I recieved this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: Some believe that at birth, we’re each born with some sort of guardian angel attached to us, watching from afar, but never seen by the human eye. But they’re wrong. Truth is it’s not that simple. There are certain people, special people, born of this world and of the other, who need that extra protection…that extra guidance. They go their entire lives, unaware of the other world, and unaware of the existence of their own personal watcher that watches from afar. But what happens when fate takes a turn for the worse, and The One who needs the aid of a watcher more than anyone before her can’t be found to be protected?
Bijou Fitzroy is strange. With the chaotic and unwanted gift of being an empath, she has spent her entire life as a sheltered recluse, being homeschooled by her secretive overprotective grandmother, who never stays long enough in one location for Bijou to ever settle and make friends. Not only does she lack social skills, but her physical appearance is so ethereal that it beckons onlookers to look away before she has the chance to make eye contact. Oh, and things get even weirder. Besides the occasional tendency to see strange things that no one else seems to notice, sixteen-year-old Bijou has been plagued by semi-prophetic nightmares of strange creatures her entire life; yet she yearns for sleep, because it’s the only place she gets to see him…well sort of. No matter what Bijou dreams of, the faceless boy is always there like some sort of harbinger of danger, always watching, always waiting. And even though his coming always pre-empts chaos, she’s fallen in love with this boy without a face.
When Bijou and her grandmother move to Eldersburg and she starts to attend the local high school, she meets Sebastian Sinjin, a strange boy, who forces Bijou to question the world around her, and the grandmother she thought she knew. Bijou’s world begins to crumble as the creatures from her nightmares begin to take shape in her reality, the faceless boy becomes real, and town locals begin to disappear as she finds herself at the center of a war she never knew was being fought. Bijou has to stand alone and be the savior everyone expects her to be.
There is a lot to take in when reading this book. The best way to describe it is an enigma wrapped in a riddle wrapped in a mystery…Just when I thought I was finally getting a handle on the plot, I was led down another path. This was frustrating at times but the richness of the story and the vast depth made up for feeling like Alice falling towards Wonderland.
Let’s start with what I liked. Kromah definitely eschewed the cookie cutter worlds and characters we usually see in a YA book and crafted a story filled with fascinating multi-ethnic characters that challenged perceptions and educated its readers to defy the norm and look beyond it. For a book with so many secondary characters, I applaud her for never settling for the cut-out 2D excuses seen so often in other books that are simply there to allow the protaganist to get from A to B. Even the quintessential high school bitch has depth.
The mythical Djinn and other mystical characters from legends around the world played an intricate part of the story and was fascinating to discover the origins of some of Disney’s greatest hits.
Our heroine Bijou was likeable although at times it was frustrating that a girl who was apparently so beautiful and ethereal to those around her could be so lacking in self awareness and at times was a contradiction. The characters Sebastian and Amina were instant favourites and I looked forward to their appearances. Gigi, Bijou’s grandmother was strangely likeable for all her faults, her mysterious past was one of the plot points I was most eager to have revealed. There is romance but for once the inevitable love triangle didn’t grip me. I’m Team Sebastian all the way, Niko was no competition.
The story overall was very layered, intricate and intelligent, constantly challenging the reader to keep on their toes and was definitely one of the most original novels I have ever read.
What I didn’t like: Sometimes it was overwhelming trying to keep track of all the plot points and at times it seemed that the book was going somethere only for it to be abandoned and hopefully but not always picked up at a later stage. It felt like the author wanted to cram everything in when I feel if a little more care was taken in editing the story could have been clearer while still keeping the intrigue and suspense I loved about it. The change in voice was not always clear and sometimes it took a few sentences to realise which character was speaking. This may have been a formatting issue given this was a Galley that had some grammatical errors and typos but it did make the story difficult to grasp at times. Towards the end there were so many new characters introduced that again it felt like the story was losing its shape and felt a little sloppy.
Overall despite my chagrin at certain aspects I have to applaud a very talented author for creating a fresh, unique and stirring story that was unlike anything I have come across in the genre and I look forward to seeing where Bijou’s story leads. I’ll just have a double espresso beforehand!