Thursday, June 17, 2010
Laini Taylor, illustrated by Jim di Bartolo/LIPS TOUCH THREE TIMES
Usually, in the first paragraph of a book review, I try to describe the book--and I will do that here. But since this book is a multidimensional package, complete with art and a gorgeous typesetting job, don't let the injustice of my description be your only experience of the book. This book is literary YA fantasy, yes, but it also has a special appeal for a lot of different people--graphic novel enthusiasts, anyone who loved Gaiman's Stardust, anyone who loved Kostova's The Historian.
Lips Touch is a collection of three short stories. The first, "Goblin Fruit," is about a misfit high school girl who, after years of being ostracized and made fun of, suddenly catches the interest of the most beautiful boy in school--but the boy might really be a goblin trying to steal her soul. The second story, "Spicy Little Curses Such as These," is set during the British Raj in India, where a curse has been placed on a baby girl: she will have the most beautiful voice in the world, but anyone who hears it will drop dead. The third story, and in my opinion the richest, is called "Hatchling." It is the story of the Druj, a race of soulless immortals who thrill-seek by entering the bodies of humans, and of one human captive who manages to escape their realm. Each story features somewhere within it a kiss--a kiss that tears the characters' lives apart. (Hence the title of the book.)
The stories are particularly special because of Taylor's brand of world-building. In not very many words, she manages to create three very rich and separate worlds: the first seems to be loosely based on Eastern European Romani tradition; the second story is rooted in the Hindu/Buddhist tradition of Yama's Hell (and a large part of it actually takes place in Hell); the third is loosely inspired by Zoroastrian traditions from ancient Persia. In many ways, the book is a string of completely original multinational fairy tales--very readable, very escapist. Taylor's writing is hypnotic, too, and you'll find it very difficult to put the book down. The stories each leave a very strong impression.
Laini Taylor and Jim di Bartolo are a wife/husband collaborative team, and although Taylor must get full credit for the exquisite and many-textured stories themselves, di Bartolo's contributions to the finished product (the book) are really quite special. This book is totally worth collecting.