10 stars, a hundred. I was so disappointed when I turned the page and saw that it was over. Darth Vadar style, all NooooOOoooOOOoo......
The back jacket says this is a book about a quest to find the Caravan Bestiary, a legendary, lost illuminated manuscript detailing all the mythical creatures who were not granted passage on Noah's Arc. (Griffins, manticores, dragons, hydras, etc.) And it's totally about that, and on one level it's a really fun summer blockbuster-style ride.
Except not really, because that doesn't capture the pace and style with which the book unfolds, and that's not really what it's about. It's about the human animal, and how we each evolve over a lifetime, and the ways that we disappear from each other's lives, and return, or don't. How we come together and come apart.
If I had to bullet-point the reasons every page of this book sang to my soul they would be, in no particular order:
* National Treasure/Dan Brown-style secret historical intrigue;
* acceptance of the exertion and influence of the supernatural on our everyday lives;
* exploration of the relationship between humans and animals (real, imaginary, future, extinct) on this planet;
* dark stuff about children's relationships with their parents, plus light stuff about the family you get vs the family you choose.
Anyways, loved it.
A couple of page breaks now because I want to talk about some other stuff. Not spoiler, more notes to future readers if they want them.
The author sets up a lot of things in motion early on, and if you are a person who likes to figure out the ending of a movie 30 minutes in, or always find that type of set-up very obvious, then there might be a point towards the end of the book where you're like "Well, duh." But I am not a person like that, so when I finally realized what was about to happen, and I saw how things that had been set up chapters ago were suddenly about to click into place, my love for the book shot through the roof. I was reading it on the subway and couldn't stop smiling.
There are a couple of set pieces in the book (funeral, Vietnam) that I thought were incredibly well-written.
Also this is a book about animals, so there are a lot of casual references to animals. There's a phoenix on just about every page, or someone is from Hydra, or something is zebra-striped, etc. The references are piled on top of one another. I can see that being annoying to some people, but I really enjoyed it. It was to the point where I almost stopped seeing them, which is kind of how it is, in real life. Humans have this whole weird relationship with animals and what we think that means isn't really what it means, we just don't think about it on a daily basis. Really interesting stuff.