Ron Christiansen's Reviews > Lips Touch: Three Times

Lips Touch by Laini Taylor
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Jun 26, 12

bookshelves: fantasy, ya
Read in June, 2012

I quite enjoyed all three of these thematically intertwined stories. Not the type of book I would usually pick up, but it was recommended by my teenage cousin who I'd asked to guide me in my reading of children/teen fantasy. Overall the stories are incredibly inventive, fraught with desire, sensuality, and forbidden love. And each has some literal significant reiteration of lips touching. The only big unfortunate--the illustrations which to me seemed unneeded and overwrought.

The first, "Goblin Fruit," is the story of a young girl, Kizzy, who wants so badly to be loved she falls for the aptly named Jack Husk. Reminiscent of Twighlight, though darker and better written, Kizzy is enraptured by these new attentions. In the end she understands that she is in trouble, "A goblin had her soul on the end of his fishing line...She knew. But now in the fugue of wanting, of almost having...her hip still warm from Jack Husk's head, the knowing was as insubstantial as words written on water." Invoking the collection's title, Kizzy's first kiss was possibly her last though also "delicious."

The second, "Spicy little curses," tells of a beautiful young woman whose voice is cursed as a young baby to kill all who hear it. James Dorsey, a soldier, pursues the young Anamique wishing she would speak to him, convinced that the curse isn't real. The curse eventually comes to fruition yet there is the possibility for redemption. A good story though not as compelling as the other two for me--still we do get wonderfully sinister lines like, "It was the only lullaby she would ever sing, and it was sung in Hell." Badadump.

The last, "Hatchling," my clear favorite, is a complex fable-like tale about the symbiotic relationship between the soulless Druj and few chosen humans. Mab, a female human imprisoned by the Queen of the Druj as a sort of pet, escapes with the help of a seemingly sympathetic outlander Druj named Mihai. But slowly we learn that Mihai is working on his own plane, his own realm of existence, in an attempt to bring "life" back to the Druj. Certainly an engaging narrative. But there's more: it is also a rumination on the classic themes of understanding the soul.

The Druj can wear the bodies of animals and humans for a period of time. In one scene the Queen and her companion wear the bodies of Mab and a young man in order to have sex, but "they would never feel what it was that made two strangers cling to each other, more intimate in fear and sorrow than a Druj could ever be, even aping the act of love." We come to learn that Mihai has been hatching over and over again, "each time, his humanity deepened." And here the fabulous story speaks truth about the reality of the human condition.

After finishing the book in the morning, I went for a hike that afternoon. Hiking up the trail the archetypal images of the story floated through me. I do not believe in a pre-existence, as the Mormons do, or in the Hindu notion of reincarnation, but as I hiked I felt a deep connection to something in the past. As Mihai describes each hatching clears the mist a bit so that he can see his true human, "souled" nature. I breathed in the air, looked up at the sun-glittered leaves, sensing a wisp of how those who came before me would have experienced this world--the familiarity of the gurgling stream, the ability to spot food or protection or danger with ease; most importantly the wholeness of existing in the land with no distinction between city and the wild or simulation. I do not see this oneness, this Hathra (the wholeness of the soul), as a salvation from our fractured modern identities. Instead I simply sense (or maybe only sensed for a moment) the remnants of past lives lived out differently than mine, yet animated with my same biological materials.

What Mihai remembers most of his past human life, mostly still lost in the mist, is a kiss--Lips Touched again. But it is a semblance of, a partial remembering, the type accessed by closing the eyes, turning the head slightly to the side and upwards while trying to remember an image from a dream OR like looking up at the leaves in an attempt to imagine the path of one's own ancestors, one's blood and body formed over thousands of years.
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