I read this novel for calico_reaction's February Dare Challenge. I really enjoyed the January Dare read, Replay (who I ended up lending to my mom, and she loved it too!), so I snatched this from my local used book store (thankfully they had it, because nowhere else in town did) and snuck into my reading schedule. I've been super busy this month and haven't had a lot of time for reading, so thankfully this book was fairly short. :) Unfortunately, this book is also a duology, and there is no doubt in my mind that it was originally written to be one single book, but more on that in the review. No spoilers, so if you want to read the full-review, no need to worry.
To start, I have to say, I really enjoyed this book! Calico has yet to be let me down.
This book's strength, is in my opinion, found in the world-building. The spans, the spirals, the bridge, everything just sounded so cool. It sounded like a world where I would want to live. I love how the cover depicted pretty much how I pictured the world, so kudos to awesome cover designs.
The story had a very fairy tale-esque feel to it, with Leodora being a Cinderella of sorts: she's an orphan who's raised by her pretty evil uncle, is ostracized by the entire community, and ends up running away so that she can become a shadow puppeteer, following in the footsteps of her late father. Leodora's back story was very sad and I felt really empathetic towards her. Poor girl couldn't get a break. Her pathetic story also had a very magical feel pervading throughout, and it really just fitted well with the story and the setting. I don't know how to explain it, but this whole book had something special about it that I can't quite put my finger on.
This can also be said about Diverus' story, which while I found a little boring at first for some reason, really gripped me after awhile. I especially liked how the brothels worked. You think they're prostituting young boys for sex, but it's actually something completely different and also very magical, like the rest of the book. It was very neat and a nifty little bit of world-building, which Frost has proven he's very adept at.
The theme behind the book is also very well executed: the power of stories, and how they change. I absolutely loved the stories that were told by the different characters throughout the story, and how even some of the flashbacks were pulled off (such as Diverus', which is introduced by something along the lines of: "This is how Leodora told his story.." or something to that effect; just brilliant.) Again, and I can't stress this enough, it just all felt so magical and really amped the atmosphere/feeling this novel gives off.
The one thing to keep in mind when reading this book is something I mentioned above: this series is only two books long, and I'm pretty positive it was meant to be one single book. For one, you can tell by the pacing. This whole first volume is set up, so if you don't keep in mind that this book was intended to be one volume, then the pacing can come off as really slow, or uneven. I've read reviews where people have said that they felt like nothing happens in this book, that it's all flashbacks, and for the most part this is true (though I would argue about nothing happening -- quite a bit happens, I thought) but if this were one book, it would really come off quite well. So, just something to keep in mind when reading. Also, the book ends on a complete cliff-hanger, so it would be wise to have the sequel on hand if you find yourself liking this first installment.
Final Verdict: I whole-heartedly recommend this novel. It's quite different from your usual fantasy fare and has some beautiful world-building. Frost has also proven to be an adept story-teller by giving us a story about stories. The book is all very fairy-tale-esque and exudes a very magical feel that just made me all warm and fuzzy and was really immersive. Be warned though: if you're going to read this book, as soon as you find yourself to start liking it, make sure to get Lord Tophet, the sequel. :) I don't have a copy yet, as they didn't carry it at any of the book stores where I live, but I'm visiting my boyfriend out of town this week, so I'm off to go buy myself a copy very shortly. And I have to say, I can't wait to read the sequel.