This book was so good, I’m almost at a loss for words, almost. It’s an ARC, courtesy of Little, Brown and Company, via the annual ALA conference in New Orleans. It comes out in two days, and by all means go buy this one. You will want to own it, and re-read it.
It’s about Karou, an art student in Prague, who only has one real friend because no one else seems quite able to deal with Karou’s weirdness. For starters, she leaves all the time (sometimes for days), and will give no explanation other than she had errands to run. Also, she spends more time sketching people than talking to them. And sometimes she comes back from her errands with bruises.
What does Karou do? She collects teeth for her father figure, Brimstone. She gets sent on errands that take her all over the world. She goes to auctions, spends ridiculous sums of money, and works with some rather sketchy traders. She’s trained in self defense and can normally handle herself pretty well. Though, even Karou is susceptible to gunshots. And who is Brimstone? He’s this sort of multiple creature crossbreed monster that has brought Karou up in secret since she was a baby. She was raised in Brimstone’s shop along with various other creatures that she sketches in her sketchpads and that her teachers think of as fantasy creatures.
Karou sometimes gets paid in wishes for her errands. Wishes have gotten her some pretty cool small things like making ex-boyfriends have inappropriate itches during modeling sessions, permanent blue hair that she never has to dye, and open doors. But the bigger wishes, Brimstone saves for specific clients, who all seem to be in the business of teeth. And Karou works hard to have her double life of human art classes and family business. And she becomes an expert on teeth.The only issue with the family business though, is all the secrets. Like why has she always had the palms of her hands tattooed with eyes (since she was a baby)? And what are all the teeth for? And why did Brimstone raise her, a human?
Eventually Karou breaks some rules and finds out the truth about Brimstone’s world of monsters. She learns of the centuries long war between the chimaera (monsters) and angels. And she falls in love with an angel who used to have a soft spot for chimaera. You’d think it would be tough for Karou to choose sides: angel or chimaera. But it’s not. She always sides with her family. And the mysteries of her past, and the past surrounding the angel, Akiva, are just so fascinating. Add that to the war that is happening, all the portals between the worlds being destroyed, Karou being cut off from her family completely, the art, the scenes that take place around the world, the truths Karou eventually shares with her one friend, and this book is just loaded with amazing details and mystery.
And Karou is just ubelieably cool. There’s not better word to describe her. She reminded me a lot of Lisbeth from The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo. She’s smart, sarcastic, brave, and unbelievably strong. She eventually discovers a way to get back to her family of monsters, but it involves stealing wishes from the sketchy hunters/traders of teeth. She travels the world to steal their wishes, and as soon as she gets her hands on the good stuff (the bigger wishes), she wishes to be able to fly. This really comes in handy when she is attacked by angels. Though, it did not come in handy when an agel fight was spotted by a lot of tourists, and random fans and police officers then want to “talk” with her. Karou stands up for herself. And she doesn’t let herself become a sop around Akiva, refusing to be a damsel in distress. She does what she has to for the creatures she loves.
There’s great humor, intense dark magic, resurrections, flying, fighting, all kinds of monsters, human trafficking, torture, a whole world of interesting history, a terrible war that involves stealing and breeding children as soldiers, and so much mystery. There’s a lot of politics too, about what the chimaera were used as before the war and how each side of the war justifies what they are doing. And despite all the angels versus demons/devils comments, there was no real religious aspect at all. And I loved this. I liked that it wasn’t about God. It was about a war for land, rights, and peace. And so much of the book is about hope (what the name, Karou, means), and how Karou and Akiva, and even Brimstone interpret hope, and differentiate it from wishing.
A lot gets answered by the end; although, I’m sure I’ll have questions until the last book. But, there was one question I really needed answered that wasn’t. Why did she have to grow up ignorant of everything?
Any way, there’s almost nothing negative I can say about this book. The story was amazing. The characters/creatures were so unique. Karou was the best kind of main character. The love story was connected to a really interesting history, and was not too sappy; it actually took the backseat to everything else that was going on (at least until the very end), and that is how I like it! And Taylor can write well, too. Each layer of the story is connected so well to the main focus. And I couldn’t put it down. I still need to know what will happen and I’m dreading waiting for book 2. I give this a whole-hearted 10/10. I’m so glad I got this one.