I'm a fierce book lover, mainly of YA, and here's where I'll share my thoughts and impressions on whatever I pick up next.
This novel is breathtaking. Lanagan's prose is gorgeous and lush and evocative. So articulate and lovely, the novel flows smoothly and seductively because of its writing and its dark atmosphere. This novel is not for everyone. Not only does it move slowly, but some themes might not sit well with some and others might not like how frank and raw the novel is, but I strongly recommend this one for YA readers looking for an intelligent, heart-felt read with real substance and that actually contributes to the genre. A gorgeous setting, breathtaking writing, sensual suggestions and contemplations about humanity and love and loyalty and feminism, this novel is simply fantastic.
I must say, right off the bat, that Lanagan is one of the best writers I've encountered in recent years and that this book is probably one of the best books I've read. Having said that, I am sort of obligated to tell you that this book is definitely not for everyone. Some parts are very, very slow; the prose is complicated to follow sometimes; the characters are not exactly likeable; the plot unfurls at a turtle pace; and there are some themes that people might not like reading about. I can understand why someone people would feel indifferent about this book, but to me, this book was gorgeous.
Like I said, Lanagan is one hell of a writer. Her prose is lush, evocative, articulate and lovely with imagery and the novel flows smoothly from point to point because of her incredibly ability to write. I sometimes spent several minutes looking at one particular sentence because it was just so gorgeous. The mood is set right from the start and Lanagan constructed one of the most powerful atmospheres I've ever read. It is seductive and mystifying with just a peek of darkness showing itself amidst it all. It is very difficult not to feel riveted by the magic of the world she created.
This novel has about 4 or 5 different narratives in it, dividing the book in several parts telling the story of one particular character. I loved the characterization of each character, the profundity of each psychology, but these are not characters you might remember fondly. I think that's the real beauty of this novel: the raw honesty behind each character is without parallel in YA. Lanagan was almost painfully honest in her portrayal of human emotion, of desire and ambition and revenge, and even in the passion of love, which is not always a good thing, not in this novel. There are also many, powerful messages on feminism in this novel that I absolutely adored, but there is a great emphasis on the workings of the human mind and heart. She is absolutely frank in her portrayal of human nature and I can see some readers recoiling away from that, but I thought it was breathtaking and refreshingly honest.
There's magic and mysticism and fantasy all throughout the novel and it is so beautifully integrated with the realism of the times the novel is set in that it is nothing short of stunning. Honestly, the novel moves slow, sometimes very, very slow to the point of being slightly boring, but there's too much beauty in this novel for me to be bothered by it. I truly believe this novel will appeal more to older YA readers who want intelligent and well-constructed reads with less focus on insta-love connections or adolescent drama.
This is a breathtaking novel, nothing short of gorgeous in its execution and construction, a beautifully honest examination of human nature and what we call love. This novel is not for everybody, but if you find you like what I've described above, I am sure you will definitely find a fantastic novel you will remember for a long time to come.