Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Lips Touch: Three Times by Laini Taylor; With Illustrations by Jim Di Bartolo

Three tales of supernatural love, each pivoting on a kiss that is no mere kiss, but an action with profound consequences for the kissers' souls:

Goblin Fruit: In Victorian times, goblin men had only to offer young girls sumptuous fruits to tempt them to sell their souls. But what does it take to tempt today's savvy girls?

Spicy Little Curses: A demon and the ambassador to Hell tussle over the soul of a beautiful English girl in India. Matters become complicated when she falls in love and decides to test her curse.

Hatchling: Six days before Esme's fourteenth birthday, her left eye turns from brown to blue. She little suspects what the change heralds, but her small safe life begins to unravel at once. What does the beautiful, fanged man want with her, and how is her fate connected to a mysterious race of demons?

Hey! If it isn't another gorgeous, gorgeous cover. Thank the stars for Jim Di Bartolo for this enticing art. This is another one of them catch-my-eye-gotta-click Amazon finds for me. Of course, I get all of my books from the library so I get to experience the impulsiveness without the consequences (unless you think having to check out 26 books as once is a bad thing).

But I digress. This was a simply delicious read, a well-written anthology simmering with longing and sumptuous emotions. Ms. Taylor has a poet's gift for words; the flow of her language seemed natural but at the same time evocative, without any pretense that some books today exhibit. The illustrations by Mr. Di Bartolo are as wondrous as the stories, each providing a glimpse at a secondary character's backstory that renders the unfolding of each tale even more special.

Goblin Fruit, featuring the longing-filled Kizzy and her extremely eccentric (and I don't exaggerate when I say extremely) family, is the story out of the three that made me feel the most. I related to the protagonist right away. Kizzy is sarcastic, the ubiquitous girl-in-the-background, sparkling with the promise of beauty (but never noticing it herself). Her desire to be someone else, someone she'd admire, someone mysterious and wanted came across as palpable and sharp; she made me feel her rollicking emotions as she coped with the attractive new boy's attentions, finally grasping that maybe for once, just this once, someone noticed her because she was herself, Kizzy. Supernatural elements (the story is titled Goblin Fruit) throw a monkey wrench into things and that's when the suspense peaks and heartbeats race, leading to what I think is a rather abrupt conclusion. A beautiful, well-crafted story nonetheless.

Spicy Little Curses Such as These for me was the forgettable one for me, though it still contained intriguing elements. Set in India during the British Raj, the story is a sort of retelling of the Greek myth Orpheus and Eurydice, only with demons, curses, and some bargaining thrown in the mix. I enjoyed the story's focus on the supernatural the best; when the focus was shifted instead onto an English girl condemned with a curse and her subsequent romance though, that was when things got a bit bogged down for me. The ending was just a little bit too pat for my taste.

Hatchling is the longest of the three, a novella, and it was an imaginative and creative one at that. It starts with a girl, Esme, who notices that one of her brown eyes changes into a blue one several days before her fourteenth birthday--and from that, she is exposed to a whole new world filled with wonders of different kinds and involves quite a bit of her mother too. To say more would spoil the fantastical twists in plot that Ms. Taylor takes and what a waste that would be! She has a vast imagination and is definitely an author to watch. For now, her Dreamdark books will have to suffice.

Quite simply, I wholeheartedly recommend this book. Great art and beautiful language? Where do I sign up?

Rating: 4 out of 5