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Monday, August 10, 2009

Book Review: Another Faust by Daniel and Dina Nayeri

Another Faust tells the journey of five children who vanish from their homes and are re-introduced years later at an exclusive Manhattan prep school by their strange "governess", Madame Villeroy. The cover art of Another Faust gave me the impression that this book would be a much lighter read, but wow, was I wrong. If you think that Another Faust is going to be a glossy soap opera about spoiled rich kids with too much power, then you'd be mistaken, much like I was. Another Faust is a well crafted, educated and chilling tale of epic proportions. It is a re-imagined take on the Faustian tale that is masterfully written, with heavy prose and dark themes. To really understand it you need to give it your undivided attention. There are so many subtle machinations in motion as Madame Villeroy artfully exerts more and more of her control over the group of children.

The most appealing characters for me were Christian and Bice, because they had the most humanity. Having special abilities sounds fantastic right? Well Bice finds out that nothing is without a price when it comes to Madame Villeroy. Christian was willing to go to such great lengths for fame and fortune that he became an easy target for Madame Villeroy as well. Based on the type of childhood he had, I could understand his motivations, even if I didn't condone his actions. He still struggled with his conscience though, and that endeared his character to me.

As for the other children, Bella’s regret over her superficial fixation with beauty was heartbreaking and I kept hoping Bice would get her out of the jam she was in. My least favorite person, however, was Victoria. She was so selfish and downright diabolical, it was difficult to imagine her ever evolving into a person with a heart. But if a writer can evoke that kind of loathing in a fictional character, that's got to speak volumes for the quality of their writing, wouldn't you agree? I must also add that towards the end of the novel, I did acquire more understanding for Victoria's character,and almost even felt sorry for her a time or two. As for Valentin, he reminded me a lot of Victoria in that he had lost much of his decency, but there were small moments when I saw shreds of it shining through and because of that, his character was of great interest to me as well.

More than anything I wanted these five teens to find REDEMPTION. This desire kept me anxiously turning pages and reading much too late on many a night! The outcome of the novel was incredibly gripping and left me wondering if the authors will be writing more books in a series of novels. I have a feeling readers might not have seen the last of Madame Villeroy!

Final Note- If you enjoy thought provoking novels that can foster intelligent discussions about issues of morality and the pitfalls of greed and ambition, then this is a great book for you. For this reason I would even go a step further and suggest that Another Faust should be added to high school English curriculums. In my opinion it's a lot more fun than the original tale and I suspect teen readers would better relate to it as well. In addition, Another Faust has allusions to the original tale which are fun to pick out—for instance, the name of the elite prep school is ‘Marlowe’, a nod to Christopher Marlowe, who was the first to turn the Faustian myth into a morality play.

SPECIAL BONUS- Dina Nayeri has given me permission to share a deleted scene from the first chapter with you. It was cut during the first round because it was too dark, but according to Dina, it “gives you an idea of how horrible Victoria really is” (And I guarantee you will agree with that sentiment once you read this!)

Cut scene (from Chapter One)

“Drip…drip…drip. Victoria was transfixed by the fat droplets of cold water falling on her two-year-old brother’s forehead. He was sitting in the bathtub, fully clothed, and the water had been running, drop by drop, for an hour now. It was hard to keep him still so it would hit the same spot every time, but he was starting to turn blue and there was a red spot growing n his forehead. An annoyed grimace crept onto Victoria’s face as Charlie giggled and tried to grab a drop of water. She looked at her watch. How long does Chinese water torture take to work? He doesn’t have to die. Mum and dad will be home before then. A touch of brain damage, that’s all…..just a little tiny bit of permanent trauma. Maybe another twenty minutes….”

Hardcover: 400 Pages
Reading level: Young Adult
Publisher: Candlewick (August 25, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0763637076
ISBN-13: 978-0763637071
Buy at Amazon, Borders, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million, etc
Daniel and Dina's Official Website

Daniel Nayeri is a writer and editor in New York City. He wrote and produced “The Cult of Sincerity,” the first feature film to be world premiered by YouTube. He has had all kinds of jobs around books, including book repairman, literary agent, used bookstore clerk, children’s librarian, Official Story-Time Reader Leader, editor, copy-editor, and even carpenter (making bookshelves). He’s also a professional pastry chef. He loves Street Fighter 2, hates the word “foodie,” and is an award-winning stuntman.

Dina Nayeri graduated from Princeton where she first discovered her passion for fiction. However, being a stubborn know-it-all, she had to spend five years in the business world first. She worked as a consultant at McKinsey in New York City and as a project manager for Saks Fifth Avenue. Dina then received her MBA from Harvard Business School. During this time, she was a teaching fellow in economics at Harvard and a speaker on topics in business and marketing. Finally, she received a Master of Education from Harvard School of Education, where she was a Zuckerman fellow. It was during her graduate studies that Dina and Daniel began writing Another Faust together. Dina lives with her husband in Amsterdam. In her spare time, she loves to cook, travel, watch teen-flicks, and write stories.

Dina and Daniel were both born in Iran and spent many young adult years in Europe. There they learned several languages between them and tried Frosted Flakes for the first time. Their first two teen fantasy books, the first and second of Another Series will be published by Candlewick Press in 2009 & 2010.


Tales of Whimsy said...

Great review!

Mandi said...

I read this with one eye open because I am halfway through the book right now..I have NO idea how it is going to end...I'm really enjoying it so far

The Book Owl said...

Nice review. This book sounds amazing. It's been on my wishlist since I first heard of it. Glad it got such a good review. :)

Unknown said...

Great review! This is one I'll have to check out. Sounds good.

Carrie said...

Great review!! I've been wondering about this one. I think I'll have to pick it up. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Great review! Sounds like a great read for me! :)

Book Soulmates said...

Great review =) I just might have to add this to my ever growing TBR pile.

Also, I love the cover art...there's a dark sophistication to it that really captured me.


Betty said...

I enjoyed reading your review. It inspired me to put it on my reading list and if it's half as good as your review I'll recommend it to my book club. It's sure to facilitate alot of discussion. I'm currently reading a new book by Kathleen S. Wilson called Rumer & Qix. It's a great YA book about a girl and her sidekick battling evil in the universe and making tough decisions. It grabbed me in chapter one...I can hardly wait to finish it!

Kate said...

Superb review. Another Faust really intrigues me.

BookWorm said...

I read this terrific book and I have to say, I most definitely agreed with your review! Bella is Belle though. I love the deleted scene and I hope that the authors write more novels. I, myself, have placed a hold on "Another Pan." I hope you review that novel soon as well.