So I recently read this amazing book…
Around the world, black hand prints 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 grows 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 beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery 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?
So this book is weird. I wasn’t too sure about it, I have to admit. But as always, the first page convinced me to read on.
Walking to school over the snow-muffled cobbles, Karou had no sinister premonitions about the day. It seemed like just another Monday innocent but for its essential Mondayness, not to mention its Januaryness. It was cold, and it was dark–in the dead of winter the sun didn’t rise until eight–but it was also lovely. The falling snow and the early hour conspired to paint Prague ghostly, like a tintype photograph, all silver and haze.
On the riverfront thoroughfare, trams and buses roared past, grounding the day in the twenty-first century, but on the quieter lanes, the wintry peace might have hailed from another time. Snow and stone and ghostlight, Karou’s own footsteps and the feather of steam from her coffee mug, and she was alone and adrift in mundane thoughts: school, errands. The occasional cheek-chew of bitterness when a pang of heartache intruded, as pangs of heartache will, but she pushed them aside, resolute, ready to be done with all that.
First of all, the writing is quite simply put, lovely. From its Mondayness to its tintype photograph, I was enchanted. I will always read on when an opening is as lovely as this.
Secondly, the setting of ghostly wintry Prague is perfect (other people love this city; I did not have the best experience there. Perhaps I’ll give it another shot someday).
Thirdly, there’s immediate intrigue: “the occasional cheek-chew of bitterness when a pang of heartache intruded.” I had to read on to find out what happened.
So read on I did.
“It is a condition of monsters that they do not perceive themselves as such. The dragon, you know, hunkered in the village devouring maidens, heard the townsfolk cry ‘Monster!’ and looked behind him.”
The story draws you into its magical side slowly. First you have Karou, a normal-looking-at-first art student, except that she has blue hair and a lot of tattoos. Then you have her sleazy ex-boyfriend. And then you find out she’s friends with a bunch of half-human half-animal type characters called chimaera, who collect teeth. And that’s when it starts getting strange.
But it always remains interesting.
“For the way loneliness is worse when you return to it after a reprieve—like the soul’s version of putting on a wet bathing suit, clammy and miserable.”
Perspectives are switched a few chapters in, and we’re introduced to Akiva, a terrifying angel. (Side note: I always love when angels are portrayed as terrifying. After all, in the Bible the first thing they always say when they appear to people is “Fear not!”)
“…they cupped their wings around their happiness and called it a world, though they both knew it was not a world, only a hiding place, which is a very different thing.”
For a good amount of the book, you have no idea what’s going on, and are given only the subtlest of hints, piece by piece. So when Karou and Akiva meet, you definitely expect it to happen–but you still don’t understand quite what’s going on. Except of course, for the fact, that they are going to fall in love.
I have to admit, the book did slow down for me at this point. Love at first sight rarely interests me. I like slow-burn love, the kind that starts out as friendship, or even animosity, and slowly, slowly turns to more (hence why I will always prefer Jacob to Edward). This was not that kind of love.
“This new thing between them it was… Astral. It reshaped the air, and it was in her, too—a warming and softening, a pull—and for that moment, her hands in his, Karou felt as powerless as starlight tugged toward the sun in the huge, strange warp of space.”
But then you start to piece together the truth. I have to admit, I guessed it long before the “big reveal”–but that didn’t make it any less awesome of a story.
“Was there another life she was meant to be living? At times she felt a keen certainty that there was ― a phantom life, taunting her from just out of reach. A sense would come over her while she was drawing or walking, and once while she was dancing slow and close with Kaz, that she was supposed to be doing something else with her hands, with her legs, with her body. Something else. Something else. Something else.”
It ends, as first books in YA trilogies are wont to do, on a cliffhanger. I immediately went out and purchased the next two books. I haven’t read them yet, but I can’t wait to!
9/10 stars, which makes this the best book I’ve read in a while. Have you read it, too? Are the other books just as good? Let me know!
Image found here