Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Review: Lips Touch by Laini Taylor

Lips Touch by Laini TaylorLips Touch by Laini Taylor, illustrated by Jim Di Bartolo (bought) - Three tales of supernatural love, each pivoting on a kiss that is no mere kiss, but an action with profound consequences for the kissers' souls:

Goblin Fruit
In Victorian times, goblin men had only to offer young girls sumptuous fruits to tempt them to sell their souls. But what does it take to tempt today's savvy girls?

Spicy Little Curses Such as These
A demon and the ambassador to Hell tussle over the soul of a beautiful English girl in India. Matters become complicated when she falls in love and decides to test her curse.

Six days before Esme's fourteenth birthday, her left eye turns from brown to blue. She little suspects what the change heralds, but her small safe life begins to unravel at once. What does the beautiful, fanged man want with her, and how is her fate connected to a mysterious race of demons?
From Goodreads.

I've wanted to read Lips Touch by Laini Taylor for such a long time, but I didn't actually realise it was available in the UK as a collection; I thought each of the stories were only available individually as eBooks. So you can imagine my delight when looking for the eBooks, I discovered that we could get hold of the collection! And I'm so glad, because these stories are just incredible.

Each of these stories is either inspired by or a reimagining of something else, as Taylor tells us in her Author's Note. Goblin Fruit is inspired by Christina Rossetti's poem Goblin Market; Spicy Little Curses Such as These is set during the British Raj, and is a reimagining of Hindu beliefs regarding Heaven and Hell, and the story also mentions similarities between it and the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice; and Hatchling takes inspiration from the Zoroastrian faith. It made these stories feel a little more special, knowing they didn't entirely come from Taylor's mind, that there was a tiny seed that sparked the ideas. The collection is called Lips Touch as kissing is the thread that ties these three stories together, how a kiss, in each of these stories, changes everything.

Each story is also accompanied by illustrations by Jim Di Bartolo, Taylor's husband. The illustrations are absolutely breathtaking. So incredibly beautiful! I wish they were in colour, but the lack of colour doesn't take away from just how gorgeous they are. Each story has a moment where history is revealed; in Goblin Fruit, Kizzy remembers her granfmother telling her about how she had to save her sister after eating goblin fruit; in Spicy Little Curses Such as These, we're hear how Estella became the ambassador to Hell; and in Hatchling, we hear about Mab's childhood at Tajbel. In each case, bar Hatchling, the history is very short - less than a page, maybe more than a paragraph. But it's these moments that are illustrated, the small histories of the characters that, in the first two stories, we don't get as much detail about, but the detail is given in the illustrations that prelude them. As I recognised in the story what the illustrations were showing, I would flip back and forth, from reading to looking at the illustrations, now I understood the story the illustrations were telling. They were such a wonderful addition to the collection!

I'm going to talk a little bit about each story individually.

Goblin Fruit
This story follows Kizzy, a teenager from a strange family with strange beliefs and a different way of living. They, especially her grandmother, believe goblins exist, that they once tried to take her sister's soul, but her grandmother had to save her. Kizzy isn't sure she believes in any of this, it's just the eccentricities of her family. But the goblin's are real, and they have their sights set on Kizzy.

This is a pretty short story, heavily influenced by Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti. This story, like others, makes Goblin Mark a myth or a history, something that's known and from which they base their own stories. In a way, it kind of reminds me of how Isaac Assimov wrote The Three Laws of Robotics in his stories, and other authors since have taken on those laws into their own stories with their own robots. Something fictional has become a foundation on which other stories build upon.

It was really interesting to see how this story brought goblins into the present day, and how they would lore in and tempt today's modern teenagers. It was fascinating, but also kind of scary. As a reader, you know what's happening, though Kizzy doesn't, and there's this creepy, sinister feeling that bubbles underneath the surface. For a short that doesn't have a huge amount happen in it, it was pretty atmospheric.

Spicy Little Curses Such as These
This short story was just so good! A demon who makes a deal with the ambassador to Hell that she can save the souls of the children who died in an earthquake, but only if she takes a curse of his to the Political Agent's baby daughter, in which whenever she utters a single sound, those who hear it will die. This story completely captivated me. How do you get around such a curse? And I just loved the idea of someone who barters for the souls of innocents with a greedy demon who relishes in the pain of others. Such a great little story, and I loved the ending!

This was my favourite of them all. This is more a novella than a short story, and is full of such wonderful world building. As I said above, the illustrations accompanying the stories are of a history, but there are so many histories in this book; Mab's childhood, Mihai's past, what Mihai did with the Queen, the history of the Druj. There are so many layers to this story, so many! And it was all so fascinating! This is the story I wanted to be a full length novel; though the story concludes, the ending is kind of the beginning of something else, and I want that story, too! It was SO good! It felt a lot like Taylor's other stories, filling me with awe and wonder. But it's also a pretty dark story, too. It was just completely wonderful.

This story collection is a definite must have for all Taylor fans. If you haven't read it yet, make doing so a priority. You won't regret it.

Add to Goodreads

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Published: 23rd October 2014
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Laini Taylor's Website

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