When I started Anew, I’ll admit to being in the mood for a little heart wrenching drama. A love triangle between brothers, twin brothers, at that, with loose references to the famous Arthurian romantic triangle, seemed to promise all the drama I could desire. And indeed, it did. Consider my heart completely wrenched.
As the book opens, we are introduced to Scarlet. Waking up in the woods outside of Avalon, alone, with none of her memories, Scarlet knows nothing about herself with the exception of her name and age. She’s a girl with no past – a girl who only has the present. She struggles with the depression of not knowing anything about herself. For who are we if not the sum of our experiences? Despite not knowing her origins, her likes and dislikes, who her family is, or what circumstances led to her present situation – the things that make up the what, how and why of Scarlet’s existence – she shows herself to be resilient, strong, perceptive, incredibly stubborn, yet a little lost. She’s certainly a bit more reserved than her effervescent best friend, and she doesn’t let herself be pushed around by others. However, I think the thing that I like most about her is that even though her circumstances are a bit abnormal, she’s actually relatively normal, well-adjusted and grounded.
And then she meets the brothers, and Scarlet’s life is turned upside down. Why do they seem so familiar? Why does she feel drawn to them both? And most importantly, what are they hiding?
Oh, the brothers. Where do I even start? Gabriel, I suppose.
The more glass-half-full of the two brothers, Gabriel is easy-going, optimistic, funny, a romantic, and just an all-around nice kind of guy. But he’s also a tortured soul, given his role in the aforementioned love triangle and his part in the larger picture. He sometimes errs on the side of romanticism and idealism, and he’s the kind of guy who can’t see the forest for the trees. Or perhaps the better description would be that he ignores the forest for the trees.
And then there’s Tristan. Tortured, tormented Tristan – the unwitting third member in this agonizing love triangle. Where Gabriel tends to be optimistic and idealistic, Tristan is more of a pessimist and a pragmatist. Willing to make the hard choices, willing to deny himself happiness for the best interest of others, Tristan is honorable, selfless, totally sigh-inducing and ever-so-deliciously angsty. I guess it doesn’t take to much of a mental leap to figure out who I might be rooting for in this romantic drama?
Which brings us to the romance. Love triangles. Yes. Love triangles are a hard sell to today’s avid YA reader. They’re not terribly realistic, at least at the frequency young adult literature would have you believe that they occur. In addition, it’s hard to keep the object of affection, in this case Scarlet, from looking like she’s leading two guys on intentionally and/or heartlessly. It’s just flat out hard to write a convincing, compelling love triangle. However, Anew approaches the overused plot device rather originally, I think. And she does this, ironically, by channeling some of the oldest love stories — old Arthurian legend, shades of Tristan & Isolde, and the magic and mysticism that’s entwined throughout both those stories. Like I’ve said before, I enjoy a good, angsty romance from time to time, and Anew has gut-wrenching angst as you watch each character suffer individually in this trio of lovely romantic misery.
So much of the plot is wrapped up in the mystery of Scarlet’s past, and while Fine answers just enough questions to keep the reader relatively satisfied, she also leaves us with a lot of big, big, big ones unanswered for the next book. Mostly focusing on character and relationship development, the plot of Anew is rather simple, which isn’t really a problem. Simple can be good. But, at times, the plot of Anew is also a bit lacking in momentum. However, my interest was more invested in how Fine develops the relationships between her characters, so the slower bits didn’t bother me too terribly. And really, as it got toward to end, the story does pick up speed, building until it leaves you teetering on the edge of that oh-so-beloved cliffhanger of a conclusion.
Another thing I wish in regard to the plot/world building was for the rules and circumstances of their reality to be expounded upon in greater detail, as the paranormal aspect feels a bit too simple. However, as more things come to light in the next book, my opinion on that point may change with further explanation. We shall see, won’t we?
Overall, if you’re in the mood for some good romantic drama, this book is for you. Anew is a wonderfully agonizing love story wrapped up in traces of myth and magic with an ending that’ll leave you needing to get your hands on the next book.