With two caveats, Gathering Blue is quite an enjoyable novel. I actually think that I liked it more than the Giver. The world is interesting, the characters and world are just different enough from our own to get one’s attention while still being believable enough, and there is enough mystery and tension to pull you through the book.
Which brings up caveat the first: This doesn’t feel like a standalone story. You just keep getting pulled through the story, there’s a big twist at the end, and then… nothing. It just sort of ends, right when things are about to get interesting. The Giver did this too, to a lesser extent, but there we learned most of the secrets the world was hiding so the end felt justified. Here, it feels like the first novel of a planned series, which is vaguely annoying.
And then caveat the second: This really doesn’t feel like book #2 of ‘the Giver Quartet’. The Giver felt to me like post-apocalyptic science fiction. Humanity had survived and instituted drastic measures to make sure the same doesn’t happen again, but the technology level is the same or higher than what we have today. Gathering Blue feels like post-apocalyptic fantasy. The world has ended, technology has been set back centuries, and hints of magic have crept into the the world. Both excellent examples of their respective genres, but different enough, that if they weren’t labeled as being in the same world, I wouldn’t have seen it. Personally, I wish there had been just a bit more, perhaps a few paragraphs that tied the two together. Perhaps that will be in the last two of the quartet. We shall have to see.
That being said, I still really did enjoy Gathering Blue. As mentioned, I think I actually liked it more than the Giver. I’m cautiously optimistic that Lowry can tie the two together in the sequels, even if for right now, I wish they had remained separate things. So it goes.