I've got to admit, when I first picked up this book, it was because I got interested in the idea that one part of it was about a girl who could understand and communicate with animals. In a way, it was part of my thoughts about researching shapeshifters for my own benefit, but when I began reading, I realized the book wasn't focused on this otherwise tiny aspect; it was only the smallest detail that led to this great, huge concoction of the horrible and yet intriguing stories that melded almost perfectly together in the strangest of ways.
I've read a lot of books, and I've got to tell you-- It is a major accomplishment when an author is able to weave two or more stories together in the same book and make it feel effortless and like they're both a part of one another, no matter how different they seemingly are initially. Kathleen Duey was able to accomplish this in a stunning way.
What's even more astounding to me is that I picked up a book I thought was going to be about magic and have a little bit of the normal threats to it to make the story move forward, and instead I found a book that shocked me with how brutal, cruel, even twisted it was. I mean, it really astounded me. I expected some bad things to happen in a few cases, but when those "bad things" happened-- they exceeded my expectations and became real threats, with actual ability to induce horror in a person. And I mean that literally. Weigh it with your tongue. Mean it. Feel the actual meaning of that word in the pit of your stomach:
It's not a joking matter. It's not even a light matter to be dismissed. I took this book and thought it was going to be a poor attempt at trying to plant something of a plot with a meaningless villain type and whatnot. Instead it was like picking up stone only to not realize there was a scorpion on the other side and getting stung. This book became something I started taking seriously the moment that first "bad thing" happened, and it was only then that I realized just how seriously I should be taking it.
It's a book that doesn't play around, and it's fantastic for it. I'm disappointed I don't have the sequel here with me. It cuts you right off in the middle of everything at the end, and now I'm certain I have to hunt down the next book. Leaving things just as they are won't cut it. This series is too good to just leave alone, and if you pick this mama up, you'll see exactly what I mean. Trust me: It's a lot more than you've bargained for, and in the best of ways.
So if you like a darker, twisted story of magic, look this book up. It won't disappoint.