It was much easier than Kizzy would have thought, walking across town with a beautiful boy, talking about things like the fat content of elk mat and the aerodynamic quality of pizza, and about the jocks of St. Pock's, and superstition, and marshmallows, and death. (1.2.133)
Maybe this isn't love yet, but it's a form of flirtation and infatuation that's all new to Kizzy. She can't believe that it's this easy to spend time with a boy she likes. Is it too good to be true?
This time it was real; it was really going to happen. Kizzy was going to kiss a beautiful boy. Why then was she thinking about the peach, of how his lips would taste of it? (1.3.69)
You've got to hand it to the goblins: They know exactly how to reel in a lovesick teenager who's filled with romantic notions. Kizzy is a goner once Jack shows up with his cool clothes and good looks.
That was ridiculous, of course. Certainly a man couldn't fall in love with cursive on a page, could he? He scanned the inside covers of the little book for some hint of the girl's identity but found no name. (2.4.5)
It's love at first sight—or rather first read—for James when he finds Anamique's diary on the train. The way she bares her soul on the page is so appealing to him, and he only feels more strongly toward her when he meets her in person.
And while they danced, James whispered to her. He urged her to sing for him, to tell him that she loved him. "How can I ever believe it," he asked, his brown eyes pleading, "unless you tell me so yourself?" (2.6.8)
Well this complicates things. Anamique just wants James to love her and to know that she loves him back, but it looks like he wants some verbal confirmation. Doesn't he care that hearing an "I love you" from her could actually kill him?
The girl was in love! Nothing could scatter caution like love. Nothing could turn a girl silly half so fast as a handsome soldier whispering in her ear! And a soldier begging her to talk, no less! (2.7.1)
Love can be a great thing, but it can also be quite dangerous—which is exactly what Vasudev is counting on. He's delighted to learn that Anamique is in love because it means she's more likely to trip up and let the curse come true.
James' wife never told him that she loved him, not out loud, but he learned to believe it anyway. There are other ways of showing someone you love them, such as fetching them out of Hell. (2.12.1)
Now that James knows firsthand that Anamique's curse is a real thing, he's not going to ask her to say that she loves him anymore. After all, she's shown through her actions that she'll do anything for him, and that's proof of love enough.
"The first time I touched him and felt that his flesh was warm like mine, not cold like theirs, I can't explain it, my darling, that was the first time I understood I was real. He wasn't nice at first, but why should he have been? They had stolen him! But in time, between us, there was tenderness." (3.4.21)
Mab hasn't experienced the kind of romantic love that teenage girls come to expect. She didn't even get romance with Esmé's father because they were both basically slaves to the Druj. The most she could hope for was some understanding and compassion between them.
It was hard later to admit it, but she had adored her then, the tall, beautiful creature who held her on her hip, so easy in the crook of one long arm. She had even loved her eyes and thought they were like the blue jewels in the frame of the great milky mirror in her Tabernacle of Spies. (3.6.11)
The Druj Queen may be a cold unfeeling mistress, but she's still the closest thing to a mother that Mab has ever had. Because of this, Mab grows up adoring her—even when she's treated with cruelty and neglect.
It would seem to her that the gathering doom should have blotted out all else, like thunderheads roiling before the sun, but there had been nothing like that, only a small, pathetic hope that the Queen might love her again. Love! As if the Druj were capable of it. She herself didn't even know the word then, scarcely knew the feeling. But she would learn it. (3.7.19)
As powerful and immortal as the Druj are, there's one thing that they just don't get—and that's good old fashioned love. The Druj Queen will never feel the kind of warm and fuzzy feelings that a mere slave like Mab is capable of.
She had created the new magic that had angered the old god. And, Mihai thought, she would eventually remember it. He feared she would have just enough humanity now to grieve for what she'd done—but not enough to love him. (3.16.15)
Showing the Druj Queen that she was once human is quite the gamble for Mihai. Even if she remembers that they were once married and in love, will she be able to feel that same emotion again? Fingers crossed.
But Kizzy was ripe for goblins, and if anything got her, it would probably be them. Already one had tracked the perfume of her longing past the surly billy goat to peer in her bedroom window. Already it was studying her every move and perfecting its disguise. (1.1.59)
Goblins are sneaky little creatures. They're good at observing Kizzy and learning exactly what she's looking for in her life—and then dressing themselves up to meet all of her desires.
Kizzy knew but she willfully unknew it, and the plangent voices of the dead were lost to the drum of her hot blood and the tingle of her ready lips. She wanted to taste and be tasted. (1.3.73)
The most effective lies are the ones that we tell ourselves. That's certainly the case with Kizzy, who knows on some level that Jack Husk is totally a goblin, but then tells herself this is not the case.
Estella hissed, "Vasudev, this cannot stand. It is all out of proportion!"
"Proportion? But what has proportion to do with anything? That's the beauty of spices little curses such as these, Estella. You never know how they might play out. Don't get high and mighty now. You knew the rules!" (2.11.5-6)
Even though she agreed to carry out the curse, Estella still feels wronged by Vasudev. After all, she thought that saving the children in the earthquake was the better deal—but now Anamique's voice has taken the lives of over sixty victims. Yikes.
"Not quite yet," Estella said, producing a flask from within the folds of her shawl and holding it out to Anamique. "Child, quickly, drink this," she said.
Vasudev gasped. "No! You can't!" he sputtered. (2.11.39-40)
Hanging out around Vasudev for so many years has taught Estella a thing or two about keeping a card up her sleeve. She manages to save all of Anamique's victims by sacrificing her own life, much to Vasudev's dismay.
Then he saw the braids hanging from the chandelier and knew that they'd fled. He felt an instant flood of fury at Mab's trickery, and a twinge of panic to think of them getting away, but those feelings were quickly drowned out by the visceral thrill that came over him—despite everything he wanted to be, and all he tried to un-be—at the thought of a hunt. (3.2.21)
The Druj are immortal demons and trained hunters, but Mab still has some experience with evading them. Even though she's scared to death, Mab manages to use her trickery and wiles to escape. Well, at least for a while…
They might fright a young girl or boy by following them home, but usually in animal cithra they don't do much more than that.
When they come for mischief, they come as humans. (3.3.6-7)
The problem with living forever is that life gets boring. Because the Druj run out of things to do, they set their sights on humans… and how they can mess with those poor naïve souls.
The rest of the morning went like any other. She ate some wild apples and worked the knots out of her hair with her ivory comb […]. She put it away, shoving the mystery of her bleeding to the back of her mind and hoping to leave it there. It was over, she thought. Over. (3.7.9)
When Mab gets her period for the first time, she chooses to ignore the problem rather than ask someone for help. Maybe if she just pretends it's not happening it will go away. That's logical, right?
He was lying. It would hurt. Like roots being ripped asunder, it would hurt. He was sorry for it, but he didn't know any other way. (3.11.13)
Maybe it's for the best that Mihai lies to Esmé about how much splitting her soul from the Druj Queen will hurt. After all, being "ripped asunder" doesn't exactly sound like a walk in the park.
Mihai whispered her to sleep, catching her body and cradling her for a moment in his arms, his hand splayed tenderly over her belly, before laying her down on her bed of furs. He did not want her to suspect what she carried within her. (3.15.61)
It's probably not ethical to have the Druj Queen incubate inside Mab's unborn baby without Mab's consent—especially when Mab hates the Druj Queen and everything that she's inflicted on her human pets.
Mab watched her beloved daughter warily now, as if she didn't really know her. The thought that all along, while she had believed them safe, Esmé had carried Mab's tormenter within herself… it was a shock that would not easily fade. It was all the horrors of her youth unveiled anew, compounded by betrayal. (3.17.20)
Even though Esmé technically hasn't done anything to Mab, it's still hard for her to think that her darling daughter's soul was once home to her worst enemy. How could that not feel like betrayal?
When Kizzy was a little girl, she had asked once if she could have that knife when her grandmother died, and her grandmother had answered, "Sunshine, I'll need it where I'm going. Get your own damn knife." (1.1.43)
Kizzy's grandmother isn't the kind of old lady who sits around at home watching soap operas and making cookies. No, she's the kind of old lady who has faced down goblins in her lifetime and carries a knife wherever she goes… just in case.
She stared at him, and at the periphery of her vision something glinted. It was the little silver knife, still impaled in the rind of the cheese. Knife, she thought. Her fingers twitched, wanting to reach for it, as some kind of knowing skimmed the glassy surface of her mind. (1.3.71)
As enamored as she is with Jack Husk, Kizzy can't help but think about plunging that little cheese knife deep into his heart. That's because the ghosts in the cemetery are trying to send her a message: They want her to kill him before he can kill her. Too bad she doesn't listen.
If an English soldier had lived through the bloodiest war the world had ever known and made his way half around the planet to fall in love with this particular girl and goad her into fulfilling her curse, well, Vasudev had only that made bastard Chance to thank for it, and he did. (2.7.1)
After all of the gore and death that James has witnessed, it's no wonder that he's ready to fall in love and live out his happily ever after. It's just his bad luck that he ends up falling in love with someone who has the power to kill him with the sound of her voice.
Inside the ballroom the British were very still. They had sunk to the floor, some still joined in the embrace of the dance, leaning together on their knees like marionettes at rest. Others had fallen over, and the ladies' ankles, protruding from their skirts, were very pale. A fly sauntered down the bridge of a nose. All their eyes were open. (2.10.4)
What a grotesque scene. After Anamique stops singing, she realizes that all the guests at her eighteenth birthday party—including her family and fiancé—are dead. Worst birthday ever.
She'd been told since she was a suckling that there are a hundred things the Druj can do with eyes! They can fish out your soul and keep it for a trophy, or they can pass visions in and plant dreams that will grow in the dark like toadstools. They can pluck out your eyeballs and put them in their pockets, or they can whisper spells that will turn your glance into a curse to wither crops and cripple horses! (3.3.10)
The Druj are into some pretty gross stuff. These immortal beings obviously have way too much free time on their hands if they're going around collecting peoples' eyes like buttons. What ever happened to stickers?
Druj wear humans. They aren't supposed to do it but they do, and they wear them harshly, for fighting and rutting and dancing and other such things as make mortal blood flow fast. And when they're through with them, they leave them where they found them, flow back into their own cold bodies, and return to the forest. (3.3.14)
Talk about a violation of personal space. The Druj like to try on human bodies like new coats with absolutely no thought for the poor souls. How rude and invasive, right? It's no wonder that Mab hated her time at Tajbel.
The kitten landed on its feet, took a tottering step, then another. Bewildered, it looked back at Mab with its big golden eyes, and then there was a flash of long white arm through the balusters and it was gone.
A pitiable mewl, a crunch, and a waft of stench. (3.6.34-35)
The beasts of Tajbel are basically a more terrifying version of the troll under the bridge myth. They writhe around under the bridge, reaching up to grab any creature that comes along that they can kill and eat. Yikes.
She had a trespasser. She was crushed down inside herself, tamped down, creased, torn, bruised. That first time the Queen entered her, Mab knew little else but her shock, little but the cold and the ache, but she would soon grow accustomed to it. It was the new shape of her life. (3.6.53)
When the Druj Queen takes over Mab's body without warning, it's terrible and painful. Although she's not beating or starving Mab anymore, it's another disturbing form of abuse for the girl to endure.
The Queen was inside of her and Mab was as powerless over her own body as if she were merely its shadow. Dimly she saw her own painted arm reaching for the boy, but she could barely feel his skin beneath her fingertips. It was the Queen who felt what her fingers felt as she traced them over his sharp young clavicles, his heartbeat in his thin chest as clear and fast as a bird's. (3.8.19)
When the Druj take over human bodies and use them for sex, it's the most traumatizing thing that they can put their "pets" through. If Mab ever felt any love for the Druj Queen, it's now vanished. She's been horribly cruel.
He lived. Druj are not so easy to kill. Only fire can accomplish it, or the severing of the head from the neck. Isvant did neither of these things; he only raked Mihai's chest from collarbone to navel and sank his fangs into the muscle of his shoulder. It was not pleasant, but it was no risk to Mihai's life. (3.15.1)
As a Druj Mihai can feel pain, but he doesn't have to worry about being taken out in hand-to-hand combat. He might get hurt, but the nice thing about immortality is that death is one less thing to worry over.
Kizzy decided this had to be some beautiful boys' evil club initiation: to tease a freak girl and kill her heart. It was the only explanation. (1.2.44)
Talking to Jack Husk is thrilling, but Kizzy can't help but worry that it's all some kind of mean joke. Maybe he's just talking to her in order to make fun of her later with the popular kids…
Most days I believe in the curse with all my heart. I believe that I might kill with no more effort than it takes others to sing or pray. Those days are easy. My voice sleeps and I have no terrible impulses to speak. But some days I wake with doubts and worse, spite, and every moment speech trembles on my lips so that I have to bite them. (2.5.2)
There's a reason that Anamique has never uttered a single sound in her whole life: She's afraid the curse is real and that she'll be responsible for taking a life. In this way, her life is governed by fear.
It was his shadow, and it was crisp beneath the lamps of the Agent's gates now, as if it had never been gone. Inside the little parcel, on the brown paper, was scrawled one word. Believe.
James' soul trembled, just a little. (2.8.33-34)
James may not believe in supernatural beings or curses, but the loss and subsequent return of his shadow definitely puts him on edge. Maybe Estella and her servant aren't crazy and he shouldn't be so insistent about asking Anamique to speak aloud.
She knew why. She looked up at him and spots of color flamed in her cheeks. He was afraid of her. After all of his cajoling and his scoffing at Providence, making her believe she could have a normal life, making her dream and hope, after all that, he was afraid of the curse! (2.9.20)
This is so not how Anamique imagined her first kiss going. Instead of kissing her because he wants to, James ends up kissing her in order to shut her up. He's scared that if she makes a noise, he'll die—and so will all of the people around them. It turns out that he's right to be afraid.
"You will serve in her place as Ambassador to Hell."
Anamique felt a spasm of fear, but she nodded. "Anything," she repeated. (2.11.61-62)
Anamique isn't just a pretty young girl with an otherworldly voice; she's a fearless crusader for those that she loves, too. After all, she's willing to go into the Fire of Hell in order to retrieve James's soul—and she even agrees to become the next Ambassador to Hell.
She hated to wake her mother if she wasn't having one of her nightmares—Mab was plagued by nightmares and found little rest in sleep. So many nights, so many mornings, she woke screaming and Esmé soothed her as if she were the mother and Mab the child. (3.1.1)
Poor Mab is still plagued by memories of her time in Tajbel. Even though she won't tell Esmé about everything that happened, it's clear that she's still pretty traumatized from her time serving as the Druj Queen's little pet.
Esmé nodded, sobbing raggedly, and for a few moments they stared at each other like strangers. Then Mab wrapped her arms around her daughter and held her close, rocking her and whispering, "I'm so sorry, my darling. I'm so sorry I frightened you," and they both wept until their breathing calmed. (3.1.20)
Mab's reaction to Esmé's blue eye is scarier than the color transformation itself: She basically attacks Esmé as though she's a stranger. The whole episode makes Esmé feel as though her color-changing eye is much worse news than she initially thought.
Frantically, Mab followed her pointing finger, and at the same instant that she heard the first bewildered screams coming from the docks, she saw them. Black, rushing, huge. With a cry, she clawed Esmé's hand off the rail and dragged her through the doorway. (3.4.53)
Mab's terrified reaction is totally justified here. When you have vicious immortal demons in wolf form chasing you, the only reasonable thing to feel is abject terror.
She would never forget those eyes, or the rank smell the wind teased up from under the bridges, and she would never forget the silhouettes of the beasts' long, white arms reaching up to grope for any life thing they might pull down into their gaping mouths—cats, a fawn… her. (3.6.20)
It seems like everything about Tajbel is scary. The Druj are unpredictable, bored, and capable of great cruelty, and the beasts underneath the bridge will happily tear any living thing to shreds. Sounds like a fun place to live… not.
As she drew them, Mab saw the handmaidens' eyes over the top of the Queen's bent head. Her heartbeat quickened. Their eyes, they were like the eyes of cats watching the futile scuttling of injured prey as they toyed with it, minute by minute, prolonging for pleasure the inevitable fatal strike. (3.8.14)
Uh-oh. Even if Mab doesn't know exactly what the Druj Queen and her minions are up to, she knows enough to be frightened. The Druj can come up with some pretty twisted games when they're bored.
Kizzy hated it all, and she kind of hated herself too, by association. She hated mirrors, hated her ankles, hated her hair. She wanted to climb out of her life as if it were a seashell she could abandon on a shore and walk away from, barefoot. (1.1.5)
Poor Kizzy is going through the typical teenage period of utter self-loathing. There have been so many movies based on this exact experience.
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, wishful girls. (1.P.3)
Goblins prey on the sort of girls who desperately want to be someone else, who want to escape their humdrum lives and experience real romance. It's obvious that Kizzy is one of these girls, which is why the goblins find her so tasty.
She drank too much coffee, smoked, had a thrilling singing voice when she could be persuaded to use it, and was saddled with a terrible nickname at school that she feared would follow her through life. (1.1.10)
Through her coffee-drinking and smoking, Kizzy is trying to form her image as the nonchalant school rebel, since she's never going to be accepted into the realm of the popular kids.
With a deep, visceral ache, she wished her true form might prove to be a sleek and shining one, like a stiletto blade slicing free of an ungainly sheath. Like a bird of prey losing its hatchling fluff to hunt in cold, magnificent skies. That she might become something glittering, something startling, something dangerous. (1.3.2)
Now that Kizzy's finally been noticed by a hot boy, she feels as though she can start to shed her outer shell and maybe even become the person that she wants to be. To be clear, she wants to be interesting and dangerous instead of just another typical teenage girl.
[…] and the girl believed the servants. In that raucous palace of singing sisters, she lived her life butterfly-silent, never giving so much as a laugh out loud. When Vasudev spied on her in the garden, he saw a deep sadness in her, a dreamy wistfulness, but he never saw her test the curse, not even on a beetle or an ant. (2.3.5)
Anamique carries the weight of the world on her shoulders growing up because everyone sees her as the cursed girl. Instead of being allowed to live out a carefree childhood and adolescence, she always has to monitor herself to make sure that she doesn't slip up and make noise.
He didn't believe in magic and demons. He believed in day and night, endurance and fury, cold mud and loneliness and the speed with which blood leaves the body. He also believed in miserable, defiant hope and the way the shape of the girl you love can fill your arms like an eidolon when you dream about dancing with her.
But whether he believed it or not, his shadow was… missing. (2.8.29-30)
James prides himself on being a rational guy who doesn't believe in any of that supernatural nonsense, but now he's not so sure. After all, that old woman was able to pluck away his shadow like it was a physical object. How do you explain that?
The Fire took in souls and made them new, and Yama sleeved them into new bodies as he saw fit. Estella might be reborn as a tigress or a river dolphin or an ibex that could balance on tiptoe on a mountaintop. Or she might be born as a woman again, perhaps one who could have love all her life instead of only the memory of it. (2.11.9)
Estella isn't too worried about going into the Fire and losing all her memories of this lifetime. She's lived them for long enough, and she would like to start over again as something or someone else altogether.
Mab blinked. She stared at Esmé. She was still wild-eyed but the savagery slowly left her face and her fingers loosened on Esmé's shoulder and chin. Her chest heaving, she whispered thickly, "Esmé? Is it really only you? Are you certain?" (3.1.19)
Esmé is totally freaked out by the fact that Mab is treating her like she's someone else—like she's an imposter. But Mab knows that the Druj can enter into human bodies and take them over, and she's terrified that it's happened to Esmé.
From her earliest awareness, Mab understood that she was not Druj. She didn't have blue eyes and cold skin. She couldn't shift shape or fly, or slip suddenly invisible. She didn't know what she was, but she guessed she must be animal, like one of the cats that were everywhere in Tajbel, or like the forest creatures […]. (3.6.12)
Growing up as a pet that's kept in an actual cage makes it hard for Mab to exercise her individuality. In fact, she doesn't even know what kind of being she is—all she knows is that she's not a Druj like her captors.
In the weeks, months, and years that followed, Mab learned that she was even less than she had always thought. She wasn't animal. She was cithra. She was just something for the Queen to wear, like a robe, like a fur. (3.6.53)
Any personal identity that Mab has built up comes crashing down when the Druj Queen starts using her body as just another outfit to try on. How can she have any sense of self-importance when she's being tried on and tossed aside like an object?
Kizzy was so busy wishing she was Sarah Ferris or Jenny Glass that she could scarcely see herself at all, and she was certainly blind to her own weird beauty: her heavy, spell-casting eyes, too-wide mouth, wild hair, and hips that could be wild too, if they learned how. No one else in town looked anything like her, and if she lived to womanhood, she was the one artists would want to draw […]. (1.1.57)
Kizzy may be super dissatisfied with her looks and current romantic prospects, but she's wrong in thinking that she's unattractive. The boys at her school might not appreciate it yet, but Kizzy has her own mesmerizing beauty. She just has to get used to it.
Anamique grew radiant. Other men began to wonder why it had taken that damned James Dorsey to make them see that, silent or not, Anamique was quite the lovelies creature in Jaipur, if not all of India. (2.6.7)
As Anamique falls in love with James, she becomes more confident as a woman, which shows in her radiance and beauty. All of the other dudes in Jaipur are totally jealous that they didn't go after her first.
She wasn't a girl anymore, and she wasn't wearing a girl's gown either. She wore a jazzy shimmering shift that fell to mid-calf, and in her stockings and strappy shoes her ankles felt naked. Her shoulders were bare too and she felt daring and sultry and alive. (2.9.1)
It looks like Anamique doesn't want to just be seen as a little girl anymore—she wants to be seen as a sensual young woman. And that's exactly what James sees when he shows up with a ring in his pocket, ready to propose marriage to the woman he loves.
Indeed, now Esmé was nearly grown, it was hard to tell them apart at a glance. They were so alike, and Mab was so young. They were both small and beautiful with long, long hair as red as persimmons. (3.1.2)
As Esmé grows older, she becomes increasingly like her mother in physical appearance, but less like her in other ways. For one thing, Esmé is starting to think for herself and to question the weird, isolated life that they lead. You go, girl.
Mab's accent was like spice, and out at the shops and the theaters, whenever she had to speak to men, they seemed to Esmé to want to taste the words right off her mother's lips. The way they looked at her! But the way Mab looked back could freeze the saliva in their mouths. There was no room in her life for men, or for anyone but Esmé. (3.1.3)
Mab is the kind of woman who turns heads when she enters a room, but she doesn't want that kind of power. Instead of basking in male attention, Mab tries to avoid it as much as possible. She's not interested in any paramours.
A few months ago when Esmé's bleeding had first come, her mother had turned pale and wept, so Esmé thought for a panicked moment that she must be dying, but Mab had explained in a rush that it meant she wasn't a child anymore. That she could breed. (3.1.36)
Mab definitely isn't the kind of mother who will throw a moon party for her daughter after she starts her period. Instead she freaks out because she equates the start of womanhood with danger. Can you blame her? The Druj Queen totally took over Mab's life—and her body—when she became a woman.
Twice now the boy from the flower shop had smiled at her, his whole face flushing pink as he did, and when he was behind her in line at the bakery last week, he'd held her long braid gently in his hand, thinking she wouldn't feel it, but she had. (3.1.39)
Esmé is used to being invisible to other people, especially because she and her mother don't exactly get out much. But now that she's a teenager, people are starting to pay attention to her, especially boys. And she finds that she doesn't exactly mind the attention.
"I mean, they'll think it's gross. Or missing. But it's kind of pretty, like one of those dogs, you know, the ones that catch Frisbees?" Mab only looked at her, nonplussed, and after a moment Esmé added, "Isn't it bad enough I look like a boy with my hair cut off? I have to look like a pirate boy?" (3.4.5)
What a typical fourteen-year-old girl response. Even when she and her mom are literally on the run from demons, Esmé's thinking about what she looks like with her new eye patch. Does she look like a one-eyed boy now?
Since leaving Tajbel, Mab had never seen a mortal woman whose beauty could touch that of the Druj Queen. She was goddess-like in her perfection, the golden glow of her skin, the facets of her sculpted lips, her face the flawless oval of a cabochon, its delicate bones a perfect counterpoint to the vivid ferocity of her gaze. (3.6.8)
The Druj Queen is more beautiful than any mortal, but she doesn't have a beautiful soul behind her cold exterior. Instead she has no emotions—she just moves around in her lovely body without real purpose or joy.
Over time Tom's kisses learned their way to Esmé's lips, but they stayed gentle and he still blushed every time he saw her. Whether he might be the soul mate with whom she would share her centuries remained to be seen. They were only children, as Mab had never been allowed to be, and it was sweet. (3.17.49)
Now that Esmé's soul is completely hers own she's free to live out the life of a normal teenage girl. This includes growing into her womanhood and learning how to flirt and even date… just for fun.
But she wasn't alive. She had gone into the unknowable last summer. Besides the swan's wing, they'd buried her with other things she'd need: her pockets full of almonds to eat, a compass for finding her path, and coins for bribes along the way—silver coins, minted in one of the sheds and inscribed with runes. And of course, the dainty stiletto blade she'd always carried in her pocket—that went into her coffin too. (1.1.42)
Death isn't the end of the road for Kizzy's family. When her grandmother dies, she doesn't even leave Kizzy the cool knife that she always wanted. After all, she'll need it on her journey… just like she'll need all that other stuff they buried her with.
"A girl from the next village had died already. Wasted away. I saw her near the end. Her eyes were huge in her face and all the juice looked wrung out of her. […] Mairenni started to look like that poor girl and I knew she'd die too. She was my sister even if she was a fool. I had to do something." (1.1.52)
Goblins are a terrifying bunch, but Kizzy's grandmother didn't let her fear get in the way of saving Mairenni's life. If she hadn't intervened, Mairenni wouldn't have survived under the goblins' spell.
"I was a freshman. I think she was a junior, but I barely saw her because she got taken out of school. She was sick. She…" Kizzy's voice trailed off. She had almost said, She starved herself to death. But seeing this dead brown grave, other words came to her mind. She wasted away. (1.3.51)
There is something peculiar about the death of Kizzy's classmate that makes her feel uncomfortable. It sounds remarkably like what happens to girls in the stories her family tells about what happens to girls who fall for goblins. Huh.
"Free?" Estella repeated. No soul was ever free. Every child she saved she purchased in trade. It was her own dark work to select those who would die in their place, and she had an ever-changing list of the wicked from whom to choose. (2.1.21)
Estella knows better than to trust Vasudev when it comes to the care and handling of human lives. He's not going to go out of his way to save a bunch of kids from death unless he gets something out of it.
She looked as if she might coo, and Estella felt suddenly that her own death was perched upon her shoulder like a bird. How easy to die, she thought, and how fitting, if she were to be the first victim of this curse… the first victim of this child, who at the behest of a demon she had just turned into a murderer. (2.2.18)
It's hard not to feel a bit nervous when you're hanging around a baby who can literally kill everyone in the room with one healthy cry. Even Estella—who doesn't even want to be alive anymore—feels the danger of it when she looks down at baby Anamique.
All of James's childhood friends had died in the War. Every single one. James often wondered at the chain of flukes it must have taken to bring him through with his own life and limbs intact. (2.4.12)
As a young soldier, James has cheated death again and again. It's a bit ironic that when he finally goes looking for the safety of love and a calm domestic life, he ends up falling in love with a girl who can kill him with a single whisper.
She was read; she had been ready for a long time. Her soul craved the Fire. Only one thing had kept her in this limbo of lingering death—a far worse death than she herself had ever inflicted on the wicked—and that was Vasudev. (2.11.11)
It's been a long time since everyone that Estella loved (like her dearly departed husband) went into the Fire, and she's ready to follow. But if she's not around to keep Vasudev in check, what will happen? Will he just let people die willy-nilly?
Druj live forever and have forever lived. There are no new Druj, no young Druj, no ripe bellies, no babes. If their race began as infants, that history was lost in ancient books, swallowed by fire or mold. As for their memories, they have proven unfit for immortality. (3.6.1)
Being immortal comes with its perks—like getting to live forever—but there are definitely some drawbacks. They have to hang out with the same people forever, for one, since no one ever dies or makes new babies. The population is always exactly the same.
Blood meant death, and somehow it had gotten into bed with her. She touched between her legs and her fingers came away red. It was her own blood! (3.7.1)
Living with the Druj, Mab has come to realize that they're immortal but she still has to worry about death. So when she starts her period (which is something that the Druj don't get), she freaks out—she's obviously dying.
If he had the choice to make again, his soul for immortality, he knew what he would choose. But he wouldn't have that choice to make again. There was only one way that his benighted race might blend itself back into humanity—this secret way that he had discovered. (3.12.31)
Apparently Mihai has decided that immortality isn't all it's cracked up to be. He's over it, but there's nothing he can do but try to convince the other Druj that they need to seek out their souls again. They need to get in touch with their human mortal roots.
All of the omens of the day, the swirl of swan feathers, the grave of dead grass, her grandmother's blade still rimed with the frost of the underworld, all her memories of warnings, they coalesced into a simple understanding: Deep in her veins ran the admonition never to eat fruit out of season. (1.3.71)
Even if Kizzy's never experienced any supernatural dangers in her own life, she carries her family's experiences with her. And all of those collective memories are making her Spidey-sense tingle here: Something nefarious is afoot.
The wicked in this part of the world endured rueful decades of early death, and the Fire burned hot and bright and remade them all, and they were all in their turn born back into the world as carp and macaques and salamanders and mosquitoes with no recollection of their human lives of the Fire that followed, but only faint memories of music, like wisps of a dream, from their last glimmering moments in Hell. (2.12.7)
When souls die and end up in Hell, they're just repurposed and put into new bodies with only the hint of a memory about where they came from and how they were forged. Estella is down for that kind of forgetting, though, especially after a lifetime of pain and loneliness.
Esmé'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.
Esmé swayed on her feet. These weren't her memories. (3.P.3-4)
What's going on with Esmé's memories? It's bad enough waking up with one blue eye, but now she has to contend with all of these strange memories that don't belong to her.
Her voice dropped to a whisper. "Fourteen years ago I escaped from them with you like a treasure inside of me. I used to be so afraid they'd find us, but I… I'd started to believe we were safe." (3.1.51)
Mab doesn't like to think of her past life as the Druj Queen's pet. She wants to concentrate on the fact that she escaped with her baby, and that she left the Druj world behind once and for all. There's no point dwelling on bad memories, right?
Love was theirs alone, and it was why Mihai had helped a red-haired girl escape from Tajbel fourteen years ago with her belly full of child, and why he waited alone in this gray city, year after year, his mind on fire with hope. (3.2.18)
Poor Mihai is totally sprung on the Druj Queen, or at least on the human woman that she used to be. He'll wait centuries if it means that she'll slowly regain her memories of her human past… and of how she used to love him.
She stared at him, at his fangs, at the lips that she knew from some alien tangle of memories. But it wasn't her memory! She had never kissed this creature. She had never kissed anyone! "No," she lied, shrinking away from him. "I don't know you!" (3.5.7)
Esmé is having a weird and confusing day. First she wakes up with a blue eye, then her mom insists that they go on the run, and now this demon dude has showed up and she remembers kissing him. What in the world is going on?
For some years during that bend in her life Mab thought she had discovered misery, but when she was older, she would look back wistfully on that time, because what came after made it seem sweet by comparison. (3.6.43)
Being kept in a cage and starved is harrowing for Mab, but in retrospect she finds that it was better than what was to come. Now that she's experienced having her body taken over by the Druj Queen, she remembers her early childhood as a (relatively) blissful time.
So when he stole Esmé away and Mab glimpsed the rough spires of Tajbel through his window of air, all the old agonies overwhelmed her and she screamed until she could scream no more, and then she collapsed onto the rug, rigid. She was seeing young limbs encircled by blue paint and hearing in her mind a song about ripening fruit. (3.8.28)
Poor Mab still hasn't gotten over the trauma of her time in Tajbel. When she glimpses the city again for the first time in fourteen years, she can't help but start screaming—it just brings back too many bad memories.
The sight of the cage thrust a spear of memory into Esmé's consciousness. It was only a glimpse, but for a split second she seemed to see long red hair spilling out through the bars, and small hands clutching at them from within. (3.9.23)
Sharing memories with the Druj Queen means that Esmé can remember parts of her mother's childhood and how she was kept in a cage. Maybe this will help her to understand Mab's nightmares and fears.
They forgot their humanity and they forgot the children who had been wrested from their arms. They forgot the drifting ash of their souls that were as dust upon the skin of the world.
The centuries passed. They lived and lived. They grew weary of immortality but remembered nothing else. (3.16.6-7)
The Druj can live forever, but since they don't get to remember anything that's actually important, they've forgotten all about their origins and their former loved ones. They're just left with this endless and pretty empty life.
The goblins didn't look away. Their mouths filled with saliva as they watched her. There was scant cover for them in the leafless hawthorns along the main road, and Kizzy should have seen them. (1.1.35)
Who says that the small town where Kizzy lives and goes to school is boring? They have all sorts of interesting inhabitants, including some creepy goblins that are really into stealing girls' souls.
They'd have said there was no "believing" involved. They knew, because Kizzy's grandmother had saved her sister from them one in the Old Country and lived to tell. She'd never tired of telling the story, how the goblins had tried to force her mouth open and cram in their unnatural fruit, how she'd kept her jaw clamped tight against them. (1.1.37)
Kizzy's family doesn't just tell folk tales and myths about magical beings for fun. She grows up with true stories about the magical creatures her family has encountered—especially the dangerous goblins that tried to steal Mairenni away.
But Kizzy felt a swelling of ghosts around her this time, a tide; her grandmother might have been there, but she wasn't alone. Kizzy froze in mid-step, chilled and startled, and looked up at Jack Husk. For a second some look passed through his sly eyes, some intelligence… a hint of a sneer? (1.3.30)
Even though Kizzy is completely focused on the cute boy that's taking her out on a breakfast picnic, she can't help but listen to what the ghosts are saying about goblins and being careful. After all, it's not every day that ghosts start whispering warnings in your ear.
Estella stared at them. Delight gleamed in their eyes. They didn't believe her. Of course they didn't. Her Majesty's subjects didn't go around believing things willy-nilly. But whether they believed it or not, the curse was as real as the heat, and soon they would know it. (2.2.15)
To the fancy British people at the garden party, Estella's curse is just some kind of silly game. They don't have the slightest idea that she has an actual demon holding her to the curse, and that they will all die if baby Anamique so much as whimpers.
In the Fire, Anamique's eyes were open and she saw countless souls drifting all around her, souls like alchemist's metal being transfigured in this great crucible, souls made molten, made new. (2.11.54)
Anamique's having the kind of bad day where all sorts of unbelievable things keep happening to her. First she starts singing at her birthday party and all her friends and loved ones drop dead, and now she has to travel through Hell and see a bunch of dead souls. What a trip.
The music flowed into him like a river and swept all his malice away, and when he awakened from his trance, he would hear himself mutter preposterous things like, "Whatever you think is best," or, "Of course my dear, all the children shall survive the flood." (2.12.4)
When Vasudev cursed Anamique with that otherworldly beautiful (but deadly) voice, he didn't think of how the consequences would affect him if she became the next Ambassador to Hell. Now the old demon is falling under her spell… and he has no one to blame but himself. Ha.
The forests belong to the Druj. Everything in them belongs to the Druj and the Druj are supposed to stay there—agreements had been made—but sometimes boredom gets the better of them.
Boredom is a terrible affliction for the soulless. (3.3.4-5)
Being immortal probably seems super cool at first, but after a while it loses its shine. That's what happens to the Druj. They tend to get bored after a lifetime (or rather endless lifetimes) of doing the same thing.
Seeing her desperate white face, Mihai quickly whispered a word in his harsh language. A glimmering window peeled open in the air and he said, "Come," drawing Esmé against him with one arm and holding out his other hand to Mab. (3.4.62)
When things start to look bad for Mab and Esmé, Mihai rushes in to save the day with his cool Druj magic. Even Mab can't disapprove when it means that she and her daughter will survive.
In Mihai's grasp, she was floating. Stunned, she looked up at him.
He was whispering fiercely and without pause. His Druj eyes looked almost white in the gloom as he stared straight ahead, whispering his magic. He and Esmé drifted through the air and Esmé's heart thudded in her chest, her mouth hanging slack in amazement. (3.9.21-22)
If Esmé could imagine this tune playing in the background maybe her trip to Tajbel would be less terrifying and more thrillingly magical. Just sayin'.
She chose immortality and the others followed her. And so the god scorched their souls to ash and scattered them in the wind. He dubbed them Druj. Demons. He breathed a mist into their memories and he plucked their children from their arms to grow old and die as humans, and he flung the Druj to the mountains where they could begin their immortality in landscapes of desolation that reflected the emptiness within them. (3.16.4)
Having immortality and magical powers seems like it's totally worth any price, but it turns out that the Druj end up with the short end of the stick. It's hard to find anything fun or novel when you're just going to live forever…
The effect was to bring her face into focus, and Kizzy stared at it for minutes, getting the feeling that something had happened to her since the last time she had looked at herself, if indeed she ever really had. (1.3.1)
After spending so much time hating her body, Kizzy finds that it's not so bad after all. Maybe she's not as ugly as she always thought… and maybe boys like Jack Husk really are attracted to her.
She was feeling, under the vivid gaze of this soldier, that she had stepped out of a fog and been seen clearly for the first time. (2.4.42)
Anamique has spent her whole life thinking of herself as a dangerous ticking time bomb, ready to explode and kill her loved ones at any time. But when James looks at her, she feels like a girl who is ready for romance. It changes the way that she sees herself.
For days in a row they continued in this way, and slowly they discovered each other. The letters grew longer and Anamique's gray eyes lost a bit of the haunted shadow James had seen in them, and James' heart began to lift itself, step by step, out of the swamp of mud and ghosts in which it had been steeping since France. (2.5.26)
Anamique and James are good for each other. They both pull the other person out of their sad lives and inject some happiness and sunshine into the mix. Even James starts to get over the horror of seeing all his friends die, and starts thinking of a brighter future.
She watched mischievously as his eyes swept the room, passed over her twice before finally fixing on her face with a flash of surprise. His startled brown eyes dropped to her shoulders, then down to her ankles and darted quickly back up to her face as a blush overspread his cheeks. (2.9.2)
Anamique's get-up for her eighteenth birthday party is meant to send the message that she's not some meek little girl who can't think for herself anymore. No, Anamique wants everyone to know that she's a smart, strong, sensual woman.
Something was happening to her. Something was building in her, rising. Her breath came faster. Her skin felt feverish. Eighteen years of calm were swept away in a sudden wild rush, like the monsoon floods that ravage mangrove islands and whisk tigers out to sea. (2.9.23)
So much for staying a calm silent girl. When Anamique realizes that even James is afraid of the curse, she snaps. She can't just stay silent and wonder if the curse is real for the rest of her life—she needs to know for once and for all.
Their wedding was small, just the two of them with Pranjivan—eternally shadowless now—and Anamique's parents and sisters, who recalled every moment of their strange resurrections. (2.12.1)
Anamique isn't the only one who comes out of Hell with a new perspective. All of her friends and family members remember dying and being resurrected again, and that has got to change things for them.
Six days before Esmé's fourteenth birthday, her left eye turned from brown to blue. It happened in the night. She went to sleep with brown eyes, and when she woke up at dawn to the howling of wolves, her left eye was blue. (3.P.1)
All adolescents expect to see some pretty drastic physical changes over the course of time, but not like what Esmé goes through. How do you go to sleep with two brown eyes and wake up with one vividly blue eye? It's unnerving, to say the least.
"Or they can use your eyes as windows and climb inside you, shoving their dark animus into your soul and filling it, like brutal fingers thrust into a child's glove." (3.3.11)
The Druj like to partake in a creepy and terrifying pastime—taking over human bodies and walking around in them. It must be weird to try on and shed different bodies whenever you want to.
Grown up. How little those words had meant to Mab then! Surrounded by changeless Druj, what did she have to go on? Kittens growing long and lean? Deer sprouting antlers to clash in the rut? (3.7.19)
Mab has no idea what it means to grow up because she's been around the immortal Druj all her life. All she knows is that she's suddenly gotten her period and that her body is changing.
It had taken Mihai thirteen cycles of hathra, thirteen souls interknit with his animus, for the ashes of his soul to gather again inside of him, bringing his memories with them, piece by piece. (3.16.8)
Mihai may not be able to ever go back to being completely human, but he can at least try to regain a human soul and emotions. By going through hathra again and again, he's slowly getting there…