The beginning shows promise, but the plot is heavy-handed and it’s frustrating that so many aspects remain unknown by the end of the book.
From the day she was born Meridian Sozu seemed to be surrounded by death. On her sixteenth birthday she’s suddenly wrenched from her family with instructions to seek out her great-aunt, her namesake who Meridian has never met.
The beginning of the story is intriguing, but there’s something inexplicable about the way Meridian’s family fails to prepare her for her destiny, especially knowing that she’d have to leave when she turns sixteen and her special power comes to fruition.
Fenestra vs Aternocti
Meridian is told that she’s a Fenestra, a conduit for the dying to get to the afterlife. She’s pursued by the Aternocti, who ‘carry souls to the lightless place’. Her aunt is 106 years old and Meridian must master her power so she can help her aunt transition to her afterlife. It’s not an easy task because souls can pull untrained Fenestra though with them when they pass to the other side.
Her aunt’s companion, a teenager called Tens, leaves Meridian with mixed feelings. He turns out to be her protector, and eventually they form an emotional bond that goes beyond his duty and her destiny. It’s a sweet relationship—there’s a lot of furtive glancing and mixed signals—but the relationship lacks the emotional depth I expect in a romance.
The pressure on Meridian is heightened by sinister forces—possibly the Aternocti—who seem determined to ostracise her aunt and, later, Meridian herself. Her aunt’s local community has become dominated by a fundamentalist Christian pastor, Reverend Perimo, and old friends and neighbours now look at Meridian’s aunt with suspicion.
Clunky characters and unsatisfying mythology
My biggest issue with this book is the clunky way it uses the fundamentalist church to set up the external conflict. It was too easy and too obvious. Meridian has a lot of internal issues to sort out, which were a lot more interesting to me than a hellfire and brimstone pastor who comes out quoting Biblical passages every time he’s in the scene. For someone who supposedly ingratiated himself into the local community and earned their trust, Perimo comes across as a blunt instrument and lacks the charisma I expected him to demonstrate.
The mythology behind the Fenestra also feels wishy-washy. There’s a lot of talk about the Creator and the light and trusting love, without much detail. The story alludes to other kinds of people with special powers, but they only appear—rather conveniently—at the very last part of the story.
Finally, Meridian fails as an urban fantasy heroine. She’s essentially passive for most of the book, and her ability to master her power isn’t developed all that well. I felt there was too much focus on the Aternocti threat and not enough on Meridian’s personal growth as a character.
Yay or nay?
Meridian is an easy read and the beginning shows promise, but it’s frustrating that so many aspects remain unknown by the end of the book. Some elements of the plot are extremely heavy-handed, the mythology is fairly light, and I was frustrated by the main character’s lack of growth by the end.
A review copy of this book was generously provided by Random House Australia. The US hardback version of this book was published in 2009.
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