March 18, 2011

Review: Savannah Grey by Cliff McNish

Savannah Grey
Author: Cliff McNish
Publisher: Carolrhoda Books
ISBN: 0761370250
Release Date: April 1, 2011
Pre-Order Information:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository

*ARC generously provided by the publisher via NetGalley.

For more information please visit Cliff McNish's website.

Savannah Grey needs to keep moving. She doesn't know why, but she can't let herself get tied down by too many people. It’s almost like she's being chased by something. And now something strange is happening with her neck—with her throat.

Then she meets Reece—a guy who seems to understand her needs. He even knows about her neck. The same thing is happening to him. It's as if their voices are becoming weapons, warming up for some kind of attack.

Nature has been preparing for battle with the universe's ultimate monster for millennia. The time to fight is almost here. The weapon is Savannah Grey.
When I started reading Savannah Grey by Cliff McNish I didn't exactly know what to expect. Truly it was the synopsis that grabbed me as it sounded original and interesting, something filled with paranormal aspects and romance. Two of my favorite things. And yet, it was also so much more then just your average paranormal YA adventure instead leaning more towards horror and suspense.

The premise itself is unique, a girl who has some sort of living weapon in her throat. At first she is afraid of it, and who wouldn't be? It takes control of her mouth trying to protect itself and anyone who comes near is in danger. This terrifies Savannah more then anything, making her feel more alone then ever. At least until she finds Reece. Apparently he suffers from the same problems, only due to a past tragedy his weapon is rendered mostly useless. This doesn't alter the feeling of acceptance and togetherness that Savannah feels as she comes to find that there really are monsters in the world. Monsters that are hunting her and that she will have to defeat to save those she loves.

Really, the monsters of the story sort of stole the spotlight for me. At first we are introduced to the Horror. A childlike creature with a unfettered vicious glee. Everything is simply a gruesome game to it as it stalks Savannah, discovering the power she has concealed within her for it's master, the Ocrassa. But, for me the Nyktomorph-a creature created by the Ocrassa to serve as it's guardian and protector-was the most intriguing. While the most dangerous of the two, the Nyktomorph has a highly developed intelligence able of telling the difference between right-and-wrong and good-and-evil. It desperately wants to be free of the Ocrassa's vile ways and wants to help Savannah defeat it. However, it's conditioning to serve prevents  it from outright betraying the Ocrassa. It's an interesting predicament and I loved the history given to illustrate the building hate it harbors for it's master. The Ocrassa itself is also quite interesting. An original monster that has lived on Earth for eons, ever evolving and killing. Seeing the world through its eyes shows why it is that nature would revolt against this creature, but the most interesting part of all is how it comes to battle Savannah. We are always given the impression that it is just a creature, not human, yet as the story progresses we come to find that it can inhabit a human making the danger to Savannah all the more dangerous as we discover that it's someone extremely close to her. The suspense here is masterfully used as it slowly becomes evident to the reader the true scope of the situation.

McNish has a real knack for developing the characters within the novel, especially considering how well he created the monsters and their histories, humanizing them for the reader. Likewise Savannah and Reece have a very fluid quality about them and the spark of romance between the two is nicely evoked. There's such a shy connection between them that I loved to watch develop from a sort of partnership and camaraderie into something more as the two try to protect one another from the dangers that surround them. It's so simple and sweet, giving a nice contrast to the suspense and horror of the novel and their situations. However, their romance is also quite sad in a way. With both of them housing these mysterious weapons they are unable to even kiss and share a true physical connection though they do find that they can hold hands etc., but it just makes this is bittersweet connection.

The only thing that I found truly odd was the lack of a parental figure to Savannah. While she is foster child, we only peripherally see her guardian. Given the obvious odd behavior and the dire discovery of her throat condition I would have expected a care giver to be more involved in her life. The only one with a true parent was Reece, but his relationship with his father was more reversed with him being the guardian of a ill parent. Even Nina's parent's are missing in action. I certainly would have expected Savannah to at least have fielded a call from the girl's mother after she disappears. This is something that I am not keen on in the YA genre and in this novel particularly I would have thought there would be more as it deals with surgery and a suppose health issue.

The overall style of the novel is quite lyrical with a steady rhythm to the writing that lulls the reader in. The voices of the characters are unique and likable and he has a masterful talent of building suspense. With lots of action and mystery the twists the author throws at the reader are well done. At the moment of these reveals, I could actually see the bigger picture coming together as little things snapped into place. Another aspect that I truly enjoyed was the great detail to which the author went to in his evolutionary tales of the Ocrassa's life. Every time he switched to the history of this monster and all the monsters for that matter, I was enthralled wanting to know more.

Savannah Grey is a wonderful breath of fresh air in a genre that is filled with repeating story lines. I was engrossed and thrilled throughout the novel and stayed up late into the night to finish it. With a wonderful writing style that at times bordered on creepy with it's lyrical depiction of horror and monsters, this tale is one to check out.

My Rating: 4 out of 5 Scars

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