In Leora’s world, people tattoo their bodies with the story of their lives: their family trees, their failures and accomplishments, and their shames. At death, their bodies are flayed and the skin is turned into a book, from which anyone can read their story. When the book is ready, it is judged and a virtuous person’s book is brought home by their descendants and honored. But if their lives are judged unworthy, then the book is tossed on a great fire and burned and the person’s life is forgotten. There is no greater misfortune for the person or their family.
Leora has always considered her father a kind and good man. When he dies, she is certain that his honor is assured. So when she finds out that his body contains a black mark that identifies him as unworthy of being remembered, she is sure that it is mistake. Desperate to save his book from the fire, she searches for a way to protect his legacy, along the way making shocking discoveries about her community.
A stunningly unique dystopia which imagines a universe where things are black/white and as permanent as a tattoo. Your life is public knowledge, visible on your skin for others to see. Designs and symbols have special meanings and nuances. It’s both a wonderfully complex metaphor and a vehicle for a great adventure.
The story itself twists and turns with plots and counter-plots. At times, it’s hard to keep up, but even when I lost the track, it was compelling enough to keep reading. And for those who can’t get enough, there’s a sequel coming out next month (that I will review closer to its release). At this point, most of the effort is spent on introducing the complexities of Leora's world. The characters have not yet grown particularly interesting (although the ending is pleasingly shocking). I imagine she and her compatriots will grow on me.
[Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my unbiased review.]