4 gobsmacked Stars
When I got home from seeing the movie Labyrinth many, many years ago, I laid on my trampoline until well into the night, begging the Goblin King to come and take me away. I’ve always loved a character with a dark side. I love the tension that rises when a character has tremendous power, the will to use it and a fluid sense of right and wrong.
Calvin Parish is exactly that kind of character. Indestructible, indomitable, with a dubious sense of humanity and a clear motive to protect the innocent. He is the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing; a mixture of comic book hero, fairytale character and Master cloaked in forbidding darkness and a barely restrained feral nature. He is terrifying and tortuously erotic.
Cataline Ford is the light to Calvin’s darkness. Or so we initially think. She’s always been alone since losing her parents in an apartment fire at the age of 6. Left to be raised by strangers, it’s almost as if she suspended herself in that space of naïveté, hope and child-like defiance of anything and everything that challenges her worldview. As her character moves forward in this story, we begin to see a clear-cut duality in Cataline that almost defies description. She fights her imprisonment with every fiber in her being, but at the same time allows herself to melt into any and all human contact she finds, regardless of how kind or cruel that contact may be.
The journey these two characters take together defies words. Cataline is hell bent on forcing Calvin to fit into a pre-determined sense of good and evil even while her very existence serves to simply makes his fluidity more lithe and hard to pin down. As Calvin’s commitment to protect evolves into obsession until he is consumed by his desire for her, we see him re-frame his existence in a way that should be impossible for him. Because while his ideals are mercurial, his nature is fixed. Until he lets himself have Cataline. That transformation is excruciating and mesmerizing to watch happen.
Leighton del Mia has crafted an impossible story. She has created two characters that have no business inhabiting the same story and surrounded them with circumstances that shouldn’t make any sense or exist in any genre. But they do and it does. In a true feat of masterful creation, she has managed to bring all of these elements together in way that is genius in its architecture even if not fully harmonious.
I finished this book at 2am last night and I cannot stop thinking about it. I cannot stop trying to wrap my brain around these characters in this story. I cannot stop replaying the last scenes in the book. There’s no way I’m going to be able to stop screaming from the rooftops how good this book is. I won’t be able to stop applauding Leighton del Mia for taking such a genuine and fantastic risk by writing this book.
This book proves that sometimes, the dark is simply exquisite.
*This review was originally published for Wicked Women Book Blog.*