Author: Laini Taylor
Genre: YA fantasy/urban fantasy
Published: September 2011
Publisher: Little, Brown, and Company
Pages: Hardback, 418
Opening Lines: "Walking to school over the snow-muffled cobbles, Karou had no sinister premonitions about the day."
Author Links: Website ♠ Twitter ♠ Facebook
"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 otherworldly war.
"Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; 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.
~ Jacket copy
Thoughts: This book has been sitting on a shelf since I received it as a Christmas present. Before that, it has been on my wishlist since it was first announced. I have no idea why it has taken me so long to read it; however, it was well worth the wait!
When I first read the jacket copy, I was not sure what to expect in this book. After watching Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, part of me wondered whether it would be a pseudo tooth fairy story. There was not way I could have expected the truth about it.
The book follows the 17 year-old Karou, a young art student living in Prague. She spends her time drawing what she sees in her 90+ sketchbooks. Her friends believe the monsters inside are born out of her vivid imagination; however, they would never begin to expect that she is, in essence, a runner for the very same creatures. Trafficking in human teeth and wishes, Brimstone seems an unlikely caregiver and father figure. It is through her connection with her strange family that Karou is brought into a centuries old war. To save her family, she must uncover a past that has been hidden from her and find out whether peace is really worth everything.
This book is beautifully written. The characters, descriptions, and worlds have been masterfully crafted and are rich with detail. Never for a minute did I wonder whether these places were real or not. Taylor did a wonderful job bringing them to life and making me long to go there. I found myself hoping against hope that Poison existed, because I desperately wanted to sit at the coffin tables and eat the famed goulash.
The relationship between Madrigal and Akiva was so real. My heart swelled at the budding of their romance, and I had to fight back tears at their parting. Even the ending of the book, my heart was broken. Through their love and past, I felt that Taylor tackled a lot of huge issues. The subjugating of races as slaves, internal politics, interracial relationships, etc. was masterfully worked into the story. Also, her lesson about wishes and hope. I felt that this book was jam packed full of huge, complex topics. However, she was able to handle it in a delicate and precise way.
Honestly, I think that this book is one of the best I have read this year. I found myself tearing through the book, and then forcing myself to back off in order to forestall the conclusion. I was sorry when I turned the last page. If you're looking for a magical story, this should be at the top of your list!