ARC Review: The Tattooed Heart

The Tattooed Heart
The Tattooed Heart by Michael Grant
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Release date: September 22, 2015

Mara has learned to punish the wicked as the Messenger’s apprentice. Those who act out of selfishness and greed, and others who become violent because of prejudice and hate, pay the ultimate price. But Mara is constantly reminded that Messengers are serving their own kind of punishment—for every person who is offered justice, they wear a tattoo that symbolizes the heart of the crime. As Mara delves deeper into her harsh reality, she will discover that in spite of all the terror she and Messenger inflict, caring in this world is the hardest part of all.

Messenger of Fear had introduced us to this world of agents of the Heptarchy, who seek to maintain the balance between existence and non-existence. Mara is being trained by her master, one of the Messengers, in the various aspects of her job – to determine guilt, judgement and execute the will of Isthil. While the first book was marvelous in setting up the world, it sort of came apart in this sequel. The world was unfinished and raw in the first, and I expected a wholly constructed fantastical world that would explain the Heptarchy in greater detail, as well as how the messengers come to exist and all. The Tattooed Heart, however, was more focused on Mara’s crush on her mentor; I agree it was bound to happen, but didn’t think that would be the driving force of the plot. A differently shaped mythology finally yielded to be a cult-ish parody of the heaven-hell variation of regular faith.

As for the cases, the book delves deeper into the horrors of humanity, while also illuminating the smaller good things. But it is mostly about the ways humans hurt each other. The messengers, it seems, serve to correct wicked individuals before they tip the balance. Mara feels their guilt, judges them but can’t help also feeling compassionate towards them. It is perhaps so because she was also a wicked person. But I had more questions than the answers I got in this book. For instance, why was the manager not punished? If Messengers only usually target the young, why were there messengers of all ages at the trial? Another – who does the freaking laundry, man? If it is magic or that mist, how come his clothes weren’t already presented to him? And for that matter, what was with that disappointing ending? How do Messengers actually retire? Do they have a set time to fulfill their service or do they get relief only when another is there to take their place?

While the plot and world-building suffered from sequel syndrome, the writing and pacing were thankfully on point. The characters do come alive, but when you are delving into the core of humans, I guess that’s natural. Mara is suffering from loneliness and despair, and that in part guides her actions. The addition of a new character to the dynamic did serve to shake things up, and bring a resolution to a burning question I had. In conclusion, the book was good but didn’t match up to the previous one.

Received a free galley from Katherine Tegen Books via Edelweiss; this does not affect my opinions or review.

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