I dived head first into my first fantasy book of the year with the chunky 600+ page novel The Book of Love by Kelly Link. I have not read her work before, but I had heard good things so I was excited to give her debut novel a go as she is known for her short story collections. This book took me a few weeks to read, and a while to understand, so I am not sure I was the right audience for this novel. But let’s dive into the review!
@wilddinosaurr Forever in love with this cover! @Head Of Zeus 💕 #thebookoflove #books #bookworm #reading #booktok #currentlyreading #fantasyread #fantasybook #kellylink ♬ Meet you at the Graveyard unreleased Cleffy – Cleffy
FROM PULITZER-PRIZE FINALIST KELLY LINK
Late one night, Laura, Daniel, and Mo find themselves beneath the fluorescent lights of a high school classroom, almost a year after disappearing from their hometown, the small seaside community of Lovesend, Massachusetts, having long been presumed dead. Which, in fact, they are.
With them in the room is their previously unremarkable high school music teacher, who seems to know something about their disappearance—and what has brought them back again. Desperate to reclaim their lives, the three agree to the terms of the bargain their music teacher proposes. They will be given a series of magical tasks; while they undertake them, they may return to their families and friends, but they can tell no one where they’ve been. In the end, there will be winners and there will be losers.
But their resurrection has attracted the notice of other supernatural figures, all with their own agendas. As Laura, Daniel, and Mo grapple with the pieces of the lives they left behind, and Laura’s sister, Susannah, attempts to reconcile what she remembers with what she fears, these mysterious others begin to arrive, engulfing their community in danger and chaos, and it becomes imperative that the teens solve the mystery of their deaths to avert a looming disaster.
The Book of Love is a strange novel, at times it is absurd and lyrical, others it is mundane and disconnected. Cassandra Clare described it as a Master & Margarita-esk story, and to that I have to agree to an extent. This firmly sits in the literary fantasy genre for myself, and likely will have its niche readers that it appeals to, however I can recognise that I am not that reader despite its beautiful and lyrical prose.
There are elements of this I liked. The writing was a bit off-kilter but once I adjusted to it I found it relatively easy to roll with, which helped to create the atmospheric feel of a fairytale blending with a contemporary fantasy setting. The discussion around music and magic being interconnected throughout was a highlight, probably the parts of the book I felt I understood the most thanks to my background in music. There is a lot of queer rep (and queer sex!) throughout as the teens are figuring out who they are and what they want. It also explores the way we process grief and its repercussions on our actions, how it can force someone to grow up and mature.
What I didn’t love was the length of the book, it could have used a strong edit to cut down the page count. Some sections waffled on a little too much, some chapters could’ve been removed all together. The middle was a little bit of a slog as the reader is taken on an obtuse route through the plot, where the prose meanders a lot on things that felt unnecessary to the story.
@wilddinosaurr Who doesn’t love reading by candlelight in a storm? #currentlyreading The Book of Love by Kelly Link. ✨💕✨ #fantasyread #fantasybook #kellylink #reading #readingtime #cosy #books #book #booktok #booktoker @Head Of Zeus ♬ Lovely Fire in Another Love – Gabriel Albuquerqüe
If you’re going to read The Book of Love be ready for it to be slow. The first half of the book is really an exploration of characters and the development of them, there everyday lives, families and emotions after returning from the dead as they try to work out what has happened to them. There is less plot, some would argue, in this part, with the storyline picking up much more in the second half. In some ways it feels a bit like an opera, with its cast of characters exploring the world and the relationships with magic and music before more drama actually sets in and events sweep everyone up in the supernatural happenings of Loveland.
Unfortunately for me the book’s biggest issue was that I couldn’t emotionally connect to it, which I know has been mixed in other reviewers who have read this novel. I suspect this is because I am not the audience for this book, which is perfectly fine. I didn’t love it, I didn’t hate it, it was simply I book I read. However I suspect if this book fell into the hands of the right reader they would love it, feel the powerful and transformative feelings I’ve seen other’s share after reading The Book of Love.
I’d not had the chance to read any work by Kelly Link prior to this, though I do also own a copy of her short story collection. I don’t think I will be picking up her work again, but that is simply because it is not for me. It’s a fine book, and if literary fantasy that is character driven, rather than plot driven, is more your thing, you might love this. A strange and weird novel it was certainly an experience.
Until next time,
Rating: 3 Stars
Genre: Literary Fantasy
Publishing: February 6, 2024.
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