So as you may gather from my title, this was a reread for me last year. And OH WHAT A REREAD IT WAS. Not only was this a stunning book, but I also buddy read this with the lovely Being a Book Nerd. She’s such a sweet person and I had so much fun discussing this as I went along- be sure to check out her blog!
“Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love. It did not end well.”
Anyway, I figured a chill review was in order. From that perfect opening line I was completely in love again. In fact, I highlighted the whole first page on my kindle, cos it was just so unbelievably gorgeous!! Heck I highlighted whole chapters, even, it was just so quotable. It’s lyrical, surprisingly witty and sucks you right in. Laini Taylor is a MASTER at her craft. There’s no doubt about it. I couldn’t actually believe how stunningly well written this is (even though I already knew that 😉 ).
“Sketchbook,” Zuzana commanded, holding out her hand like a surgeon for a scalpel.
I had forgotten so much, but the second I started reading I was practically punching the air with a “THIS IS WHY I LOVE IT!” More than anything, this was exemplified by the brilliant characterisation. I was cheering every time a hero character turned up and booing all the baddies- it turned into quite the panto in my bedroom 😉 What’s wonderful about the characterisation here is how simply Taylor builds an entire image in a single sentence. Right from the start, we learn that Karou, for instance, is not easily scared and can handle herself. Even more than that, there’s so much loaded into single sentences, that it creates a picture within seconds:
“Zuzana arched an eyebrow. She was a master of the eyebrow arch, and Karou envied her for it.”
In the above quote, you get two-for-one characterisation- it is a stroke of brilliance! Forgive my geeking out, but one thing I love about rereads is how much more you can appreciate the details and artistry the second time round. And my goodness there is so much to dissect here. Because there are so many subtle things, subtly woven into the fabric, you could not notice the first time round. Of course, they give an impression, but if you want to get the most out of this book, it’s worth another look.
“Oh, good, Pestilence is free,” said Karou, heading towards the sculpture. Massive emperor and horse both wore gas masks, like every other statue in the place, and it had always put Karou in mind of the first horseman of the Apocalypse, Pestilence, sowing plaque with one outstretched arm.”
A few things stood out to me that I hadn’t noticed before. Like the understated hints of magic, the biblical references and the absolute attention to detail. One line in particular of Karou appraising the decor had me chuckling in context: “An angel, of all abominations!”(which I realise now is only funny to people who’ve read it). More than that, I adored how the real world history of the setting blended into the world of Taylor’s creation. Having been to Prague now, I could appreciate the way Taylor captured the atmosphere even more (actually this book is the reason my friend and I went to Prague in the first place 😉 )
“Fairy-tale city. From the air, red rooftops hug a kink in a dark river, and by night the forested hills appear as spans of black nothing against the dazzle of the lit castle, the spiking Gothic towers, the domes great and small. The river captures all the lights and teases them out, long and wavering, and the side-slashing rain blurs it all to a dream”
Now, here’s one of the *biggest* differences. The first time round I thought it was instalove, until right at the end of the book. Highlight for spoilers: obviously, knowing about Karou’s former life this time round, seeing breadcrumbs for that scattered throughout the text, I could only think of it as ingenious this time round. In short, for those that haven’t read the book and are scared off the second they see the word “instalove”, it really, really isn’t. The romance is actually one of the biggest selling points of the series.
“We dreamed together of the world remade.”
In terms of plot, there’s a lot going on, whilst also being a slow burn. I do think it picks up the pace later on, but the best thing about this book is actually the flashback sequence at the end- without spoilers, that twist *was not* something I saw coming the first time round. Like I said however, for the rereader, there are enough clues to see how perfectly the story has been laid out. I did think it ended rather abruptly- which explains why I sped through the series the first time cos leaving it there and *not knowing* is painful- so the one downside is not having time to complete the whole series again.
“Once upon a time, there was only darkness, and there were monsters vast as worlds who swam in it.”
All in all, there’s a reason why this is one of the rare series I’ve given a perfect rating:
Have you read this? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!