I know, I know, I’m just jumping on this bandwagon now. But, believe me, I was judging the books by their covers. Don’t tell me the covers aren’t lame. Closeups of girls faces with overambitious stage makeup or masquerade masks? Why? There was only one masquerade scene in the whole book. Why is that the subject for the cover? Alas, I will never understand publishers and the way they promote thing.
The second thing that kept me away from the series was the insufferable usage of the ‘blank & blank’ seen in most book titles these days. I know it’s suppose to be deep, finding buzz words to paint a picture of the fantastical landscape. But seriously, it’s gotten old. When the fantasy landscape is riddled with them, how do you know which is which?
The third thing that kept me away, I heard there was something of an intense romance that was either complete perfection or utterly horrible depending on the person reading the book. I hate a lot of romantic tropes, but I put up with them if the story is good enough. So, when confronted with those skeptical reviews, I stayed away.
Granted, these are all shallow reasons for staying away from this book. I decided to jump in on a whim, to see what all the fuss was about. Nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to read. Sure, I cringed a bit when I found out there was a fight between what amounted to, in this world, as Angels and Demons. But, really, all the cliches are so well done that after a certain point, it didn’t matter anymore.
Our main character, Karou lives dual lives. On one hand she’s an art student in Prague. On the other, she knows about magical doors all over the world that all lead to the same room. A room filled with chimera, with monsters. That room holds her foster family, whom raised her from birth.
The hows and the whys are a mystery. The one in charge, Brimstone, keeps plenty of secrets from Karou. He buys teeth with wishes and sometimes Karou helps procure the teeth, from poachers and auctions and everyday folk. Upon one of her errands, Karou sees a black hand print burned into the wood of the portal door. Soon, the black hand prints appear on every door across the world. With this advent, the books soon take a turn.
Kauro meets an angel named Akiva, who at once tries to kill her. She escapes, barely, and finds refuge in Brimstone’s shop. Curiosity get’s the better of her, and she wanders to a forbidden section, only to be thrown out. In the morning, she finds that all the portals are smoldering ruins. There is no way back to Brimstone’s shop or to her family.
From there, the book starts with the general quest to get to the other side of the portal, but then diverts into the romance that everyone totes as hit or miss. It’s an intense one, spanning multiple lives and all involving Akiva. His memories mixed with Madrigal’s and Kauro’s paint a picture that is both hopeful, elated and sorrowful.
Everything is so well done. The writing style is poetic, the characters are diverse and interesting, and the world building takes things that have been done before and paints them into a beautiful tapestry.
I will be continuing this series immediately (which I will promptly regret, as the last book is not out).