This was an epic, haunting, mythological story. Karou is the main character, a high school student living in Prague (though she has not always lived there). She attends a fabulous high school for the arts that I am supremely jealous of. However, her life is strange, even for an art student. She was raised by a strange creature called Brimstone, who might possibly be a demon. He calls on her at all hours to run weird errands all over the world (through magic portal doors – I want one!). He requires teeth – human and animal, and the payment is wishes. Karou doesn’t really question this – after all, she grew up with it, but she does have a lot of questions about her origins, and these errands are starting to overwhelm her. Her best friend is a wonderful, feisty character called Zuzana who keeps Karou rooted in the real world. While Zuzana has seen Karou’s sketches of Brimstone and the other strange creatures in her life, she assumes they are fantasies.
Karou is starting to feel a bit put-upon and rebellious towards Brimstone, when suddenly an errand goes terribly wrong, and she ends up in a fight for her life with an incredibly beautiful angel. The angel, Akiva, is working with a group of angels called The Fallen to close the magic portals and get rid of Brimstone and the other Chimera.
However, even as the portals burn, Akiva finds himself leaving his fellow Seraphim and going to find Karou. They are drawn to each other, but soon Karou discovers they are mortal enemies in a supernatural and ancient war. Regardless, they fall in love. Such a good love story. Can’t say too much or I’ll spoil it, but this is not your run of the mill Romeo and Juliet story.
This is the first in a series, which I didn’t know until the end of the book came like an unexpected wall in the dark. I was so swept up in the gorgeous writing and the epic plot, then WHAM. Over. I think I actually gasped a little when I realized I wasn’t getting any more answers. This whole world opened up, and you just get a glimpse, and then it’s gone until the next book.
Karou is a fantastic character. She’s smart and sarcastic, but genuine and loyal to the people she cares about. Her apartment is decorated with finds from markets all over the world. One of her wishes from Brimstone gave her bright blue hair without needing dye. She jaunts around the world like it’s no big deal, having had these portals since childhood – she actually grumbles about having to go to Paris. Lucky girl. I just loved her, and I want to be her. And the writing – oh, it’s beautiful. Classic Laini Taylor. There were sentences I just had to read again and again to savor the words. So lyrical and unusual.
I can’t say enough about this book! So many stars! It’s so unusual in such a good way – the setting, the characters, the language – it’s nothing we’ve seen before, thank goodness! In a world full of copycat books, this is a pure original.