(review originally posted on my livejournal account: http://intoyourlungs.livejournal.com/16790.html)
Read For: calico_reaction's Dare reading challenge (August)
I had actually heard of this book before reading it; it caught my eye back in 2009 when it was released at the Chapters I work at because of its gorgeous cover. I read the back and thought it sounded kind of cool, but alas, my TBR pile was so huge at the time (not that that's changed or anything) that I dismissed the book. I was pleased when Calico made this her August dare though, because like I said, it DID sound pretty good, so I happily dived in.
I got something quite a bit different than what I was expecting, but it was still good. Pretty frickin' good actually.
No spoilers here, but if you're paranoid, just skip to "My Verdict" at the end. :)
Okay, first up, I would like to explain what I expected out of this book. Looking at the cover, I had a feeling I would be getting some kind of urban/contemporary fantasy, and reading the blurb, I couldn't help but think: "Ooh!! Inheriting a house with enchanted objects? How charming!" I seriously thought this was going to be a fantasy on the lighter side, and HOLY CRAP is that wrong. Like, very very wrong. This book isn't scary or anything, but it's definitely dark. Of course, I re-read the back of the book and noticed the last little bit which is pretty frikken ominous, and it's not like the cover is sunshine and rainbows or anything, but still -- I was still surprised at HOW dark this story ended up being. This ended up working very much in its favour though.
One of the neatest aspects of this novel was probably the narration. There are two perspectives that the novel jumps between: the first one we're introduced to is a first-person present tense narration from the point-of-view of Will, a detective/cop fellow who is interviewing Astrid Lethewood in the hopes of locating her friend Sahara who has brought about disaster on an apocalyptic scale. Then, the second perspective is a third-person past tense one, that tells the events leading up to the current story presented in Will's chapters. It worked really well and was a neat technique. It also gave the novel a sense of foreboding, as you know things are not going to work out AT ALL and you're just waiting for everything to fall apart. Despite knowing the outcome of Astrid, Sahara and Jacks's dealings with the vitagua, the events in the story were never predictable.
The characters that populate this story are also very quite layered and very, very flawed, but still manage to evoke sympathy from the reader (or from me at least), with the exception of Sahara, maybe (though again, that's just a me thing -- I've read some reviewers who are quite sympathetic of her). Astrid was likable, but god was she a push-over, and Jacks was a very decent guy, but oh so serious. I didn't hate Sahara, but I had a hard time warming up to her none the less. I am curious as to how much of the events that transpired were directly influenced by the vitagua as opposed to Sahara's inherent greed.The chemistry between the characters was also very well done, and rife with sexual tension. I found Will's character to be a bit of a blank slate, despite some of his history and family being revealed. I don't think this was too bad though, as he didn't feel completely flat either.
I really liked the magic system that Dellamonica created here as well. It's very creative, and I liked that it had very specific rules, while still having a side of whimsy. However, with this sense of the whimsical came a very dark angle that, like I mentioned above, I didn't initially see coming. It works really well though, making these seemingly harmless objects be capable of very horrible consequences.
This reads all right as a stand-alone novel, tying up pretty much all the loose ends that story had, but it also begs for a sequel, which is the in the works and slated to be released in 2012. I am interested to see how things will play out in that novel, as there are quite a few directions the plot could go in.Final Verdict:
This is one of the more creative fantasies I've read in quite awhile, and I really liked it. The dark tone of the novel caught me off guard at first, but it works really well. We have characters that are rife with personality; they're very flawed individuals but also possess redeeming qualities that evoke sympathy from the reader (though I never did warm up totally to Sahara -- but I am curious as to how much of "her" we see in the novel). The altering perspectives of the narration was also a very nice touch, and added a sense of foreboding to the novel that only intensified that darker tone. I'll definitely be picking up the sequel, Blue Magic, when it's released in 2012.