Saturday, 17 March 2012

Audiobook Review: Lips Touch Three Times by Laini Taylor

First released: 20th December 2010
By: Brilliance Audio

Audiobook length: 7 hrs and 41 mins
Narrator: Cassandra Campbell

A girl who's always been in the shadows finds herself pursued by the unbelievably attractive new boy at school, who may or may not be the death of her. Another girl grows up mute because of a curse placed on her by a vindictive spirit, and later must decide whether to utter her first words to the boy she loves and risk killing everyone who hears her if the curse is real. And a third girl discovers that the real reason for her transient life with her mother has to do with belonging - literally belonging - to another world entirely, full of dreaded creatures who can transform into animals, and whose queen keeps little girls as personal pets until they grow to childbearing age. 

From a writer of unparalleled imagination and emotional insight, three stories about the deliciousness of wanting and waiting for that moment when lips touch.

My review:

Boy, is Laini Taylor's writing gorgeous. Each of the three short stories in Lips Touch: Three Times had something for me to like - either characters, romance or mythology - but what I loved was the beautiful prose throughout.

The first of the three stories, Goblin Fruit, is also the shortest. It has this wonderful opening where Taylor describes the loneliness and longing of the main character, Kizzy and the words quickly enveloped me into the story. Kizzy's teenage desires were easy to recollect and relate to (And it's so cool that she's named Kizzy - Roots shout out!) and the goblin myth was one I hadn't heard before. The best part was hearing about Kizzy's oddball family and I really wanted to see Kizzy battle the goblins, as her feisty grandmother had done decades ago. And if Goblin Fruit were a novel, I guess I would've gotten that, but the short story seems to cut off abruptly, when a lot more of this tale could still be told. This was particularly noticeable on audio, because without being able to see the story end on the page, I was waiting patiently for the narration to continue, only to have the second story start instead. Oh, well - what is there is great and it's a compliment to Taylor's storytelling that I wanted more.

The other two stories are longer and feel complete. It's tough to choose between them, but I think Spicy Little Curses Such as These is my favourite. It's set in India and is a twisted version of the Sleeping Beauty fairytale - a baby girl, Anamique, is cursed with a beautiful voice, that will kill anybody who hears it. Spicy Little Curses has a great cast of characters; with Anamique and her love interest, James (I loved their courtship by letter - so romantic!); the 'Old Bitch' and the demon, Vasudev; and even the god of Hell himself.

The final story is Hatchling and this is where Taylor surpasses herself with her world-building. Her depiction of the Druj - a vampire-like race who kidnap children and keep them as pets - is detailed, strange, atmospheric, terrifying. I was both spellbound and seriously creeped out, much like their child victims.

It's interesting to read Lips Touch: Three Times after loving Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Taylor wrote Lips Touch first and you can definitely see seeds of  ideas that would blossom into Smoke and Bone. From Kizzy's unconventional family in Goblin Fruit, to the human woman working for a demon in Spicy Little Curses to the device of telling the story via flashback in Hatchling. Hatchling and Smoke and Bone also share the same big twist, so I'm glad I read the latter first, so I didn't guess at the truth about Karou.

I thought Cassandra Campbell was a very compelling narrator and sometimes I would stop whatever else I was doing and just listen to her recite Taylor's lovely passages: Campbell's voice and Taylor's words seem to complement each other perfectly. I did much prefer Campbell's voice on the narrative rather than the dialogue, though. The characters in Spicy Little Curses and Hatchling are English, and while Campbell's English accent is fine, it is that very posh, cut-glass type of British accent that isn't how I'd expect a young person to speak. Esme in Hatchling is 14 and it would jar me a bit to hear her speak like the Queen. I'm not sure any non-Brits would notice, though.

Although I'm all "Audiobooks, yay!" right now and Lips Touch: Three Times is fantastic in this format, the hardback version does include these illustrations, which are amazing-looking, so I know I'm going to have to buy a physical copy, too. But I'll be glad to have both, as Lips Touch: Three Times is a keeper, in your ears or on your shelf.

Rating: 4.5 stars

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