Another Faust – Daniel and Dina Nayeri

I almost wrote a Music Monday blog until I remembered today is actually Friday!! Yay!!

Last week, I finished re-reading Another Faust:

another-faust-book-cover

A devilish debut by a brother-sister team invites us into the world of the elite Marlowe School, where some gifted students are having a hell of a year.

One night, in cities all across Europe, five children vanish — only to appear, years later, at an exclusive New York party with a strange and elegant governess. Rumor and mystery follow the Faust teenagers to the city’s most prestigious high school, where they soar to suspicious heights with the help of their benefactor’s extraordinary “gifts.” But as the students claw their way up — reading minds, erasing scenes, stopping time, stealing power, seducing with artificial beauty — they start to suffer the side effects of their own addictions. And as they make further deals with the devil, they uncover secrets more shocking than their most unforgivable sins. At once chilling and wickedly satirical, this contemporary re-imagining of the Faustian bargain is a compelling tale of ambition, consequences, and ultimate redemption.”

I read it when it first come out a few years ago, but I recently bought the third (and possibly final?) book in the series and decided to re-read the first two (I’m about 1/4 of the way through Another Pan).

I’ve always been a fan of “fractured fairy tales”, and I remember being intrigued by this one because by the time it came out, I had read two versions of the Faust legend in school: Goethe’s Faust and Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus (so of course, as soon as I read that their school was called Marlowe, I was all, “I SEE WHAT YOU DID THERE, GUYS, AND I APPROVE”).

It’s an interesting read and not a typical YA novel…and that’s a good thing.

The five children are each given gifts by their governess Madame Vileroy who is literally the devil: Victoria reads minds, Valentin “erases scenes” aka time-travels, Christian steals other people’s powers/strengths, Belle uses a mask of beauty to seduce, and Bice (Belle’s twin sister) “hides” by stopping time (freezing everyone else while she goes on living). The point is that all the children were desperate enough to sell their souls in exchange for what they wanted most – all of them, except Bice, the only innocent, who is not aware of Madame Vileroy’s real identity (neither is Christian because as a child, he began to re-think his decision, and so he and Bice were brainwashed into accepting their new lives without question).

It’s a little complicated to summarize the plot without giving too much away. The different story lines and narratives weave together to form a fascinating look at the children’s motives and goals. It’s descriptive without being tedious, though there were some points where I wanted a little more explanation.

I admit that the characters are hard to relate to. I guess Bice – as the innocent one – is supposed to be the most sympathetic. And there are parts where you feel bad for her when you realize that she has no real memories of her life before Vileroy, but is content to have her sister around, despite Belle selfishly hiding the truth, even when Bice starts to ask questions. But then, at the same time, Bice uses the gift Vileroy gave her and doesn’t seem to think twice about it – until she realizes that her siblings have become more intense and focused than they were before (particularly Victoria who was abhorrent). Plus Bice’s gift confused me the most, and that was a part that I thought needed more development (or at least, further clarification).

I personally enjoyed Another Faust, but it’s definitely not a light-hearted beach read. It requires some thinking and – if you’re anything like me – a lot of close-reading/analysis so that you can find all the literary/historical allusions. It was a bit slow-going at first, but it was all set-up so halfway through the book, it picked up speed which resulted in a mad dash to the finish line.

Speaking of the ending, it was insane – it happened really fast and, while the authors did a great job of painting the scene, I remember reading it the first time a few years ago and not fully understanding what happened. Even this time around, it took me a while to figure out what they were trying to tell me.

I’m hoping to finish both Another Pan and Another Jekyll/Another Hyde (can you guess what stories those two books re-imagine?) in time for next week’s Fiction Friday, but we’ll see.

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