Wednesday, 16 October 2013
Genre: Paranormal, Fantasy
Source: Bought, Waterstones.
Synopsis: (Bear in mind, this book was much much much better than the synopsis would suggest, so don't pay too much attention to it).
"Errand requiring immediate attention. Come.
The note was on vellum, pierced by the talons of the almost-crow that delivered it. Karou read the message. 'He never says please', she sighed, but she gathered up her things.
When Brimstone called, she always came."
In general, Karou has managed to keep her two lives in balance. On the one hand, she's a seventeen-year-old art student in Prague; on the other, errand-girl to a monstrous creature who is the closest thing she has to family. Raised half in our world, half in 'Elsewhere', she has never understood Brimstone's dark work - buying teeth from hunters and murderers - nor how she came into his keeping. She is a secret even to herself, plagued by the sensation that she isn't whole.
Now the doors to Elsewhere are closing, and Karou must choose between the safety of her human life and the dangers of a war-ravaged world that may hold the answers she has always sought.
Wow, where do I even start with this book? It utterly blew me away, and it left we gobsmacked at the end in the way I adore. It is the only paranormal I have ever unequivocally loved, and I have literally been ranting and raving to my friends and lunch times, forcing them to read/buy/love it with me. No seriously, I literally hadn't even finished the first page before I started praising it.
Oookay, where to begin. First off, I love love love the main character, Karou. Even her name is brilliant - it's like having a good Tumblr url, if you have a good name you'd better have good content/character to back it up. Her hair is blue! It grows straight out of her scalp, blue! (We do learn the reason for this, by the way, and damn is it a good one). She's probably the best-realized character I've seen since Hermione Jean Granger. The other two main characters, Zuzana and Akiva, were stunning. Because of Zuzana, this book passed the sexism test (no easy feat): do the female characters have a single conversation throughout the course of the novel that doesn't revolve around boys or shopping? Yes? Pass! Zuzana is small, and loves puppeteering, and has a sense of humour and a fiery temper, and we see all of this instead of just being told it.
Akiva is completely unexpected. In every early appearance of his he surprised me, and continued to do so - sometimes in good ways, sometimes in bad, but always in a way that tied me ever closer to the story. The stereotypical paranormal roles of human and demon/human and angel are pared back to their bare bones and brought in an entirely new direction. The chimaera and the seraphim were brilliantly imagined, so that their description was genuinely awe-inspiring - not disappointing.
Even the minor characters had their own little quirks. Most importantly, they had purpose and hell, the characters had character! Zuzana's musician boyfriend is one. Also, how cool is it that someone other than the main female protagonist actually had a love life - a life of her own, that Karou wasn't the centre of the universe and that Zuzana rightly called her out when she deserved it?
Another thing I loved was the prose. It's been said in every review I've read, but it's so true. Laini Taylor is a miracle worker! This was the only paranormal book I've ever wholeheartedly loved, and that's probably because she writes so beautifully that the book takes on a sort of fairytale air. The words were literally a pleasure to read, and that is not an exaggeration. It could so easily have been butchered YA, and instead it was incredible. And fun. Seriously, not only was it beautiful but it was also fun to read.
There is a huge twist near the middle, and I'm still not sure how I feel about it. I'm not going to say it because it would be a huge enormous unforgivable spoiler, but wow. You'll understand what I'm saying when you read it (and you will read it, won't you?) - the semi-new character introduced as a result of the plot twist, whose name stars with Mad, is made likeable even in the short amount of pages there are left to describe her. admittedly, I would've liked a little more from *Karou*'s perspective, but this was brilliant as well so I won't complain. It also gave rise to some of the most tragic, beautiful lines I have ever read. You'll see.
(Here, have one of the less tragic ones: 'Until a few days ago, humans had been little more than legend to him, and now here he was in their world. It was like stepping into the pages of a book -- a book alive with color and fragrance, filth and chaos -- and the blue-haired girl moved through it all like a fairy through a story, the light treating her differently than it others, the air seemed to gather around her like held breath. As if this whole place was a story about her.' I mean, how cute is that?)
It's one of the few books where I didn't mind that there are sequels. Yes, I'm almost afraid that these won't live up, but if they do then they'll cement my new view of Laini Taylor as my favourite author. Also, I want a movie from this book. Naow. Please.