All that really needs to be said about this book is: I was already a Neil Gaiman fan girl, and this book only serves to reinforce those feelings of love, obsession, and worship for him as a writer.  How can one call herself a fan girl if she’s never read Neverwhere? The question is irrelevant because I finally have.  It is, of course, brilliant.  Everything Gaiman writes is magical (and not just in its content, but in its structure and presentation).

When Richard Mayhew stops to aid a bleeding girl he finds on the street, he has no idea that his life is about to be changed forever–and not in any way he is going to like.  The next day he awakes to discover that he does not exist.  No record of his having been born exists, his bank does not recognize his PIN, and neither his girlfriend nor his coworkers have any knowledge of having known him before.  His apartment is rented out to another couple while he is in the bath, and no one in London can see him.  Assisted reluctantly by a girl named Door, he embarks on a journey to restore himself to the world he knows.  But as his journey continues, his regard for the shadowy world of London Below begins to shift, as does his regard for himself, until he emerges as a hero quite unlike the buffoon he was when he stumbled over Door in the street.

I loved London Below.  The idea of a dark, underground, unknown society existing below and simultaneously in London, was brilliant.  The concept reminded me somewhat of the ideas of Heaven and Hell–we tend to think of them as being located above and below, respectively, when it’s really more that they exist in a separate dimension entirely.

Once again, here is a book quite unlike anything I’ve ever read.  Gaiman manages to create, seemingly effortlessly, a wholly unique and unusual world, into whose depths the reader dives both with trepidation and excitement.  The book possesses a cast of characters who deserve to be recognized–Door, the Marquis, Richard, Hunter, and Islington, among the numerous others.  They are each such startling contrasts to each other, such vibrant caricatures, but they work well together to create a story that’s interesting, gripping, and infuriating at intervals.

I definitely recommend this one. It would actually make an excellent introduction to the work of Neil Gaiman (naturally, as it was, I believe, his first novel of the non-graphic variety).  It is dark, dangerous, and frightening without the wickedness and violence that some of his subsequent works possess.  Please, read Neil Gaiman! Your life will change! Your world will be rocked! Promise :)

12.33–Days of Blood and Starlight

12.33–Days of Blood and Starlight

Laini Taylor does it again! I was hesitant about Days of Blood and Starlight because I didn’t like the way it began. I was really nervous about the theme of the book.  Where Daughter of Smoke and Bone is extremely romantic, Blood and Starlight is all about war.  It’s tough to read, absolutely fraught with emotion, and it’s definitely a nail biter.

For character, Taylor delivers.  Karou unfolds further as a character with untold layers.  It is so easy for the reader to get invested in her.  In this installment, she comes dangerously close to being broken and defeated, but pulls through to find her true self, ten times stronger and more passionate before.  With her people threatened like never before, she must stand against all the forces allied against her–forces she finds in unexpected places.  Her friend Zuzana is as irrepressible and hilarious as usual.  Her recently-acquired boyfriend adds a new element to her hilarity as well. Their banter is some of the best (and only) comic relief in this extremely heavy, war-torn novel.  And Taylor has brewed up a whole new cast of baddies for the reader to hate.  Taylor is a masterful creator of characters, and this novel is no exception.  Can someone please turn me into Karou? Give me some of her spunk? Thanks :)

For plot, I still can’t say much, because I don’t want to give anything away about this book or Smoke and Bone.  I’ll just say that it kept me on the brink of a lot of things the whole time: screaming, crying, throwing things, pulling out my hair, laughing hysterically in public, etc.  In addition to a stunning ability to create engaging characters, Taylor then sticks those characters in situations for which the reader can’t possibly dream up solutions.  She is constantly taking her reader by surprise and giving them new reasons to turn the page.

There is no end to the things I could say about Laini Taylor.  I really haven’t encountered a series I’ve felt this passionate about or affected by since The Hunger Games.  Once again, I can’t recommend this series highly enough.  I encourage everyone who doesn’t have this on their TBR list to get it on there, and those who do have it to bump it to the top. Now.

12.27–Daughter of Smoke and Bone

12.27–Daughter of Smoke and Bone

I finished this book this morning and I’ve been freaking out ever since. It is insanely amazing.  I have heard nothing but good things about it, and when I picked it up at BookPeople on Sunday I couldn’t put it down.

Karou is an unusual girl, currently living in Prague, who was raised by a strange clan of inhuman beings.  Her world is shattered when her connection to her family is severed, and a mysterious stranger simultaneously appears to whom Karou is magnetically drawn.  He is the key to her true identity and is the only being who can reveal the secrets of her past.

This is one of the most wildly creative books I’ve ever read. Yes, the basic narrative arc has been done a million times (which arc hasn’t?), but the premise is entirely unique. Karou’s story takes place (mostly) in our world, but it is a world that somehow also exists outside of the reality of most human beings.  Her sketchbooks are filled with fantastical characters which everyone believes are figments of her imagination, while only she knows that they are actually entirely real.  She lives a double life, and the creatures with which she interacts are a welcome break from the out-of-control vampire/werewolf/zombie craze.

Taylor has created some brilliant characters.  Karou is gorgeous, rebellious, and mysterious. She is strong and prickly on the outside, but inside she is lonely and vulnerable, searching for the truth about her identity and her unknown origins.  And she has blue hair! Permanently blue hair! I’ve always wanted blue hair.  Her best friend Zuzana is, in a novel full of “best parts,” one of the best parts.  She is hilarious, creative, and the perfect complement to Karou.  Taylor does a fantastic job of capturing the sarcastic, cynical voices of extremely intelligent teenagers.  The rest of the characters are incredible as well, but I would prefer not to give anything about anyone away, even though readers have probably seen reviews with more information in them.  Still, I won’t be the one to blab!

I highly recommend this novel.  It is well-written, funny, extremely emotionally and sexually charged, and enthralling from beginning to end. Being a teen series, it didn’t have any sort of substantial ending–just that transition from one novel to another–but at this juncture I don’t even care.  I’m a rabid, ravenous beast for the next novel, and I’m actually excited about the wait. Sometimes a little anticipation makes the resolution that much better. There is a huge slap in the face at the end, a major plot twist that I didn’t see coming and cannot possibly see the author being able to create more story out of.  But there’s a second novel in the works, and I cannot wait to see what Taylor does with Karou and the rest of the gang.

Oh my GOD you must read this book.