Author: Laini Taylor
Publication Date: 9/27/11
Publisher: Little Brown
Blurb (GR): Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.
In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.
And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherworldly war.
Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages—not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out.
When one of the strangers—beautiful, haunted Akiva—fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?
A girl grows up in the world, knowing not where she came from of who she actually is. Her memories amount to those she’s gathered whilst being raised by a group of monsters, one of whom served as a father figure to her. Now an art student in Prague, Karou runs errands for Brimstone, her father figure, and travels the world through portals to retrieve teeth from hunters and their ilk who collect them in every way imaginable. (for real) Karou doesn’t know what the teeth are actually used for though she does know there is a magical air to Brimstone and the shop he runs. Since childhood, she’s been helping herself to tiny stones that amount to wishes and sometimes, if she was lucky, he’d give her larger ones to use for weightier wishes—all the while warning her to never be flippant with her intentions. There is a cost to everything. Lately, Brimstone has been gone from the shop and looking rundown. Everything falls apart in her world in a quick turn and the pieces add up to a centuries-long war, in which she and a few that she knows play pivotal roles.
This is it, folks, one of those rare instances when reality meets expectations. This is 420 pages of generally well-paced fantasy. I say generally because the action is back-loaded, which makes sense since this is the first book in a scheduled series and the setup is complete. (imagine that!) I was telling my sister about the writing and I truly don’t know another author that writes like Laini Taylor. She writes atmospheric, poetic prose that hits home and feels current. She makes me believe in, and I’m holding my barf in while I say it, WHIMSY in everyday life. She makes me want to go to all the places she describes and creates such vivid characters and settings that I can imagine it all so perfectly. And how easy is it to imagine creatures that are a mishmash of 4 or 5 different animals? Usually not so easy but in Taylor’s world, it is effortless.
Something else I found so intriguing about this book was the fact that it is so unclear who the good guys and bad guys are—everyone is existing in some kind of confusion. What are they fighting for? Is either side’s goal better than the other? The second half of the book jumps all over the place temporally-speaking but I didn’t find it hard to keep up with where we were or who we were following. It was almost as if a question was brought up in the present and then the story would jump back years earlier to explain what it meant. I was equally intrigued by the current and past stories and both the action going on in our world as well as the chimaera/seraphim world.
If you’re thinking that this blurb does nothing for you, throw that thought out of your mind. I hate angel books, especially the fallen angel cliché. I hate reading about instantaneous love. There is nothing cliché about Laini Taylor’s story—even if these elements appear in it. I loved everything about it, even the love story between Karou and Akiva. It isn’t distressingly rare that I find the torment that characters carry around with them to be believable but I believed it here.
The ending is certainly a cliffhanger but it felt like a natural stopping point in the overall arc. I can’t wait to read more of the story but I am not outraged that it ended where it did.
Thank you so much to my wonderful friend who let me borrow this prized possession of hers!