Let me preface this by introducing a series I’m going to put on here, called Books From The Free Table. One of the perks of working at Refinery29 is that when people get sent things that no one wants, they’re put out on this big table in our common space. It’s there that I’ve been able to snag makeup, clothes for me, my boyfriend and my dog, and books. I grab the ones that look most interesting or entertaining – so normally in the fantasy, sci fi genre – or that I think might be something amusing I would never buy, most likely in the romance genre.
There’s something I appreciate about this. These are normally books that either have just been released, or are about to be, and somehow when I see them on the free table I’m unable to separate this fact from the work that I’m reading. It casts a tone of earnestness and sometimes desperation over the book, and I love it. I will try not to be too cruel, because some day I want to write a book, and it will probably end up on someone’s free table.
Photo: Courtesy of Goodreads
In this darkly imaginative debut novel full of myth, magic, romance, and mystery, a Princeton freshman is drawn into a love triangle with two enigmatic brothers and discovers terrifying secrets about her family and herself – a bewitching blend of Twilight, The Secret History, Jane Eyre, and A Discovery of Witches.
First of all, if I wrote a book I would be really careful about the comparisons drawn of it. And why would you want your book to be an amalgamation of four other books, at least of two of which are terrible? Full disclosure: I couldn’t get through the first Twilight book, and I thought Discovery of Witches was pretty bad, but mildly amusing – still not enough for me to read any of the other books.
But in Wildalone, piano prodigy Thea Slevin, 18, travels from Bulgaria to the United States to go to Princeton (just like our author, Krassi Zourkova. Write what you know, amirite?). Apparently, she had a secret older sister who went to Princeton as well, was also a piano prodigy, and her body disappeared after she was murdered. As outlandish as this is, I thought it was pretty cool. A young woman from a foreign country comes to America and gets wrapped up in a murder mystery and kicks ass! I can get behind that. Except no asses were kicked. Young Thea is immediately distracted from her studies, piano prodigy-ing, and murder investigations by a series of men who just tell her cryptic things and often appear from the shadows. Warning to all young women who read books like this: If a man follows you and appears from the shadows, no matter HOW sexy and mysterious he is, you run. RUN GODDAMMIT.
Photo: Courtesy of Gawker
Let me list the men:
- Her creepy Greek mythology teacher, who is oddly obsessed with her sister, and is clearly a suspect in her forgotten murder mystery.
- A sexy guy who emerges from the shadows, with his shirt unbuttoned, who monopolizes all of her time, whisks her away in his Porsche, tries to rape her repeatedly, but is SO romantic, according to this author.
- The sexy guy’s brother, who is equally rich and sexy, who mopes around in the shadows taunting our young heroine with the promise of love. He is really useless. I don’t even understand why they had to be brothers.
- A really weird janitor who calls himself the keymaster and gives her very vague clues about her sister and these weird brothers.
- One of her piano teachers, who seems genuinely interested in her piano playing but just wants her to do that and not work or go to class.
There are only two other female characters: her other piano teacher who somehow doesn’t identify that her student is in a bad spot, and her RA. They have conversations about how hot they are and boy problems. Very exciting stuff. I imagine her as Anna Kendrick from the Twilight movies.
The book jarringly blends Bulgarian and Greek folklore, which I found pretty confusing as I’m not really familiar with anything Bulgarian, and the whole time I was just hoping for the man-eating witches I’d been promised. The character doesn’t develop at all, as she’s mostly just a plaything for men much older than her. She has zero agency, but she could have very easily. She wasn’t an unlikeable character, and there was a lot of interesting backstory that could have been explored.
I want you to know that the book ends on a cliffhanger of sorts, and when I got there, I almost screamed. This author intends to write another book about these same characters – something that is crazy to me.
Amusement factor: C-