Review: Illyria by Elizabeth Hand

Summary of Illyria by Elizabeth Hand:

Madeleine and Rogan are first cousins, best friends, twinned souls, each other’s first love. Even within their large, disorderly family – all descendants of a famous actress – their intensity and passion for theater sets them apart. It makes them a little dangerous. When they are cast in their school’s production of Twelfth Night, they are forced to face their separate talents and futures, and their future together.

This stunning short novel, winner of the World Fantasy Award, is the perfect introduction to Elizabeth Hand’s singular voice. Her many novels offer a window into what it means to create art, to experience it, to feel passionately about the world. Illyria throws her talent into high relief – it is magic on paper. (via Goodreads)

My Review of Illyria by Elizabeth Hand:

Before I say anything else, I just have to say that Elizabeth Hand is an absolutely phenomenal writer. Seriously, the breathtakingly gorgeous writing of this story blew me away. I can’t wait to read more of her; I need to hit the library to pick up some of her adult titles.

Calling Illyria young adult is a little iffy to me, just because the characters are teenagers for a majority of the story doesn’t mean it has to have a YA label. The themes and emotions the book focuses on are much more adult to me. But at the same time, I’m not one for labels and I read both YA and adult books constantly – I just don’t want people to be misled.

A lot of people will probably want to avoid this book due to its taboo first-cousins-in-love plot. It makes the book feel so dark and gothic – to me it adds a deeper layer of allure to the plot. It all feels a little other-worldly to me, which is what I think kept the creep factor at bay for me.

So, I really enjoyed Illyria by Elizabeth Hand…but I think it really is just something you have to judge for yourself. It is probably beyond a lot of peoples’ comfort levels, and that’s fine. But if you can get past that enough to pick up the book, I definitely recommend it. The writing is stunning, and I enjoyed pushing myself out of my comfort zone.

{ 8 comments… add one }
  • Kathryn October 25, 2010, 6:49 pm

    hmmmm… first cousin love, huh
    I don't know if I will try this, but I must say that the cover caught my eyes ^^

  • Kelsey October 25, 2010, 7:29 pm

    This sounds really different. The cover is very eye catching but I haven't read many reviews. I'll have to check it out!

  • Jan von Harz October 25, 2010, 10:08 pm

    I am always up for a beautifully written book and since this what you focused on I think I will have to check it out too. Thanks for the great review!

  • Jo October 25, 2010, 11:48 pm

    I thought this was a really unusual book. Her book of short stories, Saffron and Brimstone, is also very cool.

  • Carla October 26, 2010, 10:49 am


    I just wanted to let you know that you've received an award over at my blog, Library Mosaic. Congrats!

  • Andrea October 26, 2010, 2:07 pm

    I wonder if it might be less "yucky" if it were set in Victorian era or sometime like that when first cousins did marry each other. I might give it a try as it sounds good other than that.

  • Audra October 27, 2010, 1:23 am

    Twisted! I get her confused with Elizabeth Bear all the time — I think I read Saffron & Brimstone — another twisted series of stories!

  • Misty October 31, 2010, 4:08 pm

    Breathtakingly gorgeous, huh? Maybe I need to bump this one up my list.
    And I'm not squeamish about the cousins. It was a fact of life for a loooong time (and recent. Hello, Eleanor Roosevelt didn't have to chance her name when she married…)


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