Curio by Evangeline Denmark
Age range: 12 and up | Series: Curio #1 | Hardcover: 432 pages | Publisher: Blink (January 5, 2016)
Grey Haward has always detested the Chemists, the magicians-come-scientists who rule her small western town. But she has always followed the rules, taking the potion the Chemists ration out that helps the town’s people survive. A potion that Grey suspects she—like her grandfather and father—may not actually need.
By working at her grandfather’s repair shop, sorting the small gears and dusting the curio cabinet inside, Grey has tried to stay unnoticed—or as unnoticed as a tall, strong girl can in a town of diminutive, underdeveloped citizens. Then her best friend, Whit, is caught by the Chemists’ enforcers after trying to protect Grey one night, and after seeing the extent of his punishment, suddenly taking risks seems the only decision she can make.
But with the risk comes the reality that the Chemists know her family’s secret, and the Chemists soon decide to use her for their own purposes. Panicked, Grey retreats to the only safe place she knows—her grandfather’s shop. There, however, a larger secret confronts her when her touch unlocks the old curio cabinet in the corner and reveals a world where porcelain and clockwork people are real. There, she could find the key that may save Whit’s life and also end the Chemists’ dark rule forever.
About the Author:
Evangeline writes fiction with hints of whimsy, glimmers of fantasy, and strokes of the supernatural. Her debut novel CURIO was an RT Reviews Top Pick for February 2016, and USA Today’s HEA blog called the world-building “two levels of genius.” A Young Adult Steampunk Fantasy with shades of The Wild, Wild West and The Wizard of Oz, CURIO sets coming of age and first love against a backdrop of steam-propelled greed and societal repression. Hypable included CURIO on it’s list of 10 Books that Celebrate Girl Power. http://www.hypable.com/girl-power-books-lee-kelly/
Evangeline lives in Colorado in a house stuffed full of animals and creative people that would surely go to ruin were it not for the watchful eye of a cattle dog named Willie.
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My Thoughts on Curio:
Grey lives in Mercury City, a city controlled by tyrannical Chemists and the potion they produce. After breaking the law, Grey runs to her grandfather’s store for refuge and ends up inside a curio cabinet. The cabinet contains a world of its own, with creatures unlike anything Grey has encountered before. Grey then must find her way back out, but only after she’s located a mysterious stranger she knows nothing about.
There is much to love about this book, but it’s certainly not perfect. The word choices threw me off quite a bit and inhibited the otherwise beautiful flow of the story. There were many instances where I had to read a sentence several times before I understood what was happening simply because the word choice was so unusual or overly “creative”. There were also huge gaps in the backstory. I spent much of the book wondering who the Chemists are, why they’re in charge, what the potion is, what it does, and why people are dependent on it. Some things eventually get explained in very sparse terms, but my questions were never really answered. The end of the book left me with even more questions and feeling generally unsatisfied. Of course, once I finished the book, I found out about the short prequel that contains most of the backstory. I’m not a fan of prequels that are required reading in order to understand the main story, but if you decide to read this book, read the prequel first. It will save you a lot of head scratching.
By this point you’re probably thinking that I didn’t like the book, but that’s not the case at all. In spite of the confusion I felt, I loved a lot of things about Curio. For starters, the premise is unusual and interesting. It combines popular dystopian themes with fantasy in new ways that kept me turning pages. Once I got sucked into the story, it was easy to keep reading, and I looked forward to each time I picked the book up. I liked the themes and different societies that existed both inside and outside the cabinet. The characters are interesting, flawed, and strong in their own ways. I especially liked the difference between the Chemists and Defenders, and the Tocks and the Porcies, along with the abilities and limitations of each one. The story balanced both worlds and both sets of problems well. I’m interested to see how things turn out as the rest of the series unfolds.
It all boils down to this — read the prequel first. I haven’t read it, but I’m guessing that much of my confusion stemmed from the fact that I didn’t. You will probably enjoy this book a lot as long as you understand the story behind it. It’s worth the read, and I will definitely be reading the next installment when it comes out.
Content: Violence and sensuality.
Source: I received a copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review.
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