Monday, December 10, 2012

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Title: The Scourge
Author: A.G. Henley
Series: The Scourge, book #1
Publisher: indie/self-pubbed
Publication Date: January 31, 2012
Source: review copy provided by Kismet Book Touring
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords

Seventeen-year-old Groundling, Fennel, is Sightless. She's never been able to see her lush forest home, but she knows its secrets. She knows how the shadows shift when she passes under a canopy of trees. She knows how to hide in the cool, damp caves when the Scourge comes. She knows how devious and arrogant the Groundlings' tree-dwelling neighbors, the Lofties, can be.

And she's always known this day would come—the day she faces the Scourge alone.

The Sightless, like Fenn, are mysteriously protected from the Scourge, the gruesome creatures roaming the forests, reeking of festering flesh and consuming anything—and anyone—living. A Sightless Groundling must brave the Scourge and bring fresh water to the people of the forest. Today, that task becomes Fenn's.

Fenn will have a Lofty Keeper, Peree, as her companion. Everyone knows the Lofties wouldn’t hesitate to shoot an arrow through the back of an unsuspecting Groundling like Fenn, but Peree seems different. A boy with warm, rough hands who smells like summer, he is surprisingly kind and thoughtful. Although Fenn knows his people are treacherous, she finds herself wanting to trust him.

As their forest community teeters on the brink of war, Fenn and Peree must learn to work together to survive the Scourge and ensure their people’s survival. But when Fenn uncovers a secret that shatters her truths, she’s forced to decide who and what to protect—her people, her growing love for Peree, or the elusive dream of lasting peace in the forest.

I don't have near as much time to devote to reading indie/self-pubbed novels as I'd like, but I really should remedy that simply because of novels like this.  The incredible writing, the fascinating world, and the engaging characters all kept me riveted to the pages of this book, and I couldn't sprint to the finish fast enough.  I literally read this book in a matter of hours and wanted to immediately re-read it because I already missed the characters.

A.G. Henley's writing is just phenomenal, and I don't say that lightly.  I was so enraptured with the story that at times, it felt like I was the one coming face to face with the Scourge, or the fleshies, as they are sometimes called.  Through lush descriptions and a contemplative narrative, I was transported to a future -- our future -- where the aftermath of biochemical warfare has left most of the earth's population like zombies and the rest are left to fend for themselves without the convenience of modern-day technologies.  And the fact that we meet the Scourge early-on and head-on, immediately thrust into the plight of the survivors, ensured that I would continue reading into the wee hours of the night...with the lights on, of course.

The world of The Scourge captivated me and captured my attention because it is so eerily plausible, is it not?  With the near-constant threat of terrorist attacks and nuclear meltdowns, it's entirely possible that we might face this conundrum in the not-so-distant future.  How do we get clean water?  How do we survive while facing down the unnatural creatures created by the end-of-the-world devastation, when they're picking off our food source and trying to tear us limb from limb?  Just as in Carrie Ryan's The Forest of Hands and Teeth series, the remaining populace returns to the old ways, though some survivors head to the trees for shelter (Lofties), while others remain on the ground (Groundlings), taking solace in caves when the threat of the Scourge returns.

The separate factions, and their reasoning behind the separation, simply appalled me the further I read into the story.  They are not simply separate but are warring factions, having nothing in common other than that they unwillingly depend on each other for survival.  The precarious peace that both the Lofties and Groundlings rely upon is tested and it comes down to Fennel to find a solution.

Fennel is a daring sort of protagonist, for she is blind and therefore slightly less rattled when it comes to facing the Scourge.  Because of her predicament, she sees things differently and with an open-mindedness that her fellow Groundlings cannot afford.  That is not to say that she is a rebel, but she makes some choices that might be questionable to her people, though she makes them for the good of all Groundlings.  She may not like the tree-dwelling Lofties or approve of certain traditions between the two warring factions, but she will make the best of a bad situation if it means the survival of her people.  Fenn is the new Water Bearer, after all, and the survival of her people -- and of the Lofties -- depends upon her ability to perform her duty.

Peree is the Lofty Keeper assigned to protect Fenn from the safety of his perch in the trees.  He lets loose his arrows time and again as she traverses the treacherous path to the watering hole that both the Groundlings and Lofties depend upon.  Though Peree isn't a true dissenter either, he develops a bond with Fenn that transcends any social stigma they might face.  Being the Water Bearer is difficult for Fenn and Peree's mere existence in the trees and encouraging words serve to lessen the burden for her.  Peree is compassionate and tolerant...and apparently very swoon-worthy.

Fenn and Peree were easily my favorite aspect of this novel.  They were likable and easy to connect with and following them on their trek seemed like the thing to do.  As they move further and further away from their people and the ideals they've grown up with, their friendship blossoms into something more, something wonderful that shouldn't be denied because of where they make their homes.  The romance in The Scourge is definitely a focal point of the novel, but the zombie-like fleshies remain in the background, a constant reminder that their journey has a purpose.

After I finished reading The Scourge, I wanted more.  It says Book 1 on the cover, so I'm optimistic that there will be further installments because even though this novel leaves the reader with a healthy, albeit somewhat sad, ending, it's rather inconclusive.  I really don't mind endings like that, the ones that leave the reader pondering what happens next, but I also wouldn't mind reading more of Fenn and Peree's story.  The author has crafted a mesmerizing tale of death and destruction, of love and loyalty, and of compassion and complacency, and I can't wait to read more from her.

Rating:  Photobucket 1/2

About the author:

A.G. Henley is the author of the young adult novel, THE SCOURGE. She is also a clinical psychologist, which means people either tell her their life stories on airplanes, or avoid her at parties when they’ve had too much to drink. Neither of which she minds. When she’s not writing fiction or shrinking heads, she can be found herding her children and their scruffy dog, Guapo, to various activities while trying to remember whatever she’s inevitably forgotten to tell her husband. She lives in Denver, Colorado.

Find out more about A.G. Henley and her books:

30 daily winners will win an eCopy of The Scourge!

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Kismet Book Touring

Thanks for stopping by & happy reading!


  1. Interesting story! Thanks for the giveaway, Jen! x

  2. I signed up and then realized I already bought the Ebook back in October whoopsie! Great review, I really look forward to reading this now.

  3. I believe the best kind of thrillers/disaster/etc scenarios are the ones that could really happen. Scourge sounds like an intense, great book. I'd never stopped to pay attention to it before. Thanks!

  4. I am all for finding those awesome self pubbed indie gems but I admit I don't have the patience to do all the digging so I let others uncover them for me. This sounds like a hefty read with lots of challenges. I am glad that is was such a solid read for you, Jen. I am headed over to check it out on Amazon!

  5. Thank you so much for the thoughtful review, Jen! I'm thrilled you liked the book. There is a Book 2 on the way. I'm editing it now and it should be released by spring 2013. Please stop by my website if you'd like to sign up to receive a quick email when it's available. Again, many thanks -

  6. Thanks for your thoughts and the giveaway! Love the blue cover and am intrigued after your high praise for this author and the world building. Love books like that. Thanks again!

  7. I was not going to stop for this post as I thought this books was something different, but boy am I glad I did. It is not what I thought and is new to me. The synopsis sounds really intriguing and I appreciate your sharing your view. I am looking forward to the read :)

  8. Wow. I really like the cover and think the blurb is so intriguing. I'm glad to hear you liked it. I've added it to my to-read shelf.


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