Tarlo has given up candle-making in favour of being a courtesan. She’s a courtesan with a difference though, and her candles still have a role to play. Masked, she is able to travel the high society of Serenissima without fear – but also without feeling. Why oh why had she ever gotten herself into this mess? Tarlo can trust even fewer people than before.
Most of this novel feels like the focus is actually away from Tarlo as she shuts herself off from the world after her brutal induction into the practices of a courtesan. Dante, Katina, Santo, the ambassator and others get a chance to speak up, and I think it adds depth to the novel that perhaps was more understated in the first book.
This novel could almost stand-alone from Tallow, although of course I would recommend reading both of them and in order. There is plenty of background information fed to the reader in a convincing way.
One of the few things that irked me about this novel was the front cover (see left). Tarlo’s eyes are what distinguish her from ordinary people, and presumably that is her on the cover – but her eyes aren’t silver pools! Also from the description after she alters her eyes, I still felt like they were a little more noticeable than they appear to be in this novel.
Compared to Tallow, this novel is filled with ‘authentic’ language. I didn’t feel the need to consult the glossary at any point (although one is handily put in at the end of the novel) to decipher what the characters were saying, because the context almost always made it clear.
Having read a couple of shocking novels lately, and wondering why I didn’t enjoy them, I tried to be really constructive and critical in the way I read this book. I think a distinguishing feature is that the descriptions of thigns don’t seem forced – they are natural in the way that Tarlo and the other characters speek.
This novel is surprisingly depressing. I found myself very sad about what Tarlo found herself doing, and also the horrible things that happen to Dante and Katina. The injustices done to the housemaid also are quite horrifying. Don’t let that put you off though, because there is always someone watching who might be able to make a difference in lives when you least expect it.
I sped my way through this novel, despite knowing that I couldn’t read the last book until I went home for the weekend. The ending was really compelling, and I stayed up way past my bedtime to read it. It was utterly satisfying, and I even felt as if the ending was a good conclusion that wasn’t too much of a cliffhanger (so waiting until the weekend to read Illumination wasn’t complete torture!).
I’d recommend this novel for adults and teens. It’s a fantastic, relatively easy read that any fantasy lover will enjoy. I think it is also a good novel for history lovers, and could appeal to a really wide range of readers (perhaps even romance readers??).