Monday, February 16, 2015

Book Review: "Wildalone" by Krassi Zourkova

Thea Slavin is a piano prodigy raised in Bulgaria. The piano has dominated her life, taking precedence over almost everything, including her social life. Pursuing a musical career is certainly a foregone conclusion. But when she discovers a secret about her family that has been kept hidden from her, she does the only thing she can think of—she applies to college at Princeton University, and quickly moves to America.

Life for a freshman at an Ivy League university is difficult for anyone, but for Thea, getting acclimated to the American way of living, familiarizing herself with the customs and behaviors of her American peers, and managing her advisers' expectations of how her musical career will progress all prove to be challenging. But nothing prepares her for the interests of the handsome, mysterious, wealthy Rhys, and his equally handsome and mysterious younger brother Jake. She finds herself simultaneously drawn to and afraid of their mercurial ways, their unexplained arrivals and departures, but she also cannot control her heart.

As her relationship with Rhys unfolds, she learns more of the truth about her family, a truth that touches on mythology and the Bulgarian legend of the samodivi, or wildalones, forest witches who beguile and entrap men, and ultimately lead to their death. And as the facts are uncovered, she uncovers connections she could never have imagined, connections which could threaten both her happiness and her future. What path will she follow? What sacrifices will she have to make?

I found Krassi Zourkova's Wildalone a really fascinating read, and it's unlike many books I've ever read. It combines mythology and intrigue with some Twilight-y angst, although perhaps not as melodramatic. (I don't know about anyone else, but for some reason I kept picturing Robert Pattison's face every time Rhys appeared in the book, and it's not like I'm a huge Twilight fan or anything.)

Although the story definitely requires you to fully embrace the fantastic, Zourkova knows how to weave a tremendously compelling narrative, and I really liked the choices she made, because this story could have devolved into a totally overdone mess. The characters are a bit too brooding at times (although they do have a lot to deal with), but I found them utterly fascinating, and I hope this was the start of a series, because I really want to know more about what happens to them.

I enjoyed this far more than I expected to, and I'm really glad about that. If this type of book intrigues you, and you don't have a problem suspending your disbelief, definitely give Wildalone a try. It's a very intriguing mash-up of genres that worked for me.

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