Publisher: Gravity by Booktrope
Publication Date: August 1, 2015 (first published October 20, 2013)
Edition: Paperback, 289 pages
Highly original and emotional story about the power and worth of memories
What would you do to save your most precious memories?
That’s the question that Abigail Bennet, a new mother, must answer in this dark fantasy.
The cries of her new baby throw Abigail into rage and desperation. Frightened by foreign anger and overwhelming depression, the first-time mother decides to end her life to spare the life of her only child. But before she acts on her dark intuition, she is overcome by a panic attack and blacks out.
When she awakes, everything is blue: the trees, the grass, the rocks and still, scentless sky above her. Everything except the face of the man who stands over her. He is Ishmael Dubois and claims to be her Guide through the dangerous world of Monochrome, a physical manifestation of the depressed mind. But in a place where good memories are currency, nightmares walk, and hopeless people are hired to bring down those who still have the will to live, Abigail starts to wonder if she’ll ever make it back to her family. Despite her growing feelings for her handsome, mysterious Guide, Abigail must fight for the life she once wished to take or fade into the blue.
*Disclaimer: I was provided with a review copy from the author in exchange for my honest opinion.
I read H.M. Jones’s short story, The Light Storm of 2015 (my review), from The Master of Time: A Science Fiction and Fantasy Time Travel Anthology earlier this year and loved everything about. I gave it a 5 star rating, which, if you follow my blog, you know is a rare occurrence. When I was offered a chance to review this novel, I was hesitant at first because I wasn’t sure is this type of story as me, but, because of that short story, I had to check it out. And I’m glad I did.
Abigail is at her breaking point; she can’t handle her baby anymore. She puts her new-born down beside its crib and leaves it to go to her bedroom, shutting the door to block the crying out. This is when negative thoughts start to fill her head: she is a bad mother, bad wife; she doesn’t deserve to happy; her family would happier without her; she should just kill herself.
While thinking these thing, she suddenly starts to get tunnel vision, and then falls and faints. When she opens her eyes, she is the woods… but the trees look blue? And sitting above her is a man named Ishmael.
Abigail believes she has been kidnapped and demands to know where her baby is, and that he return her baby right away. The man, Ishmael, tell her that is not what has happened, and he doesn’t know where her baby is. Abigail is now is place called Monochrome. A place for the depressed and the suicidal; a place for those who have given up on life and happiness.Ishmael had been to sent to find her, because he is Guide, and it is his job to lead her out of Monochrome – if that’s what she wants. However, leaving Monochrome is not a simple as walking through gate.
Abigail’s faith and love for her husband, her love and care for her baby, and determination to return to them will constantly be tested. But when she is losing her memories of home – like her wedding day and baby’s birth – will she want to return home? Will Abigail believe that her family is better off with or without her?
There are dark and depressing places in fantasy, and Monochrome is right up there with the most depressing of them all. It is filled with people who have either tried to commit suicide or have seriously thought of committing it. People are literally without happy thoughts anymore and live in their own self-pity and nightmares. People lie, murder, steal, and rape everyday all to get a happy memory. Why are happy memories so important? Because happy memories are used as currency. Food, water, shelter, clothes – they all cost memories. I will get in to this memory as currency system later, but the people who have already been taken to Monochrome, believe that no one wants them back home. And now, if they have to give up all there happy memories, they will only remember the bad moments. So, if these people have nothing happy reminding them of home, they will start to believe that people at home actually do hate them, and then, well, why would they want to leave Monochrome?
Abigail is a wife and mother who is suffering from postpartum depression (PPD). When we first meet Abigail, she is walking away from her baby, and you going to think this is a horrible mother. But, once she leaves the room, and you hear what she is filling her head with, these extremely scary and negative thoughts about her self and what she thinks is best for her family, you are instantly going over to sympathy. Then, once she ends up in Monochrome, despite what she has to go through, is relentlessly determined to get back home to her family.
Readers may think that because of her PPD and journey home, Abigail would be 100% sympathetic, however, I found that was not always the case. Mainly because of Ishmael. Ishmael is stuck (or doesn’t want to leave) Monochrome himself, and it is his job to guide Abigail out, if it what she chooses. Almost right away she develops an attraction to Ishmael, and over time Ishmael develops feeling for her. The problem with this? Abigail is married with a baby!
I was really torn with this. A lot times I would get caught in the moment and be begging for them to kiss and finally just do it! But then suddenly I would remember that Abigail is married (with a baby!), and this thing with Ishmael is cheating! Ishmael makes it no secret that he has feeling for Abigail, but Abigail never really shuts him down. He makes a lot of forward “jokes” :wink wink:, that I thought would have ended him up with a good slap to the face, but Abigail kind of laughs them off too or goes with them. I can’t blame Ishmael for them: he lives in literally the most depressing place, and meets a girl who he likes, likes him back, and who has never even really hinted at wanting him to stop. So does this makes Abigail a bad person? Not really either. Yes she has family, but the reason she is here, is because she thought she was worthless and they were better off without. So, when she meets a man who likes her, and starts to lose happy memories of her home, well, again, might it makes sense for her to stay in Monochrome with Ishmael?
This memory currency I have been alluding to is amazing. Memories come in various colors (values). From purple, being something like minor, like a memory of how much fun you had a party in high school, to gold memories, where these are major events in your life, like the first day you meet you future husband/wife or your actual wedding day. For example: we all that one annoying friend, but we still love them – probably because the first time we met them was or we know something personal about them. Now, say you lose that memory. All you have left is that they’re an annoying person, and suddenly you start to wonder why you’re were friends with them. Now, imagine that for all you loved ones.
It was because of the moments we saw in Abigail’s memories that I loved her character and reading this story. H.M. Jones is phenomenal at writing emotional scenes and building that character-reader relationship. Each of memories is a single event in Abigail life, and every single one of them – from purple to gold – caused me to take pause because of how powerful they felt.
Yes, there is a romance theme here, but no, this is NOT a romance novel; this is a fantasy story first and foremost. However, the struggle Abigail faces between chooses Ishmael and her husband is central to the plot.
There are a few things I would have liked to seen: such as Abigail struggling more to decide wether or not to return home – especially after she looses some of her more important memories – and I would have loved to explore Monochrome world more too, but these were nothing that took away from story. This is very compelling read and I enjoyed reading it the whole time. There was actually a surpassing amount of tense moments in the plot, too (there are people who run Monochrome, whose mission is to make sure Abigail doesn’t leave Monochrome, no matter what), and a couple good twists in the plot.
After reading Monochrome I still don’t necessarily think this story was for me (which I why the 3 rating). There is enough fantasy to keep that part of me satisfied, and while the love story in the plot is great, it was a bit too much for my preference. Even if I had known this before hand though, I still would have read it, because it is a good story.
What made me love her short story – the power of her emotional writing – was here is full force, and is why I enjoyed this novel. If you are reader who looks for emotions in their story, H.M. Jones is the author for you.
*** Come back tomorrow (10/14) to read my interview with H.M. Jones ***
Date Read: 09/29/15 - 10/03/15 Review Written: 10/11/15