The Book Itself: Awesome graphic, that the white background color lets take center stage – an eye that dissolves into words, then letters. It has a lot of blurbs from authors and news sources, both inside the first pages and on the cover. I get a little irked by this, usually (I just want to know if I find it to be a good book. You can yell at me that it is phenomenal, I’m still going to form my own opinion). All the same, those two accolades at the top (A Time Magazine Top 10 Fiction Book of the Year, and an NPR Best Book of the Year) are pretty dang impressive. The hardcover jacket was pretty cool too: typography-based with contrasting colors.
My Review: I actually think the synopsis printed on book websites (Goodreads, B&N, Amazon) are VERY spoiler-y! I much preferred this synopsis, printed on the back of the book:
“They recruited Emily Ruff from the streets. They said it was because she’s good with words.
They’ll live to regret it.
They said Wil Parke survived something he shouldn’t have. But he doesn’t remember.
Now they’re after him and he doesn’t know why.
There’s a word, they say. A word that kills.
And they want it back…”
I mean, it’s not a lot to go on, but it’s certainly really ominous and spooky (maybe a tad melodramatic?) Don’t read other descriptions if you can help it. I’m glad I didn’t before I read this one.
This is a book to be devoured. Rarely have I read a book with such a strong beginning section, and such a well-balanced overall structure. The story is told from two perspectives. In one, a man is suddenly on a run for his life, following a stoic man who claims that some people kill others with just their words, and Will himself might be the only person ever immune to it. The other perspective is a woman pulled from the streets to attend a school to do just that: compel people with language. The stories do connect, although I do think where they connect were supposed to be twists…and I predicted both, easily, before they happened.
All the same, I fell in love with the beginning of the book. Both sides of the story were well-written and fascinating (I love people-being-recruited-to-go-to-mysterious-maybe-magical-school stories. Stems from my love of Harry Potter. Lev Grossman’s The Magicians is another one I love for this reason). It does lag a bit in the middle, and the ending is a tad sloppy, but the beginning is just so damn strong, the stakes so high and characters plausible.
It does have its issues, like most any other story. A few key questions are left unanswered: Why do the other poets (people who can use language to convince people to do things) suddenly follow Woolf? Why did this school to learn the tricks of language start in the first place? And most crucially: What is their goal??
That would have to be the one that sticks in my craw the most. This is a great book. Fast-paced and tense with an awesome premise….but you never fully understand the premise. Why control people with words? I would guess to take over the world (because what other goal would there be with a tool that can essentially bend anyone to your will?), but our antagonist never says as much. I’m guessing at the goal, instead of ever truly understanding it.
But it’s a really great book! Again, I hope you only have the synopsis on the back of the book to go off of, as I got to formulate most of the story spoiler-free, but even if you have read other descriptions, pick this one up.
My Grade: A
I Answer “The Questions”:
In the book, poets tend to ask people four questions. I’m not going to tell you why they do this, but let’s just say that if I lived in the world of this book, showing you these answers might spell bad news for me…
Are you a cat person or a dog person?
What is your favorite color?
Yellow? Burgundy red?
Select a random number between 1 and 10:
Do you love your family?
More than anything.
Why did you do it?
Do what? I haven’t done anythi–okay, because I had to!