I’ve read a lot of strange things in my life, but I’ve never read anything this weird. That isn’t to say that I didn’t like it, but it is definitely a niche read for an audience who doesn’t mind a lot of macabre in their lace trimmed Victorian fairy tale. The intricate language is tiresome, but if you want the horror and delight of a strangely evocative nightmare, this is a book for you. Think Sweeney Todd and scary Alice in Wonderland. This is not what I would consider YA, but it might appeal to the more adventerous YA reader. This book publishes on June 2, 2015.
1888. A little girl called Mirror and her shape-shifting guardian Goliath Honeyflower are washed up on the shores of Victorian England. Something has been wrong with Mirror since the day her grandfather locked her inside a mysterious clock that was painted all over with ladybirds. Mirror does not know what she is, but she knows she is no longer human.
John Loveheart, meanwhile, was not born wicked. But after the sinister death of his parents, he was taken by Mr Fingers, the demon lord of the underworld. Some say he is mad. John would be inclined to agree.
Now Mr Fingers is determined to find the little girl called Mirror, whose flesh he intends to eat, and whose soul is the key to his eternal reign. And John Loveheart has been called by his otherworldly father to help him track Mirror down…
While this book isn’t for everyone, it was an intriguing work for fans of the strangely beautiful and horrifyingly unusual. It creates an interesting juxtaposition of enchanting and dreadful for the literary adventurer, and both the prose and plot contribute to the feeling of tipping between the sweetest dream and the most ghastly nightmare. While Mirror and Goliath are the titular characters, the narrative structure works harder to parallel the inner clockwork of John Loveheart. Readers will find the ever shifting sands of the story draw both disgust and grudging adoration for the enigmatic Loveheart, and he is really the heart of the story. While the narrative winds and turns back on itself, leaving some characters to an uncertain fate until it loops back around, it added to the funhouse carnival disorientation, and it really wasn’t too hard to pinpoint the timeline once you had the knack of it. I will say that I was annoyed by the prose at times. Sometimes it became the incoherent babble of madness to illustrate a character’s rotten inner workings, but at others, it really was just overindulgent. Victorian whimsy and wonderland madness soften the gruesome aspects to some degree, but readers should be prepared for some rather appalling behavior from the the deceptively genteel characters who populate Ishbelle Bee’s London. I haven’t ever read anything like it, but I think if you were mesmerized by Louis Carroll’s Wonderland or unnaturally intrigued and delighted by the most grim fates in the traditional fairytales, this is your book.
I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.