Anyone who read my zealous review of Laini Taylor’s most recent book DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE might not be surprised to learn that she’s making her way up the ranks of my favorite authors. Since I enjoyed DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE so much, I have been reading her older works. I’m loving everything. I finished LIPS TOUCH: THREE TIMES, a collection of three stories, in one day.
Taylor’s writing is spectacular. With all her books and stories, I find myself pausing to admire utterly unique turns of phrase, many of which so concisely capture the current emotions or situation that you wonder how you’ve never read or heard this combination of words before. Now it’s time for some honesty: as a writer working towards publishing my own books, sometimes admiration for brilliant authors can be tainted with a little of that ugly sentiment: jealously. Somehow Taylor’s writing, stunning as it is, doesn’t stir up any envy. It inspires. When I read writing like this, I remember why I love to read, why I love to write, why my life is practically devoted to these two activities. Taylor’s writing is entirely her own, a goal to which most authors aspire, and it shoves its way past your mind towards those emotion-laden concepts: your heart and your soul.
All three of these dark stories tantalize and linger. Both fresh and familiar, they tap into folklore and fairy tale elements, but the emotions make them relevant to today and any day. The title of the book makes more sense once you read the stories; all three of them utilize kissing as a key component. In fact, the pronounced overarching theme of the collection echoes off the page: love and wanting.
For the first story I want to share an excerpt from the brief prologue, which succinctly captures the premise and tone of the tale:
There is a certain kind of girl that the goblins crave. You could walk across a high school campus and point them out: not her, not her, her. The pert, lovely ones with butterfly tattoos in secret places, sitting on their boyfriends’ laps? No, not them. The girls watching the lovely ones sitting on their boyfriends’ laps? Yes.
The second story has a slight ELLA ENCHANTED feel with magic that binds one’s will until overwhelming helplessness makes them feel trapped in their own body. Due to one strange woman’s peculiar relationship with a demon, the innocent victim Anamique is cursed as a baby: if she ever utters a single sound every person in the room will die. Unlike ELLA ENCHANTED in which the protagonist knows without a doubt that her curse is real because it affects her every day, Anamique constantly battles doubt. What if the real curse is that some cruel person has convinced her of this mad, fictional spell? What if she’s silencing herself for no good reason? Of course, testing the curse would be a dangerous game. As usual, Taylor plays well with her setup and this story, if it didn’t break my heart, still fractured it again and again.
The third and last story is the darkest and most mature, closer to the type of fairy tales for which the Grimm brothers are famous rather than the happily-ever-after, mellowed-down-villain versions in abundance today. For this one, I fear telling you too much will ruin the experience, so suffice it to say that this story plays with folklore about the more sinister fascinations that fey folk have with mortals.
I loved every story in LIPS TOUCH: THREE TIMES too much to rank or compare them. Each is its own unique and beautiful tale. And Laini Taylor is definitely an author to watch!