Any book that opens with "Once upon a time" is inviting high expectations. It's a phrase that inevitably evokes fairy tales and leather-bound classics about epic adventures, setting up the anticipation that readers will discover worlds filled with magic.... In this case, the story that follows...is a breath-catching romantic fantasy about destiny, hope and the search for one's true self that doesn't let readers down. Taylor has taken elements of mythology, religion and her own imagination and pasted them into a believably fantastical collage.
Chelsey Philpot - New York Times
(Starred review.) National Book Award finalist Taylor (Lips Touch: Three Times) again weaves a masterful mix of reality and fantasy with cross-genre appeal. Exquisitely written and beautifully paced, the tale is set in ghostly, romantic Prague, where 17-year-old Karou is an art student--except when she is called "home" to do errands for the family of loving, albeit inhuman, creatures who raised her. Mysterious as Karou seems to her friends, her life is equally mysterious to her: How did she come to live with chimaera? Why does paternal Brimstone eternally require teeth—especially human ones? And why is she "plagued by the notion that she wasn't whole....a sensation akin to having forgotten something?" Taylor interlaces cleverly droll depictions of contemporary teenage life with equally believable portrayals of terrifying otherworldly beings. When black handprints begin appearing on doorways throughout the world, Karou is swept into the ancient deadly rivalry between devils and angels and gradually, painfully, acquires her longed-for self-knowledge. The book's final pages seemingly establish the triumph of true love--until a horrifying revelation sets the stage for a second book.
Gr 9 Up—Blue-haired Karou is 17, and, in addition to her unusual tresses, has other intriguing aspects to her personality. She supports her life as an art student in Prague by running errands for her foster parent, a supernatural chimera named Brimstone. These errands, which take Karou through strange portals to strange places to meet with even stranger individuals, reap rewards not only of money, but also wishes. Taylor builds a thoroughly tangible fantasy world wherein a complex parallel universe competes with far-flung geographic locales for gorgeously evoked images. Karou herself is a well-rendered character with convincing motivations: artistic and secretive, she longs for emotional connection and a sense of completeness. Her good friend Zuzana goes some way toward mitigating Karou's solitude, but a sour breakup with beautiful bad boy Kaz has left her feeling somewhat bereft. Taylor leads readers from this deceptively familiar trope into a turbulent battle between supernatural species: angel-beings seek the destruction of demonlike chimera in revenge for the burning of the archive of the seraph magi. The more Karou discovers about the battle, however, the less simple good and evil appear; the angels are not divine, the chimera are not evil, and genocide is apparently acceptable to both sides in this otherworldly war. Initially, the weakest part of the story appears to be the love story between Karou and Akiva, an angel of "shocking beauty"; there is little to support their instant bond until their true connection is disclosed. The suspense builds inexorably, and the philosophical as well as physical battles will hold action-oriented readers. The unfolding of character, place, and plot is smoothly intricate, and the conclusion is a beckoning door to the next volume.—Janice M. Del Negro, GSLIS Dominican University, River Forest, IL
School Library Journal
Author Taylor has created a variety of worlds, time frames, and creatures with such detail and craft that all are believable.... Readers will look forward to the suggested sequel to this complex, exciting tale.
(Starred review.) Along with writing in such heightened language that even casual banter often comes off as wildly funny, the author crafts a fierce heroine with bright-blue hair, tattoos, martial skills, a growing attachment to a preternaturally hunky but not entirely sane warrior and, in episodes to come, an army of killer angels to confront. Rarely—perhaps not since the author's own Faeries of Dreamdark: Blackbringer (2007)—does a series kick off so deliciously.
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