A paranormal romance among college students inspired by an ancient Bulgarian myth.
Bulgarian piano prodigy Thea Slavin is hopelessly attracted to not one, but two young men, eerie but beautiful orphaned brothers who live in a mansion just off the Princeton campus where she is a freshman. Like their clear predecessor, Edward Cullen of the Twilight books, both men are secretive, controlling, possessive and egomaniacal, but to Thea, who says repeatedly how irresistible they are to her, their dark, brooding and mysterious traits outweigh their nastier ones. Thea’s personality, like Bella Swan’s, is mostly a blank slate; her desires shift any time it’s necessary to advance the plot or ratchet up the romantic tension. She seems to constantly be running to or away from one of the brothers, when not attending class or practicing piano (both of which are subjects of great emphasis in the beginning of the book but fade away without consequence as the love triangle develops). Initially, Thea’s mission at Princeton, aside from education, is to investigate the disappearance and possible murder of an older sister she never knew who was obsessed with the mythological samodivi, or “wildalones,” of Bulgarian culture—gorgeous moon worshipers who would beguile then destroy any man who came across them. Zourkova’s greatest strength in her debut novel is drawing parallels between the samodivi myths and the Orpheus story of Greek mythology and then bringing these elements to life on the Princeton campus. But the plot tries overly hard to craft reveals at the expense of natural progression or action, and the prose is crammed so full of abstract poetics that it obscures more than it illuminates. Passages on music are an enchanting exception.
For those willing to wade through the dense text, there are many points of intrigue, but given the reductiveness of the love triangle, they may not be enough.