Firstly, there's the world-building. Ms. Harrow has created a complex world which requires some delving out. I learned never to assume anything about anything, there are always more possibilities than you may be imagining. And also one never can tell for sure who may be trustworthy and who isn't. I was constantly kept on my toes wondering just what may yet come in the next chapter. The details that we begin to uncover about who everyone truly is and how they truly fit into this world are slowly, tantalizingly revealed. There is so much going on underneath the surface that I think a reread or three will probably reveal even more details that I completely missed my first go round!
Then there are the characters. Most of which I liked, but they don't sit comfortably either. Oh no. These characters have depth and a fierceness about them that doesn't soften much. Even January herself has a few unexpected sharp corners. There were times I understood her and times I didn't. All the others pretty much had guaranteed sharpish places and so much that they weren't saying, either to January or to me. I'm not complaining about this, however! It meant I was always endeavoring to figure them out further. These aren't your typical warm and fuzzy type of people. They've seen things, they've experienced things, and those things have changed them forever.
For all the fantastical bits that enthralled me, there were other things that I didn't enjoy, sadly. The romance parts didn't really sit well with me. There are two central romances (both mostly subtle in the background) and while I never felt a connection to either couple, the one caused me to dislike the ending just a tad. I almost think I would have enjoyed it more had that romance not happened at all. I simply never saw enough true emotion going on to help me understand some of the choices made. But that's just my own personal qualm and one which may not bother someone else...
Overall, I was so thoroughly involved within this story that when I finally finished a few hours later, it felt like I hit real life with a jolt! :) There are so many wondrously written sentences that I kept finding another and another I had to stop and reread. Her lyrical way of writing means that Ms. Harrow is certainly an author I will keep an eye out for in the future. Her attention to detail and ability to withhold information while seeming not to withhold it at all is a skill that not many writers have. I was suitably impressed and look forward to rereading this one again!
**I received a complimentary copy via Netgalley. All opinions expressed are my own.
"Books can smell of cheap thrills or painstaking scholarship, of literary weight or unsolved mysteries.
This one smelled unlike any book I’d ever held. Cinnamon and coal smoke, catacombs and loam. Damp seaside evenings and sweat-slick noontimes beneath palm fronds. It smelled as if it had been in the mail for longer than any one parcel could be, circling the world for years and accumulating layers of smells like a tramp wearing too many clothes.
It smelled like adventure itself had been harvested in the wild, distilled to a fine wine, and splashed across each page."
"If we address stories as archeological sites, and dust through their layers with meticulous care, we find at some level there is always a doorway. A dividing point between here and there, mundane and magical. It is at the moment when the doors open, when things flow between worlds, that stories happen."