Cast your eyes upon a New Years miracle, dear readers! If you spend time here with me at all, you may notice my penchant for reading books in a severely untimely fashion. This penchant is only surpassed by my abysmal track record when it comes to reviewing ARCs on or before their release date like the good buzzy blogger publishers probably wish that I was. So here it is the Sunday before the Tuesday that Wildalone by Krassi Zourkova is set to go on sale, and not only have I read the book, indeed, I am about to also review it.
Piano prodigy Thea Slavin has left her native Bulgaria for her freshman year at Princeton University. She's struggling to adjust to a new American culture and dealing with a recently discovered family secret that haunts her new life at Princeton. Her Greek Art professor is singling her out for reasons she doesn't understand, and before she can so much as take a class, her music advisor is pressing her onto the stage for an early recital. As she plays Chopin before a full house, one guy with a white rose is all she can see, but he disappears before they can meet, and another takes his place as the love interest that competes for her attention.
This book. It's so easy to get lost in but so hard to talk about, and even harder to talk about without spoilers. Debut novelist Zourkova deftly juggles real life as a Princeton student with Thea's much more profound experience chasing her family secret down a veritable rabbit hole of magic and myth, untangling the mysteries of two brothers who are much more than meet the eye, and discovering a hidden world that lies just beneath the soaring Gothic architecture of Princeton's campus.
Reading Wildalone, I was constantly reminded of Keith Donohue's The Stolen Child. The stories aren't very similar at all, but the rich atmosphere is. Like The Stolen Child, Wildalone manages to unite the humdrum with the extraordinary, the realistic and the fantastic, all of which is woven through with mythology, art and music. I was completely transfixed by Zourkova's haunting, eerie romance which is so enriched by its exploration of art and music. Wildalone is perfectly paced, dripping just enough mystery at a time to draw readers deeper and deeper into its pages, and even when you think you've figured out the impossible truth, Zourkova's got another plot twist up her sleeve. Wildalone is truly an impressive debut, and Zourkova is definitely an author to watch.
(Disclaimer: I received this book for review courtesy of the publisher.)