by Laini Taylor
Amazon / Goodreads
Plot Summary: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?
Review:This is a strange, magical story. The setting and the mythology made it intensely atmospheric and I was completely drawn in by the vividness of the characters and their stories. I feel like this book stands out from other YA fantasy books in the writing and the tone because there's such a maturity to the fantasy elements that made it feel unique and powerful. This is a very intense and beautiful story.
I think I liked the world-building and what it was trying to accomplish more than I liked the main characters and their individual dilemmas. That's probably a strange distinction. It's just that by the time I found out what secrets lay in Karou and Akiva's past, I felt more concerned by what they were going to do to solve their problems against such overwhelming odds. And of course this isn't solved in this book. I understand why Karou and Akiva had such an instant connection, but their love story was a little overdone for me, and not as believable. The book flips back and forth between their viewpoints (but it is mostly Karou's story) but it also flips in time through flashbacks which gave important backstories, but also felt a little long when I already knew the outcome of them. The pacing slowed down for me for that reason near the end, just when I was eager to move forward.
But the world-building is glorious. There are two magical creatures and an Elsewhere that I loved learning more about. The dynamics of these two races of beings and their conflict felt very authentically constructed and gave this story it's intensity and beauty. Humanity is completely overshadowed by the other world in a way that makes me think this series should be high fantasy instead of YA. Definitely Karou is revealed to have a past that makes her feel more mature.
The supporting characters in this book also helped to make it a wonderful read. I loved Karou's eccentric family and her closest friend. Brimstone had so many layers to his character and gradually getting to know him was delightful. I thought this story had many moving moments when certain character reveals were made, and that made me love them even more. This is a unique, complex fantasy that I ultimately really enjoyed.