When lips meet in a kiss for the first time, it can be a magical moment. But it's never quite as magical in real life as it is in the three novellas contained in Laini Taylor's newly released anthology, Lips Touch (Scholastic, 2009, YA, 259 pp).
Three different kisses, three very different stories. And not short stories either, the kind that leave you wanting more, twitchy with unfulfilled plot desire. By letting her stories grow longer, almost (for two of them, at least) to book length, Taylor gives herself room to paint sumptuous word pictures with dizzying effect, and tell great stories.
Kiss the First: Goblin Fruit. "The Goblins want girls who dream so hard about being pretty their yearning leaves a palpable trail, a scent goblins can follow like sharks on a soft bloom of blood. The girls with hungry eyes who pray each night to wake up as someone else. Urgent, unkissed, wishfull girls" (page 13).
Girls like Kizzy, who falls under the spell of the beautiful boy who wants her so fiercely that the ache of her own wanting is all she can feel--ignoring all the warnings, ignoring all the magical stories she's grown up with, ignoring "her soul flattening itself back like the ears of a hissing cat" (page 54), craving his kiss....
More than just another demon lover story, Goblin Fruit is metaphor-rich explosion of sensuality.
Kiss the Second: Spicy Little Curses Such as These. "A cursed girl with lips still moist from her first kiss might feel suddenly wild, like a little monsoon. she might forget her curse just long enough to get careless and let it come true. She might kill everyone she loves.
She might, and she might not.
A particular demon in India rather hoped that she would" (p 67)
During the British raj, there is an old, and rather eccentric seeming woman who makes deals with a demon on a regular basis, bargaining for as many lives as she can save from his clutches. It's a tricky thing to make deals with a demon, and, in this story, "the spicy little curse" the demon gets to inflict on a baby English girl might make this the worse bargain she has ever struck.
Because the little girl's voice can kill, or so the demon says. And so she is silent all her life, all the words she has wanted to say locked behind her lips. Now she has fallen in love, and the dam that holds her words in place is breaking...
Of all these three stories, this is the one most familiar in tone and voice to Taylor's Dreamdark books--matter-of-factly fantastical, where the story takes the reader into remarkable places, and the reader gets to enjoy the ride (very much, in my case. This one was my favorite).
Kiss the Third: Hatchling. "Six days before Esme's fourteenth birthday, her left eye turned from brown to blue.....
"It was no trick of the light. Her eye was an eerie white-blue, the color of ancient ice in a lace that never thaws, and as startling as it was, there was something profoundly familiar about it too. Esme's blood quickened as a shock of memories pulsed through her: a world of snow and spires; a milky mirror framed in jewels; the touch of warm lips on hers." (p 139)
Esme's mother has a past--a terrible, magical, ice-bound, cruel, otherworldly past. And it is chasing them.
This one is a fantastical mystery, with dark edges and much tension. And that's all I'll say, for fear of spoiling.
So, three very different kisses, three very different stories...all magical. A lot of bang for your book-buying buck. But wait, there's more! You also get illustrations by Jim Bartolo! Beautiful ones! Enter now (before Sunday night) at Grow Wings, Taylor's website, for a chance to try this one for yourself.
(ARC received from the publisher)