Humans have gotten glimpses of things over time. Just enough to make the rest up. It’s all a quilt of fairy tales with a patch here and there of truth.

Karou lives two lives. In one she is just a blue-haired art student in the city of Prague. But when she walks through the doors to Brimstone’s shop, she enters a world of monsters, where she runs errands for the only family she has ever known. She doesn’t know what the teeth she collects from around the world are for, but she wouldn’t refuse her family.

I finally got round to starting this trilogy which has seemed to get universal praise from amongst blogging friends. Beautiful angels are good and monstrous beasts are evil, right? I enjoyed the play on the traditional assumptions on good versus evil and the exploration of the pointlessness of endless war. Is the similarity of the words of Chimaera to Crimea on purpose? When I saw their war referenced as the Chimaeran War, I misread it as Crimean.

This first instalment is very much about the back story, or at least the discovery of it, which reveals itself in snippets until it all comes tumbling out. I enjoyed Madrigal’s story, which explored more of the other world, its customs and struggles. Learning about the chimaera and the relevance of the teeth was riveting, and it all ties back to little hints during the book. The ending broke my heart…

Have you ever asked yourself, do monsters make war, or does war make monsters? I’ve seen things, angel. There are guerilla armies that make little boys kill their own families. Such acts rip out the soul and make space for beasts to grow inside.

Before Karou gets all mushy, I liked her attitude and her best friend Zuzana. Their conversations were authentic and they were blasé about boys, even if Karou is annoyed about Kaz. She treats him in a way one would expect, well if we could wish itches on our exes. The story sets out with Karou as leading a very nearly normal life, and establishes her love of art and her limited social life in the streets of Prague.

I’d forgotten how rampant instalove used to be in young adult books. I understand there’s some sort of justification for it here, but there must be a better a way to write a bond between too people who barely know each other. It’s very intense and I know it’s arguable that’s because teenagers feel everything intensely, but then what’s Akiva’s excuse? I dunno, I just felt the romance was the weakest part of an otherwise amazing book.

Fantastic world-building and touching, non-romantic relationships mean I will definitely be reading the rest of this trilogy.

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Also reviewed @ Winged Reviews | prettybooks | Once Upon a Time | Booking in Heels

Book Source: Purchased