This book was fantastic. Rich and unique descriptions, complicated and unique characters, an intriguing and unique plot — noticing a pattern here?
The description on the backcover of this book is wonderfully vague. It only barely hints at what’s inside and it’s great, because I went through this book free of bookcover spoilers or expectations and with no idea what was coming, which made it all the better when it happened. In fact, I’m even going to hide the last sentence of it under a cut, and pretty much everything behind the cut will be, well:
So, if you haven’t read this book and you like YA fantasy, read it. Karou is a fantastic, complex, flawed character and the people in her life are fleshed-out and real. Also, it made me really want to visit Prague again and see it with new eyes! It’s such a gorgeous, old world city. Likewise, this book is just beautiful to read and enjoy, and I am eagerly awaiting the upcoming release of the sequel, Days of Blood of Starlight.
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?
Spoilers section! You’ve been warned.
I loved Karou. She’s strong, she’s interesting, she’s incredibly independent and she’s just longing to know everything. And Taylor treats her like an adult even while she is a teenager, because Karou has earned that. She’s resourceful and smart, even as a human in a setting where there are so many things beyond the human experience or capability. She fights, she thinks, she investigates, she finds ways to make what she needs to have happen, happen. She loses everything and it doesn’t destroy her, it makes her grow up, work harder, and refuse to give up on the family she’s always known.
And the truth. Oh man, the truth. The story-behind-the-story here was fascinating and original. The depth of the world of the revenants and the angels, their war that had been going on forever, I loved seeing it little by little. I loved when Karou snuck through the forbidden door and like her, I wondered just what the hell was going on, because what was hidden back there was so jarring and weird and complicated and scary. What the hell was Brimstone hiding and why?
I also enjoyed Akiva, though not as much as I did Karou. He fell into a more familiar role, one I’ve read before and knew — the hardened soldier who learns to love and it changes him. I did appreciate that Taylor took the story beyond that love story, however. I like that the “present” of this story was after finding & losing love, after seeking horrible revenge for that loss, and then the re-discovery of that love quickly turned from joy to despair over what Akiva had done. I love that it was already too late, that it had been too late since halfway through the story, but neither Karou nor the reader knew that. There was no chance of stopping the violent, horrifying end of this entire race, of her family, because it already happened.
That said, there is a sequel, the book ended on a note of possible hope in the wake of destruction. Karou knows the truth, she has all of her memories from being Madrigal, and that means she could potentially bring some of them back. If, somehow, their souls were gleaned, which seems unlikely, but there’s got to be some plot to next book, after all. There are too many things left undone and unreckoned, among them Brimstone’s relationship with Karou, and of course, Thiago.
Finally, there’s the love story. I can’t stand love stories where there’s no reason for them to be in love, they are just are. That’s so annoying. This love story both has and doesn’t have that. I appreciated that Karou and Akiva are baffled by their obvious attraction and don’t trust it. I appreciate that they get to know one another before being rash with their feelings (both having been hurt before). And I can appreciate that, in the end, that attraction has roots in Karou’s previous incarnation and Akiva’s past. They’re in love because they already were, and I can be okay with that in conjunction with actually trying to get to know each other. Akiva and Madrigal, on the other hand, has a little more of the ‘in love just because’ feel to it. She saves him, and that’s all well and good. I can understand why they’d both remember that day and wonder why did I/she do that? But they jump kind of quickly to being in love upon meeting again…and Akiva sneaking into the heart of the enemy city purely to hope he might see her years later was a little much. And then the story skips over the two of them ever getting to know one another, we just hear about it. So their love story did not appeal to me very much. I realize the real story is no longer those two, but Karou and Akiva but nonetheless, if a forbidden love is going to destroy an entire civilization, ultimately, we should get to see how this remarkable love came to be and why it’s worth that kind of destruction.
The end of the Madrigal and Akive love story was suitably tragic, though, I certainly can’t argue that. The Romeo and Juliet of it — what he doesn’t know,what she has no chance to tell him — was done well, but I’ve talked about that already.
And the writing was just gorgeous. I love Taylor’s writing and style. It pulled me in and wrapped me in the world that Karou lives in and I loved the hell out of it for that.
So again, great book, I can’t wait for the sequel!