I've given this review a lot of thought because I have two major reactions: the first is to squee and scream and jump up and down and rave about how much I love this series. Basically, to fangirl out. The second is to be calm and collected and give some concrete reasons for why I think the series deserves to be considered Literature with a capital L. Because that requires spoilers, I'm going to begin with the squeeing. Then I'll draw a line. Beneath the line there WILL BE SERIES SPOILERS.
Let the fangirling commence:
Holy moly, ya'll. I cannot even with the love for this series. I read the first book when the series first came out and decided to wait on reading the rest until it was finished. I liked the first book, but the second book truly hooked me. I spent several mornings laying on the back porch mainlining the second and third books (despite the wrist cramps that came with the door-stop size). And it was worth every minute.
The settings are beautiful and picture perfect. We go from Prague to Marrakesh to a world completely of Taylor's own making and every setting is more beautiful than the last. In terms of characters, she has written an amazingly complex cast, all of whom have developed back stories and personalities that you either love or love to hate. The depiction of friendship between our main character Karou and her best friend Zuzana rival (and in my opinion even surpass) the romance that is also quite nice in and of itself.
To sum it all up: amazing world building, fully developed characters, and an extraordinarily unique plot.
___________________SPOILERS BELOW THIS LINE___________________
Seriously, you've been warned...
I mean it...
Specific instances of truly amazing writing
I'm pulling from my ongoing text message conversation with my bookish bestie Jennie (We Still Read), but with less squealing and more explaining of how Taylor does an amazing job with this series. I like bullet points because that feels less book reportish, so here we go:
- Taylor is not afraid to kill off her characters. Or have unspeakably terrible things happen to them. I like my fantasy with a healthy dose of dark and that's not something that I have found a lot of in YA fantasy. So I was thrilled to see that Taylor really went there with her characters (RIP Hazael). And I was particularly pleased to see that Thiago's attempted rape of Karou didn't end with Akiva or Ziri showing up to save the day: Karou saves herself. The assault itself also plays a large role in the development of Karou's character and in the way she interacts with Ziri for the rest of the series - it isn't just there to up the stakes for Karou or to add a hero scene for a romantic interest.
- Similarly, Taylor can write some twisted villains. Again, I want some darkness in my fantasy, so I need a villain who can be truly blood-curdling. Between Thiago and Jael, Taylor has this base covered. They are deliciously evil and ruthless. And bonus points for including multiple dimensions to the villains. For example, Thiago is a necessary character. Despite his ruthlessness and his thirst for blood, the chimaera would have been destroyed without him. We loathe him, but like Karou we see that he is necessary for the chimaera to have any hope of survival.
- Zuzana and Karou. I could spent hours raving over their friendship. Three entire books with multiple story arcs and not a single one involving Karou and Zuzana fighting. Turns out, teen girls can have complex frienships that don't involve cattiness or back-stabbing. Who knew?
- There are so many plot threads, but none of them are lost or damaged by the complexity. It seems like Taylor has considered every aspect of the situations she puts her characters in as well. For example, she brings up the socio-political implications of having the angels reveal their presence in Rome and the "demons" reveal themselves in a Muslim country. Brilliant! And just like the plot threads, Taylor is able to create many characters with unique personalities who change and grow throughout the series without losing any cohesion.
- And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention my favorite scene in the series, which takes place at the end of the third book. I cried my eyeballs out when Karou comes to the islands to meet Akiva and is met by all of the women who have been a part of her journey. The time she spends with them preparing for her special night with Akiva touched me so much more than the romance itself (although let's not deny that that part is good too). I loved how the orphaned Karou is surrounded by mothers and sisters from all parts of her life and couldn't get over how well constructed those last few pages were.
So there you have it - all of my raves, squees, and calm, measured opinions about one of the best YA series I've read. What did you think?