by Laini Taylor
First sentence: "Walking to school over the snow-muffled cobbles, Karou had no sinister premonitions about the day."
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Review copy provided by a friend of a friend who got it from the publisher.
Release date: September 27, 2011
As an art student in Prague, 16-year-old Karou tries to keep up the appearance of a normal life. Except her life (not to mention her azure hair and myriad of tattoos, including the hamsa eyes on her hands) is anything but normal. She lives with a group of monsters called chimera, who have been her family for as long as she can remember. She runs errands for her father-figure, Brimstone, collecting teeth. It's a lonely life, but she finds comfort in knowing that while she has many unanswered questions about who she is, she has a family (of sorts).
And then things take a turn for the, well, interesting. The seraphim -- other beings from the same world as the chimera -- attack Brimstone, closing all the magic portals in our world. As they are doing this, one of them, Akiva spots Karou and is inexplicably drawn to her.
There is more to the story, obviously, but it's best left for you to discover on your own. I will say this: I adore Taylor's storytelling. It's dark and sinister and yet so very lovely all at the same time. It's a twisting, meandering sort of story, and yet nothing superfluous or out of place. Her characters are captivating, drawing you in with humor and affection; you can't help but love Karou and all the people she loves in her life. (As M said when she finished: "I want to be an art student in Prague and have blue hair.") Added to that, Taylor plays with fantasy and religion and myth in wild, fascinating ways. Yes, there are angels and monsters in this book, but in playing around with themes of tolerance and prejudice -- there's a war going on between the chimera and the seraphim, and Karou is, for many reasons, caught in the middle -- Taylor takes the simple myths, and mythological creatures, to a new, higher level.
The only quibble I have -- and it's not really much considering this is the sort of haunting, beautiful story that will stay with you for a long time -- is that while the story comes to a natural stopping point, it doesn't fully resolve (infuriatingly!). Which means, we'll need to wait until Taylor's imagination works its wonders again, and she comes out with a sequel. Which is sure to be as wonderful as everything else Taylor writes is.