My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I had the devil of the time deciding on a rating for this. Part of me wanted to rate it higher because some of my dissatisfaction was more a matter of taste than any 'problems' with the book but if I'm truthful I merely liked it. It's put forth as a companion to Furthurwood but it's more like a sequel (to a book I didn't read). That didn't bother me.
I was a bit off-put by the narrative voice. It's told like a fairytale, using a narrator who knew the main character, Laylee and she's telling the story so there's this huge narrative distance between us and the characters. We're being told a story rather than experiencing it. I wasn't that found of it and it didn't help that we'd get footnotes about the other two characters Alice and Oliver that were basically you should buy the other book but if you don't here's some of what happens.
Part of my issue with it was that I like urban fantasy set in the obvious earthly settings or pure fantasy with no earth locations. What I personally don't like is it be 90% fantasy and then an odd earth-element mixed in. That's what this is, completely fantasy world and then suddenly we're quoting Rumi or having Persian baklava. I'm not really a fan of that. I find it personally jarring.
So it sounds like I hated this but I didn't. For the most part I did like it. Laylee is a thirteen year old girl who's being worked to death. Her family possesses a magic to see ghosts and prep both body and soul after death for the next life. However, the townspeople have begun to disbelieve in it. THey don't pay her. They don't help her and they don't value her. She's losing all her color, going silver of hair, eyes and skin. She is dying herself.
Alice and Oliver, the main protagonists of the other novel arrive to help but Laylee is so used to no one helping that she mistrusts kindness and altruism. She's not easy to like but they are determined to help her. Only their help makes a bad situation worse and they have to salvage what they can with the help of another young man, Benyamin whose magic not only lets him talk to insects but they come forth from his skin (Shudders).
I liked the characters and the overall story. Mafi absolutely has some lovely descriptive passages. While I enjoyed it I'm not quite sure this is a series for me.
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