Stats: Young Adult Fantasy, 266 pages, First Published by Arthur A. Levine Books, October 2009.
My Rating: 4 Stars
"They simply do as their own grandparents taught them, leave the baskets and keep their eyes down, no matter how great the temptation to peer into the forest. They don't want to see what might peer back."
- Hatchling, page 161
In resent years some aspects of the fantasy genre have been downplayed, especially in the YA fiction section. There's a lot of focus put on creatures features where vampires and werewolves run amuck, but not a lot of focus is put on what made us scared of immortal creatures in the first place. There has always been a divide between the human world and the world of magic. This divide is there for a reason because not all demons know what mercy is, and not a single goblin cares, and some magic is frightening because death is frightening. That is what I ended up loving about Lips Touch: Three Times. It takes us to back to a place where people believe there is something to be scared of. And when magic and humanity inevitably mix it isn't pretty.
At first glance I had assumed that Lips Touch was three short stories by three different authors. My reasoning was that you just don't see many YA authors writing collections without it being a group project. However, flying solo, Laini Taylor has crafted these beautifully written short stories. If you're familiar with Taylor you will know how highly praised her writing is. She has the sort of imagination that makes me want to crawl inside her mind and stay there. If you enjoyed her book Daughter of Smoke and Bone then you will like this book without a doubt.
Now, to talk about the short stories themselves. Lips Touch: Three Times begins with the shortest of the stories, called Goblin Fruit. It should be said that this story can be also be purchased separately as an ebook.
"The goblins want girls who dream so hard about being pretty their yearning leaves a palpable trail, a scent goblins can follow like sharks on a soft bloom of blood. The girls with hungry eyes who pray each night to wake up as someone else. Urgent, unkissed, wishful girls. Like Kizzy." - Goblin Fruit, page 13
Goblin Fruit is about a girl who is faced with the temptation of Goblins as they desire to seduce away her soul. I loved the circumstances of surrounding this story. The main character, Kizzy, is a modern day teenager that lives a pretty normal life. However, she has always been somewhat exiled from the rest of the world because of the way her family lives their lives seeped in old traditions. Because of this Kizzy becomes a girl full of want for the things she does not have and perfect goblin fruit.
Because of its length it only gives you a small glimpse of what to expect from other stories. Taylor is at her best when she gives herself more time to build a mythology and explore a history of her ideas. With Goblin fruit what ended up sticking with me the most was not the fantasy of the story, but the realness of Kizzy. I saw a lot of myself in Kizzy and that alone had a chilling effect on me.
The next story is called Spicy Little Curses Such As These and is probably my favourite of the bunch.
“This is the story of the curse and the kiss, the demon and the girl. It's a love story with dancing and death in it, and singing and souls and shadows reeled out on kite strings.”
- Spicy Little Curses
Spicy Little Curses is about a British woman in India who must negotiate with a demon over the death of individual souls. As he cooks up horrible ways for people to die, she attempts to save the innocent in exchange for the guilty. The story that unfolds is possibly the most perfect thing ever. I wanted to see more of this world and by the time I was done all I wanted to do was read it again. It is fascinating how fleshed out the world presented here feels to me. Spicy Little Curses is one of the finest examples of excellent world building I've ever seen and it's a short story.
Needless to say after Spicy Little Curses my expectations had risen. So the pressure was on for the story that followed it up, which is called Hatchling. It is the longest story and takes up about the last 50% of the book.
“She was a girl and she was a queen and back in the mists she was a woman who had seized the moon from the sky and drunk its light so that she would never die. And she never had.” - Hatchling
Hatchling has a life of it's own. Because it is the longest story it takes a little while for everything to take root and once it does the story your reading has layer upon layer of mystery and mythology. It is the darkest of the three stories and is about more then just one kiss. It's for this reason that I probably found it the least satisfying. It left me with more questions then I would have liked and although the open ending is interesting from a narrative standpoint, I wanted a bit more clarity about the consequences of the events that took place in the story. There isn't much I feel I can say without spoiling one of the many narrative twists that happen in this tale. I will say however, that this one deals with a lot of very heavy topics, including rape. It is actually at the centre of the story, so be cautious if that is something you are wanting to avoid.
Even though I started reading Lips Touch: Three Times during a reading slump I ended up loving all of the stories in there own little way. From the characters to the world building, Taylor is truly a wonderful fantasy writer. I am left begging for more stories like this. If anyone has any non-romantic, mythology based fantasy similar to Taylor's that you would like to recommend then please tell me so at once!