I picked up this book after blogging buddy and fellow writer Sara Letourneau particularly recommended it to me during one of our many chats about books. And when I saw the fabulous cover I was instantly smitten – would the book live up to it?
In general, Karou has managed to keep her two lives in balance. One the one hand, she’s a seventeen-year-old art student in Prague; one the other, errand-girl to a monstrous creature who is the closest thing she has to family. Raised half in our world, half in ‘Elsewhere’. She has never understood Brimstone’s dark work – buying teeth from hunters and murderers – nor how she came into his keeping. She is a secret even to herself, plagued by the sensation that she isn’t whole.
This coming-of-age fantasy offering puts an original spin on the angel-versus-demon conflict that I really enjoyed. Karou is an engaging, sparky protagonist with some issues that make her stand out from the crowd – blue hair being one of them. She could so easily have descended into a Mary Sue, but Taylor’s writing is far too good for her to fall into an obvious trap like that. In fact, there are all sorts of pitfalls that are deftly avoided in this outstanding offering – it could have become just another slushy romance with lots of smart dialogue as they dance around each other before the inevitable lurve scene. It could have been a good-versus-evil retread, with Earth on the verge of the apocalypse…
And it is none of the above. The writing bounces off the page, crackling with vigour and magic as Taylor weaves a picture of a complex world where angels and their erstwhile slaves are locked in a terrible war that has ground on for too many years. Each side has inflicted terrible defeats on the other – each side has its own reasons for resorting to violence and each side is guilty of acts of shocking violence. In other words, this is a completely believable conflict with good people locked in a vicious struggle on both sides.
When just over halfway through the book, I had a strong idea I knew where it was heading and what the big reveal would be – and when it came, I was utterly wrong. That isn’t particularly unusual, as when I’m really engrossed, I tend to go with the flow and don’t expend much energy on trying to figure it all out, as I’m too busy enjoying the writing. But Himself, who snaffled this treat first, is a whizz at figuring out what’s going to happen, and he was also completely blindsided.
And then there’s the final twist that left me winded on Karou’s behalf – and limply relieved that we’d already ordered the next two books in the series, so I won’t have to wait very long before diving back into this wonderful world. So far, 2016 is turning out to be a wonderful reading year – two outstanding reads from two highly talented authors, with another fabulous science fiction series uncovered, and we still haven’t got to the end of January… Lucky, lucky me!