I loved, loved, loved, loved, loved, loved, loved this book.
Loved. A lot.
I’ve had a very long and (mostly) happy relationship with the writings of Cate Tiernan. Her chosen genre speaks to me. Some people will read any book with vampires, some people like faeries. I have a thing for witches. Not like, Wizard of Oz green skinned evil witches but modern day witches. Ones who do quasi-ritualistic based magic that is semi-based on modern Wiccan practices. And the witches are like people, they can choose for themselves whether or not they are evil. What they are does not decide who they are.
As such, I was surprised when I saw this book in the bookstore. It had somehow gotten published without my realizing it existed. I don’t have any excuse for this. I don’t know how it happened. But a part of me is happy it did. I didn’t have months and months of waiting and waiting. Instead I found a surprise in the bookstore and it was so very, very, very awesome.
So, the book is about immortals. One immortal in particular named Nastasya (the names don’t get any easier to pronounce, just have fun with them) and her struggle with, well, growing up.
Which was the highlight of the book. Nastastya was four hundred years old and was still, believably, a teenager. A teenager on the path to self-destruction. Until, one night out partying, one friend takes things a little too far and Nastasya wakes up the next morning knowing that something is wrong. She can’t even say what. She just knows she can’t be the person she was the day before. Running away from her partying friends, Nasty (to her friends) takes herself to River’s Edge. A boarding house for immortals run by a (very, very old) woman named River. At first it isn’t clear what goes on at River’s Edge. It has a bit of a hippy feel to it, a bit of a rehab feel to it. And it’s a bit of a school. See, all immortals can do magic but the magic sucks the life out of the world around them. Plants and animal and sometimes people die when they make magic. But at River’s Edge, a different type of magic is taught.
Nastasya is one of the most amazing main characters I’ve ever read. And her story is revealed to you in such an intricate, intelligent, awesome way. I love that the her we see in the past, the young her, is more of an adult than the present her. I love her personality and how scared and angry and confused she is. And how fun. With all that has happened in her past, it is difficult to imagine writing a book like this and keeping it a YA book. It would be so easy to write a story about immortals stuck in some never-ending mid-life crisis. And maybe some of the other characters are and that’s why they are at River’s Edge. But Nasty is clearly a teenager. River asks her repeatedly what she wants, and you’d think after four hundred years a person would know what they want out of life but Nasty finds this question impossible to answer. She has no idea who she is or what would make her feel better. She just knows she wants to feel better.
I really enjoyed how, as Nasty learned more at River’s Edge, she didn’t lose her personality. She kept her spunk and her sarcasm and her defensiveness but lost so many layers of anger and bitterness that she had been holding onto for hundreds of years. It was a joy to watch her grow. One of the first bits of “white” magic she does on her own is specifically targeted to aggravate another immortal. I loved that about her. That as she was becoming a “better” person she could still be vindictive. It made her feel like a real person.
Of the other immortals in the book we only really get to know a few. There’s River, the Gandalf of the piece, if you will. She’s over a thousand years old and while we see that she is currently living her life in a healthy, adjusted way there are some hints about a dark time in her life and I’m very eager to learn more about her. And there’s Innocencio. His actions in the first chapter are what set Nastasya off to reinvent herself. I have the feeling he will ultimately be the antagonist of the piece. The brief glimpses we saw of him after the beginning showed him becoming more and more unhinged. And then there’s Reyn. Sigh.
I just want Nastasya and Reyn to get together and have lots of little immortal babies. I don’t care if that’s cheesy or whatever. I need them to be together and happy. It’s physically painful to me that I have to wait two more books to find out what happens with them.
And now, the weird (awesome) thing about this book. Not much happened. There wasn’t really a climactic confrontation, or a big reveal, or anything. At least not anything that wasn’t already quite apparent. It had great potential to be boring.
But it wasn’t. At all. I was riveted. The story almost…meandered along. But I loved it and couldn’t put it down. I love that the big thing that happens at the end is that Nastasya can finally answer the question of what she wants. The wonder of self-discovery apparent in her voice. It was so…different from anything else I’d read recently. Possibly ever. It was just perfect. I don’t think I have one complaint about this book.
Other than…WHY MUST I WAIT SO LONG FOR THE NEXT ONE?????????
Read this. You’ll be doing yourself a favour.
As a bit of an aside, my previous favourite series from this author, the Balefire series, is being re-released this December. I’ll talk about it then as well, but keep your eyes open for it.