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 grows 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 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?
I first read this book years ago. I re-read it in the following years as the second and third books were released, but haven’t had the chance to do so again since. I never wrote a review for it, partly because I don’t think that anything I say can do justice to the feelings and beauty of this series. Partly because I’m not sure I can capture the wonder I felt when I first read it. But I’m going to try here anyway.
There aren’t many authors where the very first thing that I’ll mention is the lyrical prose that they write with. I can think of a handful off the top of my head, and I love a great many books, for many reasons. But there are some books where the beauty of the language, the way the words are strung together, jump out and slap me (in a good way). Make me sit and take notice, re-read for the lushness of them. Laini Taylor is one of those authors. Now, I will qualify this with the fact that it went a little off the rails in the third book, and where I said many times that she could re-write a phone book and I’d love to read it, I’m a little more cautious now. But here? In this book? It’s beautiful and captivating. Just as much this time as it ever was before.
And then there were the characters. Not just the main characters, though the gods know I loved them, but there were many characters that were so well developed, so real that I felt they surely existed just outside my knowledge. Karou is amazing. As I was saying to a friend of mine, she’s so much muchier than other characters in other books. Then there’s Akiva, Brimstone, Issa, ZUZANNA, and so many others. I love them. I want to know them, and my heart breaks for them – especially knowing what’s coming.
So that’s a warning I’ll issue. This isn’t light. It’s a dark fairy-tale, and there’s pain and torture before we get through to the end. A lot of it. Be prepared. (I feel like I’m quoting a lot of Disney today….)
The world. Oh, the world. How I want to visit. Prague sounds fabulous, and it draws me to it. I’ll visit you one day soon, my lovely. I felt like I’ve been there already based on the lush descriptions in this novel, in fact. Laini Taylor effortlessly, it seems, weaves in every mythology to this story, making it plausible, and realistic, and seemingly the grain of truth that every story holds. True Story never seemed so accurate as while absorbed in this novel. As you meet more and more characters, learn more of the world, you begin to see where the Christian, Muslim, and Jewish faiths got their angels. Where the ancient Greeks, and Hindu peoples found their Naja and Minotaurs. Among so many others. And in the hands of Karou, there are the hamsas. I know the first time I read this book I was fascinated and curious – incredibly so – by the world and how everything fit together. How did the wishes work? I wondered. What were the teeth for? Where is Elsewhere? The answers do not disappoint.
This book captured me so completely. It had the quadfecta going for it: prose, plot, world, and characters. In this world, in Eretz, everything combined to entrance and entice, urging me along, dreading the pain and still willing to pay the tithe.