Sunday, January 4, 2015

Wildalone by Krassi Zourkova

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.

Wildalone has two of the most handsome, most charming, most inexplicably moneyed, and morally ambiguous love interests that a book can offer.  Rhys and Jake live slightly off Princeton's campus in a house that has a name and a butler (or is he a manservant?  Either way, you get the idea).  Rhys is sexy, romantic, with a controlling streak he papers over with lavish displays of love, and absolutely the sort of guy that you would warn your best friend away from with great vigor in real life, but in fiction, he's tantalizing.   Jake, mysterious with his white roses and thoughtful gifts, seems to know Thea better than she knows herself, but his inexplicable dedication to his brother's happiness keeps him from speaking up for her.  Soon Thea is wrapped up in the mercurial pair's web of secrets, secrets that come perilously close to Thea's own.

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.)


  1. Yay for you! I'm adding this book to my wish list!

  2. Hmmm. I enjoyed The Stolen Child, so may give this one a try. When it comes to ARCs, I'm the same as you! :-)

  3. I am right there with you, Megan, when it comes to ARCs. :-) Unless it's a tour with a scheduled date, I am notorious for being late in reviewing.

    What you said: "It's so easy to get lost in but so hard to talk about, and even harder to talk about without spoilers." Such statements intrigue me. I will have to look for this one.

  4. I had this one on my PBS wishlist and just turned it down today (regret my decision now)....sniff sniff