Occasionally, I read a book that I love so much that I don't even want to evangelize about it. I love it SO much that I want to skip past the part where I talk it up, where I convince others to read it, and just get right down to the gushing. I want a pile of copies to give out to anyone and everyone who crosses my path. When I hand it over, I want the recipient to start reading IMMEDIATELY, while I intensely, creepily stare like Damon Salvatore to be sure that the book is being relished to the degree it deserves.
That's how I feel about Sarah Beth Durst's Conjured.
I loved it that much.
Now, obviously, I know that it's not going to be all things to all people. The first few pages will be make-or-break—Eve's understanding of the world and of herself is so fuzzy that everything seems discordant and jumbled at first; she (and with her, the reader) understands the words being said, but without context, all of the action and the dialogue is almost white noise—and some readers will find that completely maddening, while others will find it totally intriguing. At first, Eve is disconnected emotionally and intellectually, she’s incurious and just…odd. She’s not an easy character to get to know, for the people around her, for the reader, for herself. And, again, that aspect of the book is bound to turn some readers off.
There are a million questions raised, and for a time, it doesn’t seem that Eve is particularly interested in discovering the answers to any of them: Why is she in Witness Protection? Why did they change her face and her body, and what did she look like before? What do her visions mean, and why do they come every time she uses magic? The scary carnival, the Magician and the Storyteller, the tiny prisons: Are they literal, metaphorical, or entirely imagined? Why does she keep losing chunks of her memory? Who can she trust? Who wants to help her, who wants to harm her and who wants to use her?
For those who stick with it, for those who are comfortable allowing Eve to get there in her own time, all will be revealed—and in a hugely satisfying manner. It’s a dark fairy tale, it’s a carnival of horrors à la Ray Bradbury, it’s a cop story with occasionally hilarious pitch-perfect dialogue, and it features a male romantic lead who is easily as adorably irresistible as Seth Cohen. It’s original, it’s smart, it’s scary, it’s emotionally satisfying on all levels. It’s a thriller and a romance and a mystery and a thoughtful examination of love and humanity and trust and patience.
I loved it, I loved it, I loved it.
Oh, and one last thing: It’s a fantastic read for the story and the characters alone, but it’ll be a super one to re-read for the literary craftsmanship as well! For one, to see how Durst wove everything together—as she began to answer all of my questions, I realized that the seemingly confusing bits at the beginning actually made perfect sense—and for another, to pay attention to the subtle changes in voice as Eve’s understanding and perception changes.
Count this one in as an awards contender, for sure.
If she isn't writing Bookshelves of Doom or doing her librarian thing, Leila Roy might be making stuff for her Etsy shop while re-watching Veronica Mars, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Babylon 5, Black Books or Twin Peaks. Well, that or she’s hanging out on Twitter. Or both.