I know that it is unusual for me to put two covers up, readers-mine, but the first one is the cover of the copy I own and the second is all about doors. If you know me personally, you know how I feel about doors. They’re fabulous things that are both an ending and a beginning. I love a good door and the one on the second cover is certainly a good door.
The first thing I have to say about this book is that the language is completely different from many other books you will read. It is poetic. It is beautiful. It is funny. The story is circular in a way that I’ve really only found with Eastern Block Writers and I loved it. I mean, seriously, the backdrop of much of this story is Prague and her descriptions kill me. The opening lines made me smile: “Walking to school over the snow-muffled cobbles, Karou had no sinister premonitions about the day. It seemed like just another Monday, innocent but for its essential Mondayness, not to mention its Januaryness. It was cold, and it was dark—in the dead of winter the sun didn’t rise until eight—but it was also lovely. The falling snow and the early hour conspired to paint Prague ghostly, like a tintype photograph, all silver and haze.” Prague is made into a dream, “a city of alchemists and dreamers,” where “Gothic steeples stood ready to impale fallen angels.” The language of this novel is really something to behold.
Overall, this is a story about a seventeen year old art student named Karou (which we find out means “hope”) who is trying to figure out who, exactly, she is. A human with blue hair, an endless string of scuppy wishes, and a family of Chimaera, Karou simply knows that she is not like other people. She travels the world through the door of a shop run by her strange father figure, Brimstone, and collects teeth. Yep, you read that right. Teeth. She knows that Brimstone does something with the teeth, but she has no idea what that something is. Her world is complicated to begin with. It only becomes more so when she meets Akiva, an angel who is the enemy of her family, and finds that black handprints have scorched the doors that led to her family. Karou is a girl of two worlds cut off from one and adrift in the other.
The questions of this book are all about who we are, what war makes people, and if we can overcome our upbringings. The opposing sides are not black and white, good versus evil. They are shades of grey. Multifaceted and beautiful, Elsewhere is a world full of invaders, slaves, well-meaning fools, and military action where both sides think that they are justified. The possibilities for the next two books are endless. I can’t wait to read them.