The first book of a series is usually the most famous (or infamous) one, and the same can be said for Lois Lowry’s The Giver quartet. Instead of sequels, Lowry calls the next three books “companions”, and that’s how I view them: I can do with or without them, and some of them really enhanced my understanding and appreciation for the world that she’s created, while others are a little too bizarre for my liking.
Gathering Blue is set in a society that does not tolerate physical flaws – with a deformed leg, Kira is the exception to that rule solely because she has the embroidery skills to mend a very important robe. While housed in a nicer place than she’s ever been in before, Kira discovers the secrets that the Council of the village has been hiding from the rest of the people. Like in The Giver, this dystopian world seems normal from the main character’s eyes because it’s the only thing they knew, until they start seeing the cracks and shadows in which secrets are hidden. I thought Gathering Blue was okay because it still had an interesting premise, but it does lack character development and relationship-building. I also thought that it would be connected in some way to the setting and characters from The Giver, and was disappointed when this felt like an entirely new world. It makes more sense after reading all four books, but at this point, I wasn’t too excited after Gathering Blue.
Finally, the link between the first two books is made! In Messenger, which is set in the Village that welcomes all rejects from other communities, Matty – Kira’s friend from Gathering Blue – is our protagonist. As the Village starts showing signs of evil (ex. villagers being not as welcoming to new folks and who, for some reason, start becoming less friendly and good in general), Matty plays a key role as a messenger in delivering and retrieving messages from the outside world because he is one of the few people who can go into the woods that surround the Village and not get lost. Characters from The Giver also show up in Messenger, and it’s interesting to see the concept of “magic” come up again. What I didn’t really like is the ending. There’s probably some sort of symbolism in what happened and what Matty and the other characters stood for (ex. good vs. evil, strengths and weaknesses of humanity, etc.), but it requires too much thinking. As a story, it’s abstract, but also somewhat magical – Messenger was also super short, where I would’ve preferred something lengthier with more analyses/reasoning behind certain events.
Son is my favorite follow-up/companion story to The Giver. It connects all of the characters and settings in the previous books while also providing new characters and new settings that really complement what Lowry had created previously. In another writer’s hands, this story could’ve definitely become a more modern standalone dystopian piece with full-blown romances and conspiracies and sci-fi/fantasy elements – but in Lowry’s hands, the simplicity and nuances in the imagery and the characters are very characteristic of her writing, and they force the reader to think a lot more (this is a good thing!). Good imagination is key to reading this!
Overall, I think The Giver Quartet is a series that blends science fiction and fantasy in an interesting way. These stories make you think, whether it be analyzing how symbols and motifs play a role or imagining and embellishing the scenery and people in your mind. Lowry provides a simple skeleton on which you can build your own ideas upon, and I think it’s good to have these types of stories once in a while.
Have you read the rest of the Giver quartet?
Have you read any books that combine fantasy and sci-fi elements?