Published by Henry Holt Books for Young Readers on November 5th, 2013
Genres: horror, young adult
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Merciful Truth and her brother, Gospel, have just pulled their dead mother into the kitchen and stowed her under the table. It was a long illness, and they wanted to bury her—they did—but it’s far too cold outside, and they know they won’t be able to dig into the frozen ground. The Minister who lives with them, who preaches through his animal form, doesn’t make them feel any better about what they’ve done. Merciful calms her guilty feelings but only until, from the other room, she hears a voice she thought she’d never hear again. It’s her mother’s voice, and it’s singing a lullaby. . . . Engines of the Broken World is a chilling young adult novel from Jason Vanhee.
So I have a dilemma. Ever read a book where there were a few small things you liked, but then everything else was so awful that it overshadowed your reading experience and you couldn’t do anything BUT give a book one star? Yeah, that’s what I am dealing with when it comes to Engines of the Broken World. This book has a pretty cool creep factor and atmosphere I enjoyed, but everything else was so awful that in the end the good things don’t matter. I had a sucky reading experience, and I have to take that into consideration.
One thing I need to discuss as it pertains to this review is the way I read books. Usually, if I am having a horrible time with something, I DNF it. This book was weird because I was always on the fence about DNFing. Something kept me intrigued enough to keep reading. And by the time I could have put it down, I had already invested too much time, and so I decided to finish. Also I’ve been disappointed with myself lately for putting down too many books and giving up easily. This is due to my short attention span. So that would be another reason I decided to push on.
I never really hated the book until the last eighty pages or so. Then I just got bored and I wanted it to end, and I think the main reason is because I did not care about the characters at all. This world that they live in is horrible, and bad things keep happening, and I just kept thinking, “So what?” And that’s because they are not very developed. They are cardboard. They don’t have personalities or likes/dislikes of their own, and it’s all religion, religion, religion (you know how I am with that). And this is NOT an exaggeration. They literally cannot have a thought of their own without thinking about the other. It’s bad, folks. It’s to the point where if you feel something for these characters, I would love for you to explain to me why. Because I cannot see it.
This book just lacked depth. And top top it all off, there wasn’t much of a plot either. It’s mostly just Merciful and Gospel having a lot of dialogue about the world ending and going from the neighbor’s cottage to the cellar to the bedroom and back to the kitchen looking for a machine. Oh, and the barn. I can’t forget about the barn. As the fog closes in, they debate over and over again whether or not to kill the Minister, and that’s about it.
I didn’t understand the point of religion in the story. It wasn’t all that preachy, but it was still very heavy-handed and it didn’t come with much explanation. It didn’t add anything to the book and it made me feel like I was reading Christian fiction at the best of times. It was just all very odd because when the book started to come to a close and the religious world-building should have made some sense, it didn’t. It was a very simple explanation that did not really work within the narrative. This book felt like it was trying to be a whole bunch of things but couldn’t decide completely: Christian fiction, horror, dystopian….
The creep factor was high (though the beginning was SUPER confusing) but it wasn’t enough to make this book a good one. I know some people have liked this and some have DNFed so I’m not really sure how most readers will feel, but I suspect it might be a pretty polarizing novel. Unfortunately, I didn’t care for it. I’m not sure if I would read this author again. He writes great atmosphere, but the characters left a lot to be desired. And without good characters (likable or unlikable, just give me personality) the story is going to fall flat no matter what. Bleh.