Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Review: Another Faust by Daniel & Dina Nayeri

Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication Date: August 25th, 2009

A devilish debut by a brother-sister team invites us into the world of the elite Marlowe School, where some gifted students are having a hell of a year.

One night, in cities all across Europe, five children vanish — only to appear, years later, at an exclusive New York party with a strange and elegant governess. Rumor and mystery follow the Faust teenagers to the city’s most prestigious high school, where they soar to suspicious heights with the help of their benefactor’s extraordinary "gifts." But as the students claw their way up — reading minds, erasing scenes, stopping time, stealing power, seducing with artificial beauty — they start to suffer the sideeffects of their own addictions. And as they make further deals with the devil, they uncover secrets more shocking than their most unforgivable sins. At once chilling and wickedly satirical, this contemporary reimagining of the Faustian bargain is a compelling tale of ambition, consequences, and ultimate redemption.
(Courtesy of Goodreads)

I have been meaning to read this book for a couple of years, and I just never got to it.  It sat of my shelf and kind of got forgotten as many of the books I buy do.  I'm not sure why I put off reading it at first, but I'm glad I found a reason to come back to it (I got a copy of the 3rd book in the series, Another Jekyll, Another Hyde, on NetGalley), because it was really good.

It's funny.  I was reluctant when I first picked this book back up because the reviews are rather mixed.  People seem to have pretty strong opinions of it in both directions.  Personally, I don't see what the haters see.  I thought this book was very well written, and the story was interesting and quite original, which isn't necessarily an easy task when retelling an old tale.  It was thought provoking and full of scenarios that made me step back and ask myself what I would have done if presented with the same "deals" the Faust children were presented with.  I also liked the little italicized snippets of Madame Vileroy's past (and one future) deeds.  I felt like they gave a lot of insight into the fact that the five Faust children were not really as special as she made them think they were.

I have to say that aside from the brilliant premise, the characters were my favorite part.  The Nayeri siblings manage to develop them in such a way that you connect with them over time.  While I never actually liked Victoria or Valentin, the authors made me understand their drive and absolute need, at any cost, to be the best.  I found Belle to be the most pathetic of the five, and the more that was revealed of her story, the more I felt that way; I can't say I ever grew to LIKE her, but I did feel a growing pity for her that made it impossible for me to ever dislike her.  As for Christian and Bice, they were by far, my favorite characters.  Christian really wanted to be good, and honestly didn't understand why he felt compelled to "steal" the way he did; I felt like he had an honest soul that was ensnared in something very ugly.  Bice was written to be endearingly awkward, and I was quite (pleasantly) surprised by how her story evolved, right up until the end.  As for Madame Vileroy... Beautiful, manipulative, ever-present and ready to prey on every insecurity the children had.  I've met some creepy characters in my many years of reading, and I dare say that she takes the cake in an overt sort of way.

Finally, I want to touch on the plot pacing.  This was a major complaint for a lot of reviewers; they said it was much too slow and choppy.  On this point, I have to disagree.  While I didn't find this to be a quick read, I never found it tedious either.  The character development and backstory took time, yes, but those pieces were absolutely essential to making the story what it was.  I felt like it moved smoothly and I liked that there were important reveals throughout the story, instead of one climactic one in the end.

Overall, I thought this story was very well done.  I think that as a retelling of an old folk tale, it held on to all of the important elements of the original, while evolving into something completely unique, modern, and relevant.  It is definitely a book that has to be read by the right person; someone who enjoys reading and digging into thought provoking novels.  Patience is key in truly enjoying this book.  I'm looking forward to reading books number two (Another Pan) and three (Another Jekyll, Another Hyde).

My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ 

Grade Level Recommendation:  I didn't really find much objectionable content.  No sex, language, or gratuitous violence.  It is a rather dark story, and very complex, so I wouldn't just give it to a younger reader, and as I said in my review, it needs to be read by someone who is willing to dig in.  That said, as an average, I would recommend this to grades 8and up (ages 13+).  A mature well-read 6th or 7th grader would enjoy it as well, but given the length  and time spent on development, it would have to a more patient one (my daughter, who is almost 11, would never get through it).


  1. I also loved this book, and got to read the third one. You can see my review of Another Jekyll, Another Hyde here: http://misclisa.blogspot.com/2012/02/another-jekyll-another-hyde-by-daniel.html

  2. Thanks for the review! I love all things Faustian, but I wasn't sure if this would turn out to be a decent adaptation or not. I'll have to check it out now!

  3. This series has been on my radar for years. I keep trying to find the time to get to it. I love the titles of these books, but like you I was scared of the mixed reviews. I will definitely have to make time for this series.

  4. It's the first time I read about this series, and your review certainly has me eager now to read it!
    It sounds quite different from the books I normally read, so that's a bonus! It sure has entered my tbr list

  5. I read this a couple of years ago and completely agree with everything you said! It wasn't a quick read, but it was still pretty enjoyable. I haven't read the other books in the series, but maybe I will! Great review :)


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