Title: Lips Touch: Three Times
Author: Laini Taylor
Length: 263 pages (including illustrations)
My star rating: ★ ★ ★ ★
I didn’t review the last three books I read even though—or maybe because?—I liked them all. I know, I’m terrible. But I’m jumping back on the wagon now!
Lips Touch: Three Times is a collection of three fantastical short stories, each longer than the last. The unifying theme is that of an important, perhaps life-changing kiss.
Each story is lusciously and beautifully written. Each is distinct and highly imaginative, and each is quite compelling in its own way. Laini Taylor does more world-building in one short story than some YA authors do in their entire series. The whole book was a refreshing reexamination of familiar ideas: goblins and fairies, hell and death. Any of them could be expanded and turned into an excellent novel.
I particularly appreciated the contrast between the idyllic mother-daughter relationship and the far more complex and abusive one in “Hatchling.” It’s always refreshing to see that theme explored in more depth.
For want of better words to review, I’ll simply sum up with an excerpt from each story. (Warning: the final excerpt is spoiler-y!)
Kizzy wanted to be a woman who would dive off the prow of a sailboat into the sea, who would fall back in a tangle of sheets, laughing, and who could dance a tango, lazily stroke a leopard with her bare foot, freeze an enemy’s blood with her eyes, make promises she couldn’t possibly keep, and then shift the world to keep them. She wanted to write memoirs and autograph them at a tiny bookshop in Rome, with a line of admirers snaking down a pink-lit alley. She wanted to make love on a balcony, ruin someone, trade in esoteric knowledge, watch strangers as coolly as a cat. She wanted to be inscrutable, have a drink named after her, a love song written for her, and a handsome adventurer’s small airplane, champagne-christened Kizzy, which would vanish one day in a windstorm in Arabia so that she would have to mount a rescue operation involving camels, and wear an indigo veil against the stinging sand, just like the nomads.
Kizzy wanted. (“Goblin Fruit,” 41)
That is how you accomplish “show, don’t tell.”
There was more of India in her than of that far green isle she had rarely seen. She played the vina as well as she played the piano, and she knew all the Hindu gods by name. She had ridden a camel in the Thar Desert, scooped rice into a sadhu’s bowl, and been lifted by an elephant’s trunk to gather figs from the high branches. She had even gone back to her ayah’s dusty village for festivals and slept on a string charpoy with the native children, nestled together like spoons. The voice that was full within her not only sang full lyric soprano but could chant the Vedas… (“Spicy Little Curses Such as These,” 93)
Before she had been the Queen of the Druj, she had been Mahzarin, and she had been his. Once upon a time, she had hooked her small foot around his leg and drawn him up against her. He had taken her earlobe between his teeth, tasted the hollow at the base of her throat, and sung through the skin of her taut belly while she grew his daughters within her. Her black hair had fallen across his pillow like a shadow every night and he had slept and woken upon it. (“Hatchling,” 240)
In short, I very much recommend this anthology and look forward to reading more of Ms. Taylor’s work!