Image and synopsis from Amazon:
“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 otherwordly 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?”
I really really loved this book. I started reading it on a weekend and it took me a few chapters to get into it, but once I did I could not put it down! I read for 6 hours straight and was completely oblivious to everything else around me. That’s when you know you’ve got a good book.
The setting is unique and set in Prague with some beautiful descriptions. Laini Taylor’s writing is lovely and I thoroughly enjoyed this story in part because of her excellent writing and descriptions.
“…and Gothic steeples stood ready to impale fallen angels. The wind carried the memory of magic, revolution, violins, and the cobbles lanes meandered like creeks. Thugs wore Mozart wigs and pushed chamber music on street corners, and marionettes hung in windows, making the whole city seem like a theater with unseen puppeteers crouched behind velvet”
I think her writing is beautiful! She made Karou’s world feel very real- from the Gothic architecture to Karou’s favorite cafe Poison, where she and her friend Zuzana would enjoy goulash and catch up. Karou’s relationship with Zuzana was authentic and I thoroughly enjoyed their ridiculous dialogue. Karou is quite lonely in her world and Zuzana is her only companion apart from her chimaera, monster-like “family.” Zuzana and Karou would make absurd jokes and get carried away with it, which felt very real and unscripted.
Moving on, while Karou very much has a home in the human world, she was raised by strange part-animal, part-human monsters called chimaera. She runs errands for Brimstone, her surrogate father, to help him with his magic shop. While Karou truly loves her strange family, she does not understand who they are, where they come from, and why she runs these errands for Brimstone. She has so many questions, yet they are the only family she has so she accepts her life, for now. I loved the mystery in the first half of the book, there was so much build-up with just enough hints and clues to keep me satisfied. Karou is clearly not normal, but even she doesn’t understand her past although she does often comment that she feels she is “missing something.”
“This was her life: magic and shame and secrets and teeth and a deep, nagging hollow at the center of herself where something was most certainly missing.”
I loved Karou as a character- she is brave, sarcastic, eccentric, tattooed and has bright blue hair- not your typical heroine! I also love her chimaera family. They clearly love her as well but it is obvious they are keeping secrets from her, which only adds to the mystery.
While Karou herself is not magical, Brimstone’s shop deals wishes out to traders in different denominations, similar to money. Karou can never make big wishes, but she does have a necklace of scuppies (the lowest denomination) to make small wishes. She also speaks a number of languages, which mostly come from wishes, but I think its awesome!
We also meet Akiva fairly early on, and soon learn that he is a kind of angel. Yes, there are angels but Taylor does it very well! The angels are beautiful, but their wings are more like flames and Akiva is constantly being described as having fiery eyes. They are fighting an eternal war, but we don’t really know where they come from or who they answer to. Karou and Akiva do have some insta-love moments, but I realized I was actually okay with it once I finished the book. Their relationship was sweet.
The plot itself is wonderful- aside from the mystery that carries us through most of the book, we are constantly being introduced to different creatures and places. The whole book had an otherworldly feel to it. I also wanted to touch on what a few other bloggers had warned me about- the 50% slump. The book is absolutely wonderful for the first half. There’s beautiful imagery, great character development and mystery surrounding Karou’s origins and the world Brimstone keeps hidden from her. However, about halfway through something happens and I now understand why people said they didn’t enjoy it as much. The focus and pacing change completely, and it was difficult for me to keep reading when everything slowed down so abruptly. I would give this book five stars, but I too unfortunately felt the slump and I will probably have to go re-read parts of it because I was too eager for answers to read patiently. However, I do believe it was necessary for the series! There was so much build up, and the entire time I was thinking, “There better be a great explanation for everything!” And for me, there was. Its absolutely worth the read, in my opinion.
I flew through this book and I thought it was fantastic. It was exciting, unique and a little strange at times. I will happily pick up the second book and I definitely recommend to anyone who is interested!