The Cost of All Things by Maggie Lehrman is the kind of book that so many writers, including me, aspire to write: one that is complex and emotional and eventful and layered and beautiful and painful. In short, it describes life, and it made me feel more alive to read it. It’s brilliant.
That being said, it’s based on what some would say is a totally impossible premise, is told from four separate points of view, and shifts back and forth throughout the entire book from present to past and back again. Surely, it would seem to be contradictory that such a story could be described as “brilliant.” I assure you that it is, though. Here’s why:
What Cost of All Things is About
The premise is that there are a group of high-school friends that have available to them the services of a “hekamist,” a witch who can provide them with various potions. In the first few pages, we learn that Ari, one of the main characters, is so distraught over the recent death of her boyfriend Win that she gets a spell from the hekamist to erase his memory from her head. “All spells have side effects,” she’s told, meaning that in order for there to be balance, she must expect an equally powerful but unknown consequence to the gift of getting rid of that pain. Ari takes the spell, forgets Win, and finds out that she is no longer an amazing ballerina, a skill that was to be the basis of her future career.
What Makes it Brilliant?
The things that’s brilliant about this story is that, as the story progresses through of the eyes of Kay, Markos, and Win, who are all part of the same group of friends, it becomes this amazingly fleshed out emotional roller coaster. Each character has his or her distinct voice and a distinct role to play in the progression of the downward spiral that is The Cost’s plot. It does not spiral downward in quality but towards the revelation of the cause of Win’s death some months before, and as it gets closer to that revelation, more and more spells are sought–or sought but not taken–by different characters, further complicating their lives. Indeed, when I finished The Cost, I had to write out the plot linearly from an objective point of view to make sure I understood what had happened and why. For the two of you who care about that, you can find that description here (caution: spoiler alert).
So, if I were to rank this book according to Amazon’s or Goodread’s five-star system, I would give it a full five stars. On my own 10-star system, it gets all 10 stars, meaning:
- the plot is engaging, solidly-crafted, and uniquely-constructed
- the characters are interesting, real, and relatable
- the premise is cool, unique, and in some way relevant to my life
- the style or quality of writing is superb
- the setting is described well enough, and is interesting enough to ground me in the story
I’m giving away one Kindle copy of The Cost of All Things! Either follow me on Twitter, retweet about my giveaway if you’re already following me there, or leave a blog post comment (all through the Rafflecopter entry form below) to be entered to win. Happy reading!