Forbidden romances. Dystopian worlds. Unimaginable creatures. Dark nightmares. Beautiful dreams. All within the Realms of an Open Mind.
It's been a long time since I've a read a book in one sitting, but this one had me almost accomplishing just that yesterday ~ the only thing keeping me from reading the last three chapters being the weight of my very tired eyelids.
Aria lives in Reverie, a technologically advanced community that has shut itself off from the dangers of the "outside." Aria spends her time surfing through the Realms, a virtual world that is her reality. She never falls ill, never feels real pain or suffering, and never experiences some of the inconveniences of being human. Everything in Reverie is genetically altered, enhanced, and anything that is determined obsolete (even when it comes to the human body) is "deleted."
Perry comes from the completely different world of the "outside." If Aria is extreme in the fact that all her senses and experiences are fabricated, Perry is on the other end of the spectrum, using his senses and abilities beyond any level that we would be familiar with. He's a Seer, meaning he can literally see beyond what others can, especially at night. But more importantly, he's a Scire which entails being able to "scent" the moods and tempers of those around him.
"Scents, the way I get them, are more than smells. They have weights and temperatures sometimes. Colors too."
An unfortunate set of circumstances bring these two opposites together, forcing them to become allies, each one needing the other to complete their journeys and find closure.
I loved how Veronica Rossi brought two extremes together in Aria and Perry. For Aria, could you imagine never having felt the wind against your skin? Never smelling a real rose? Never touching the rough bark of a tree? It's almost an unfathomable concept to have every experience in your life be a fabrication. And for Perry, being bombarded by truth, able to "scent" others' moods and emotions, despite whatever words they might say to convince him otherwise.
Their relationship completely cracked me up. Aria sees Perry as a Neanderthal, an ignorant and brutal Savage; Perry views Aria as a helpless, pain-in-the-rear "girl who never shut up." Their bantering is hilarious and the thoughts they have of each other are dripping with annoyance and exasperation. It's funny how love can grow from the strangest places. Aria and Perry seem to loathe each other, but as they grow and discover themselves as individuals, their relationship begins to change. They begin to rely on, to respect, and eventually deeply care about each other. It's slow and steady, believable and beautiful.
The characters are really what drive this story. You connect to them on such a level that the author can relay emotion without actually having to spell it out for you. You can tell what is being felt or thought simply by the tone of the character's "voice" or their actions. Saying these are well-developed characters is an understatement ~ they felt real and I found myself in tears at certain points in the story... I just came to care about them that much.
Aria really surprised me. She began as a selfish, slightly snobbish, and completely ignorant little girl. She didn't know how to be "human," how to relate or respond to anything real, especially when it came to dealing with the nasty and uncomfortable. She grows so much, though, learning that life isn't a game and it can't be avoided or even escaped.
She knew how to put one foot in front of the other even when every step hurt. And she knew there was pain in the journey, but there was also great beauty.
Perry has a fiery, battling temper, no doubt about it, and he takes it out on Aria a few times (rightfully so). He uses it to defend himself, for he used to be defenseless. He doesn't think very much of himself, but he tries so hard to make things right, to do the right thing.
"I was trying to help. ... The more I try to catch up, the further I fall behind."
He's cautious and contemplative, when he doesn't let his emotions get the best of him, and he doesn't feel the need to use words all of the time. He's a complicated guy with a "wound that ran soul deep." He isn't described as handsome really, more masculine and rugged, wearing scars and evidence of broken bones, displaying strength.
His buddy, Roar, is one of my favorite characters. He's the comic relief, the mischievous smile that peeks out through all the seriousness. His role and appearances aren't abundant, but he makes a big impact, adding yet another believable layer to this novel.
Oh, and I can't forget to mention Marron, the eclectic collector of... everything. He's a steady, comforting figure for Aria whose world is turned upside down and left unstable.
It's a crazy world that Rossi created, with Aether storms and lawless lands, all surrounding the artificial world of Reverie. It begs you to ask the question of which you would prefer: virtual reality or reality itself.
I wouldn't say there's a cliffhanger at the end of this novel, but you are curious and you do have questions. There are a millions turns this novel could make, and you're left sitting, wondering, imagining, long after you turn the last page.
There is no way I wouldn't recommend this novel to anyone ~ it's definitely my favorite read of the year so far.