Synopsis: Karou’s past is shrouded in mystery. She knows she was raised by four chimaera (very human mentally/emotionally, but a combination of human and animal physically) in a shop whose owner, Brimstone, traffics in teeth and wishes. She knows she loves art, and is studying it at the Art Lyceum of Bohemia in Prague. She knows that black hand prints are appearing on the doorways that lead to Brimstone’s shop. What she doesn’t know is what all of this means...until she finds out, and her former life is simple compared to the truth.
Is this a “must-read”?: Hmmm…Yeah, I’m going with yes.
Why?: So I read MindHut’s lukewarm/unfavorable review of this one, and then I read the comments from Sparklers who vehemently disagreed. After reading it myself, I’m leaning more toward the side of those who vehemently disagreed. While the romance is unrealistic, feels more than a little forced, and smacks more of intense attraction than actual shoot-for-the-moon/head-over-heels/OMG-the-songs-make-sense love, I found the rest of the book to be rather clever and brilliant. While we’ve all heard this premise before (mysterious girl with mysterious past meets mysterious boy, falls in love, figures out mysterious past, and goes on a quest to save the world), Laini Taylor simply does it much better than most. The world is very out-there, but it’s based on familiar mythologies and has more than a couple of tie-ins to real life, which keeps the book from being a confusing mess. The writing is excellent, the humor is subtle but still effective, and there is WAY more depth than you’d expect from a paranormal YA romance.
I did have some issues with her narration style, however. The third-person narrator is so close to Akiva (the love interest) and Karou that at times it seems more like first-person. I would go along for paragraphs thinking I was inside Karou’s head, and then start to wonder why the heck she was using impersonal pronouns. The transitions between Akiva’s and Karou’s POVs also could have been a bit more defined in some areas. There are few things more irritating than wondering why your normal-ish human protagonist is suddenly flying and then you're actually reading about a different character. The pacing could have used some work as well, and I was a bit peeved towards the end because, well, something less-than-great happens to one of the most fascinating, multi-layered, coolest characters in the book.
As for the characterization, Taylor does a fantastic job with almost everyone in Karou’s world. She seems to have mastered the art of telling us everything we need to know about a character using only a few snippets of dialogue and an anecdote or two. I felt she could have done a little better with Akiva (dude is the cookie-cutter tortured-bad-boy-with-a-heart-of-gold, complete with movie star good looks, angst out the wazoo, and a bad habit of literally and figuratively collapsing under the weight of his own emotions). But overall, it's a very good book that's fascinating and well worth your time.
Next time: Divergent by Veronica Roth
Post by dac213! Catch up on the rest of her series here.