I can’t argue with the National Book Award nomination for this one. Taylor’s fantasy never feels derivative, even though she acknowledges various sources of inspiration for each story. Each fantastical premise is alluring and disturbing and fascinating in its own right, creating a sense that anything could happen. The illustrations are a great match to the stories, giving a sort of preview of each story, but they’re also great to turn back to once you get into the stories. Both the world building and character building are accomplished, and the sentence-level writing is often exquisite and evocative.
While I recognized certain similarities – particularly the quality of imagination, more than specific elements – to Faeries of Dreamdark Blackbringer, these stories are pitched more to a young adult audience. The combination of romance and darkness brings to mind the recent crop of stories about fairies, I can’t think of anything else as finely done as this one. Which isn’t to say that it’s difficult or inaccessible – readers looking for pure plot and fantasy world-building will find plenty here to keep them enthralled.