The Book of Love by Kelly Link review – a magical debut of life after life | Fantasy books

TThe Book of Love is the long-awaited debut novel by Kelly Link, whose short stories were shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize. They’re often magical, spooky, and definitely funny, covering everything from virtual boyfriends to fairy handbags and even an army of creepy bunnies.

This is another modern fairy tale with shades of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. At the center are his three teenagers: Laura, Daniel, and Mo. They died a year before him. Now they find themselves brought to life in the local high school’s music room. The man who brought them back was the creepy Mr. Annavin, who only told them they had to learn magic, but didn’t tell them how. Meanwhile, an evil stranger came with them. Although he looks handsome, he is probably a completely different person. This was Bogomil, and they said they would return to the dark and scary place they had just fled. To avoid that fate, they must find out how they died, figure out how to use magic, and recognize when it is used against them.

Most novels with large fantastical elements aim to make magic special and fascinating, that is, magical. The Book of Love rejects that completely, so much so that it can sometimes seem as if you’re having an allergic reaction. The magic here is always mundane. The villain of this work, Malo Mogge, is a goddess, but she reminds Laura’s sister of a teapot. The characters discuss magic while thinking about controlling the heat in a hot tub. The grand history behind the events unfolding in the present story is finally revealed, and it is awkwardly told over a long bus journey.

By the end, people turn into unicorns and fleas, people have sex as foxes, and old guitars turn into girls, but it’s all on the same level as controlling a teapot or a jacuzzi, and it’s always tongue-in-cheek. Of course, while this can be fun, it doesn’t always work in the book’s favor. The Teapot Goddess is a genuine threat, and horrible things are happening by the final act, but those big supernatural events land awkwardly. It’s a tricky tightrope to walk, negotiating comedy and epic within the same story, and the book teeters at the end.

Another thing that never feels consistent is the pacing. World-building often requires a slow pace, but here the characters’ apparent indifference to the circumstances surrounding their deaths works, as if nothing had happened. Reconnect with friends and partners. There’s a strong sense that Link is far more interested in the goings-on of the teens’ social circles than the intrigues that ostensibly influence them. The first chapter sets up the book as a plot-driven fantasy mystery. in media resolution This opening seems to promise that the book will focus on what exactly happened to the newly resurrected characters, and how and why it happened. It might have felt more honest if the opening had been structured differently, leaving readers expecting a story primarily about teenage love, with just a sprinkle of magic in the background. However, this book is not called a “book of magic” but a “book of love.”

What never wavers is the writing itself. The prose is as sharp as a diamond. It’s hard to imagine a poorly written link or poorly written explanation. All of her characters are brilliantly fast-talking and quick-witted, and their dialogue is full of wordplay and banter. As humans, they are multifaceted. Fascinating, understandable, tragic, and a little uncomfortable at the same time. The temptation for writers is to make their characters just a little bit better than they are in real life, in order to get readers to like them. gently mocking). But here, Link has the courage to give Lola’s sister some pretty serious issues with personal hygiene, Lola gives something like a god complex, and Mr. Annavin gives him a taste for some awful slogan T-shirts. . This makes her characters instantly feel like family, at times endearing and furious.

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The Book of Love by Kelly Link is published by Head of Zeus (£22). To support the Guardian and Observer, order your copy here: Shipping charges may apply.Natasha Pooley’s The Mars House It will be published by Gollancz in March.