswered questions, and many threads were introduced and not followed up on, threads I hope will be further explained in the next novel. While this didn't affect my overall impression of the novel, I do remember questioning it as I went along and definitely noted it. The characters were well-developed and I liked the burgeoning romance that was introduced, even the comic relief elements to it were amusing as it reminded me of how little sisters/brothers like to interfere in older brothers/sisters' lives. While there was some predictability to the storyline and I definitely figured out many things that were going to happen, the writing skillful enough that you were drawn in to the story regardless. I am definitely looking forward to book 2, Alyth, releasing this fall.