Most of the highly anticipated YA fantasy novels coming out this year have been a bust for me, and I keep getting the occasional rude comment that says something like, "You're too picky/mean/etc." Well, to that, I say, "Maybe I actually know what good fantasy novels look like because I've actually read some marvels with achingly good prose that has so much pathos it just about makes you cry?" Because if that's what you're looking for, Tanith Lee is that.
I've read this book before - first hint that this book is *good* because I rarely keep or reread books once I've finished with them - and recently decided to read it again in a buddy read with my friend Elena. This is classic fantasy at its best, written in a way that reminds me of the books of fairy tales and mythology I had as a kid, or of the Oz and Narnia books. The world-building is fresh and inventive and organic; while reading this, you have to continually remind yourself that, no, this isn't a retelling. She made it all up.
Each chapter is a standalone story that bleeds seamlessly into the next. One character connects them and that is a demon named Azhrarn who reminds me a lot of Jareth in Labyrinth in terms of his personality and abilities. Azhrarn is a demon lord who resides in the "Underearth." Periodically, he surfaces to sow mischief or have sex with humans or both (both is preferred). It's easy to see him as an evil villain in the beginning, but each chapter peels another layer from this character, and by the time you get to the end of the book, you see that he is much more complicated that you anticipated.
I love Tanith Lee so much. She is literally one of my favorite authors and I could sit here and fangirl over her for hours. Her writing is gorgeous, and complex, and ornate without being flowery. She writes the way I wish that I could write and I'm constantly blown away by her original turns of phrases and the way she can set a mood with just a few carefully curated words. All of her stories are very dark - I love dark - but thought-provoking and interesting and original. I don't think I've ever read something by her that I didn't love. It is so sad that she passed, because she was so gifted and more than that, just such an interesting individual. This book, and her others, are proof of that.
4.5 out of 5 stars