THE EYEBALL COLLECTOR is a pretty neat book. I actually bought it for $1 at a Dollar Store because I thought the cover was cool. Usually, I'm wary about books like these because juvenile fantasy can be just that...juvenile. Never have I been more wrong!
I was telling my friend that this would make an awesome Tim Burton movie because Urbs Umida has the dark, gloomy atmosphere of Corpse Bride & The Nightmare Before Christmas.
Hector Fitzbaudly is the son of an esteemed wine merchant and butterfly hobbyist. He has lived in modest luxury his whole life, although he has been fascinated by the seedy side across the river, even getting mugged one day while slumming it up. Hector gets more acquainted with the wrong side of the river than he might lie, though, when an opportunistic conman named Trupin blackmails his father and then sells his story to the Diurnal Journal, anyway, for a tidy sum of money. What an asshole!
Hector swears revenge, and we follow him from a boys' home, to the castle of Lord and Lady Mandible. Because Truepin has remade himself as a foreign baron & is hanging around with the Mandibles who are, for lack of a better word, creepy.
The writing in this book is great. The fantasy element...maybe not so fantastic, although it is interesting. Urbs Umida seems to be an alternate England where fantastic beasts rove the woods, & everyone is just a bit more morbid than the actual Victorians were (which says a lot because -- hair jewelry and taxidermy were pretty much all the rage back in Queen Victoria's time).
One thing I really liked was how dark and atmospheric THE EYEBALL COLLECTOR was. The evil people in this book really are evil. There are paintings done in blood, a cloak of living butterflies, the bad guys kill animals for fun (this is how you know that they are really evil), and some centaur-like creature gets turned into a chair and it is morbid as fuck.
I gave this book to one of my friends who is really into Goth culture. I think she'll enjoy this book -- at least, I hope she will. If you like Victorian-era/Steampunk/mannerpunk fiction, or are into Goth culture as well, you should read this book. I'm definitely going to be keeping an eye out for more books in the Tales of the Sinister City series.
Oh, and don't be alarmed that this book is #3 in the series. It was meant to work as a standalone. The author has this adorable author's note where she says that she meant her books as "paraquels" or books that can be read in parallel with one another & have recurring characters, but that aren't dependent on the previous books. That's a really neat idea. :)
One of my good friends swears by R. Lee Smith, & kept pushing me to read her as well. Somehow I never really got around to it, so said friend ended up lending me to Scholomance to read on my Kindle. I was wary but intrigued—a school for demons, a sociopathic woman looking to get her best friend back? I shouldn't have questioned her judgment. This is, after all, the same woman who pushed me to read BLACK ICE.
THE SCHOLOMANCE is like a cross between THE HUNGER GAMES, DIVERGENT, and HARRY POTTER, except geared to adults...morbid adults, who don't mind a lot of gore and a lot of angry, gross, insectoid/reptilian demon sex. Because there is a lot of that in this book. Oh, boy.
(Ki)Mara Warner has always been different—as beautiful and as cold as ice, she has never cared about any person before except for her childhood friend, Connie Vitelli. Connie was fascinated by Mara's psychic abilities and it led to an obsession that took her to a magic school situated in Romania. After she left, nobody ever heard from her again...except for Mara, when she receives a letter from Connie that basically says, “I was wrong, please come get me.”
The demon school is only open on Halloween, and so Mara books a flight and finds herself in Romania. In order to get to the school, one must climb an impossibly high mountain, and it is actually encouraged for students to kill one another because they are, in essence, weeding out the weak from the strong.
I don't often find books that really have a great Machiavellian system, but SCHOLOMANCE does. I loved the complex interactions between all the demons. I loved how their morality completely transcended those of humans, and how they were not afraid or guilty to flaunt that in front of Mara just for funzies.
I loved the magic system, and the completely novel take on psychics. Mara's Panic Room, and the energy and health monitors and the Mindstorm were all incredibly inventive and so realistic.
And the gore and violence—it wasn't there just to shock (although I'm sure that was part of it); it contributes to, rather than takes away from, the story. Some of the passages made me wince and cringe, but I couldn't stop reading because I had to know what would happen next. Would Mara find Connie? Would she be murdered by her jealous classmates, or by the demons she was so intent on fucking with? Who would she choose in her bizarre little love triangle? Horuseps, or Kazuul?
God, this book...it was amazing, and beautiful, and dark, and I loved it, even though the damn thing had to be close to 1,000 pages. And the ending was surprisingly poignant.(less)