Lips Touch: Three Times by Laini Taylor
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I've been eager to read Laini Taylor for a while now, after reading more than gushing reviews about her books here on GoodReads.
Now that I'm done I have to confess that while on the one hand she did not disappoint, on the other I didn't fall in love with this book.
I knew next to nothing about this book before starting it, only that it was a collection of three short stories and that the leit motif is kissing.
What I didn't know is that the author, in this collection, has taken various elements of fairy tales, literature, mythology and much more and stirred it in a big cauldron with a rather nice effect.
First of all, let's get something important out of the way. Taylor writes Wonderfully with capital W. You know the "show, don't tell" rule? This woman probably invented it. As I might have mentioned in many other reviews before, I am a very visual person. Well, this book played like a movie in front of my eyes. I could hear, smell and taste with the characters, with pretty, pretty words fluttering all around me. She is very, very talented. Period.
Goblin Fruit is the first short story and the one that made me think the most. I knew it's based on the poem by Christina Rossetti Goblin Market. So, imagine my shock when I started reading the story and somehow it felt familiar.... where have I read this before? But...but... this is TWILIGHT!
Aside from the obvious abyss in writing skills, the similarities are undeniable: from the physical description of Jack Husk, the analogies in the metaphor of the forbidden fruit up to the end and the choice that Kizzy makes.
I think that, in this case, - and you might think I am crazy - Taylor took the archetype of all contemporary paranormal YA literature nowadays (our beloved or dearly hated Twilight) and reinterpreted it, mixing it with other elements and Rossetti's poem. And you know what? There is even a line in Rossetti's poem: "Twilight is not for good maidens" that sounds just too much of a coincidence to me.
When I noticed, of course, I rushed to read more accurately the reviews of those who gushed about the book and do you want to know what I noticed? None of the 5 stars reviews I read even mention Twilight. ALL of the 1 star reviews do. I'm not trying to make any point here by saying it is either good or bad (after all, I am one of those who did enjoy Twilight), I am just weirded out that so few people mentioned it. To me it was very obvious.
My main gripe with this story - but it applies in general to the whole book - is the shortness of it. To me, there simply wasn't time for the characters to really become three-dimensional, they felt incomplete and underdeveloped and I was left with lots of questions whirling in my mind about Kizzy, her friends, her family, Jack.
The second story has a completely different, exotic taste to it. Set in colonial times in India, Spicy Little Curses tells the story of a beautiful girl, a terrible curse and a spiteful demon. I found this to be the more fairy-talish among the three, detecting elements from well known fairy tales mixed (well) with Indian mythology. And being a fairy tale, as a fairy tale it ends, with love conquering all and the bad guys defeated.
Much more to my taste was Hatchling. The longest of the three, this is also the darker one. Based on Zoroastrian mythology (I had to go look that up) with a pinch of Irish folklore, Taylor inserts her own set of creatures turning the concept of Druj into something that is midway between fae, shapeshifter and vampire. The body-snatching part was pretty disturbing to me but also perfectly adequate to the dark tone of the narration.
In conclusion, as said before, my main problem with this book was the short story structure, in which I could only catch a glimpse of Taylor's skills at characterization. To me it felt more like three instances of an exercise in writing than the parts of an organic unity.
I will, without a doubt, check out her novel Daughter of Smoke and Bone as soon as it comes out.
And one more thing: if you're planning to read this book, I strongly suggest you buy the paper version rather than the electronic or you'll be missing out on all those pretty illustrations that precede each short story as a sort of background and that make the book a more precious experience.
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