publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
first published: 2011 (2012 in paperback)
ERRAND REQUIRING IMMEDIATE ATTENTION. COME.
The note was on vellum, pierced by the talons of the almost-crow that delivered it. Karou read the message. ‘He never says please’, sighed, but she gathered her things up.
When Brimstone called, she always came.
In general, Karou has manged to keep her two lives in balance. On the one hand, she’s a seventeen-year-old art student in Prague; on the other, errand-girl to a monstrous creature who is the closest things 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.
Now the doors to Elsewhere are closing, and Karou must choose between the safety of her human life and the dangers of the war-ravaged world that may hold the answers she has always sought.
In (Very) Short:
+ fantasy; young adult paranormalcy
+ coming of age story
+ great cover
+ beautiful constructed story world (vivid real world and detailed fantasy world)
+ main focus is on the 17 year old protagonist Karou and her search for her identity
+ romance that is necessary but somewhat secondary to Karou’s self discovery
– a little forced and rather pieced together towards the end
I have heard a lot about this book, but what made me pick it up was this cover. I cannot exactly say what drew me to it, but I just had to have it. The story, however, sounded like any other Young Adult Paranomalcy focusing on the undying love between two teens who have barely lived. So I was skeptical and luckily wrong.
The story of self discovery, romance, the battle between two mortal enemies is beautifully interwoven and the romance itself is subtle. It is quite difficult to recap the book without spoiling the story. Much of the narration depends on the mystery of Karou’s heritage and her reactions towards the bits and pieces that unfold before her.
Karou is a 17 year old art student living in Prague. She is trying to balance her student/human life with her demanding boss and only family she knows: Brimstone.
Brimstone is a chimera – human mixed with many animals – who employs Karou to buy and transport teeth from the human world to him. A world known to Karou as Elsewhere that can only be accessed through secret portals.
When these portals are destroyed, Karou’s only family is lost to her and she starts out on a path to reenter Elsewhere as well as a path of self discovery. Never knowing where she came from, who or what her mother and father were, and why she has hamsas tattooed on her hands, she embarks on a journey that will open an entire new world to her, an entire new life.
While the setting of Prague is real and vivid to the reader, the new world is beautifully and carefully constructed – the world building in this book is exquisite and detailed. The different worlds, as well as Brimstone’s shop as a connecting point between them, unfold naturally and at a pace which I as a reader can follow and am not overwhelmed by.
It is a fantastical world of demons/chimera and angels/seraphims which are not hidden among us but whose world can only be accessed through portals. It is a world of magic which comes at a price.
While the book appears to represent the current young adult paranormal story with a blossoming feelings between two characters (Karou and Akiva), the take on the romance, however, is slightly different. The focus remains solely on Karou’s development and finding her identity.
This coming of age aspect is beautifully crafted into the narrative and a driving force of the story. The romance, however, develops after Karou’s world has been altered and her life changed forever. It is not the shattering instance of the story but supports and guides Karou’s self discovery.
Still, this discovery as well as the history of Elsewhere unfold somewhat abrupt towards the end. While in the beginning of the story this is slowly integrated into the narration, towards the end it reads rather forced. As I read I felt like the author needed the information to be mentioned before the book finished. But apart from the increasing and a little to fast pace of the story at the end, this book is quite remarkable.
I recommend this book to fantasy readers of all ages and readers who haven’t so far tested this genre. The book contains a well written and crafted world with psychologically comprehensible main character whose actions are understandable and unavoidable and for whom the reader roots. I am personally looking forward to the next installment.