All Our Pretty Songs – Sarah McCarry

Aurora and the nameless narrator are best friends who love each other wholly and completely. They’re of different races (one mixed, one white) and classes (one rich, one poor) but they’re like sisters. The narrator would do anything for Aurora, whose father, a famous rocker, died when she was young and whose mother is an addict.

Things go wrong when, attracted by the narrator’s boyfriend’s musical talent and Aurora’s beauty, the god of the underworld starts to take an interest. Will the narrator be able to save Aurora, or will they suffer the fate of Orpheus and Eurydice?

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I had a few complaints about the novel. One was the occasionally overwrought prose, endless streams of metaphor describing music and kisses, reaching for poetic and failing through sheer quantity. Another was that it took a while for the urban fantasy/Greek mythology plot to get underway. But once it does, oh boy is it good.

I highly recommend this book, mainly for the narrator’s journey to the underworld, which is pitch-perfect. It’s also got great depictions of art and of friendship, friendship being the heart of the story. The truth is, sometimes the person you love most has something that matters to them more than you do, and you have to let them go. At the same time, the author offers a warning against letting go unnecessarily in the depiction of the mothers’ friendship, which has disintegrated but is revived. So there’s a nice level of complexity.

This is a sad book, fair warning. But it’s lovely, too. Here’s one of the less overwrought, more beautiful quotes:

“That is the story of you, Aurora: You are always waiting until tomorrow to be sad. You’re a fairy princess beaming at me, remaking the world in your image. Wiping away everything that hurts. But someday everything that hurts will come back and kill you. Your face, your wide dark eyes, your white hair, the skin I know as well as I know my own. “Okay,” I say. “For you, tonight, I will be happy.””

This is a the first of a trilogy, but the other books feature different protagonists. I’ve already bought book two, Dirty Wings, and will definitely be reading it.

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