The night that Heaven lost her heart was cold and moonless. But the blade that sliced it out was warm with her dark blood…
David Pettyfer is taking a shortcut over the dark rooftops of London’s brooding houses, when he literally stumbles across Heaven: a strange, beautiful, distraught girl who says that bad men have stolen her heart. Yet she’s still alive…
And so begins David and Heaven’s wild, exciting and mysterious adventure—to find Heaven’s heart, and to discover the incredible truth about her origins.
Characters: Despite its title and cover art, Heaven actually features a male protagonist; the troubled and emotionally closed-off David, who is running from a past that is riddled with both social and familial problems. David is somewhat abrasive and distant towards other at the novels opening, although he does progress during the course of events, and his encounter with Heaven, and becomes more emotionally open and trusting. Heaven, meanwhile, is a somewhat more ambiguous character, in some respects, as she is seen primarily from David’s perspective and for much of the novel, he is piecing together bits that he knows both of her personality and her situation. As a result, Heaven comes across as likeable enough, but she appears ultimately as more of a subject than a person; someone that bad things keep happening to, and so the reader feels automatic sympathy for her, but you are left slightly unaware of *who* she truly is. The antagonist of the novel, or at least the central villain, is Mr. Drood (he goes by many names) – an eerily calm, poised and ruthless murderer who willingly carries out dastardly deeds for an unknown master. Mr Drood reminded me greatly of the villain in Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book; allusive and removed from general society, operating entirely by their own rules and habits. While he was never truly threatening, his presence was always felt, and he was certainly the most interesting character in the book.
Originality: What drew me first to this novel was its premise, and the fairy-tale feel it evoked, and indeed that instinct proved fruitful as the novel does contain elements of original myths and fairy-tales crafted by Marzi and informing the magical elements of the narrative. There was a unique and different take on both faerie and zombie lore, both addressed quite subtlety and without ever overpowering the more dream-like, ambiguous tone that the novel often took with its fantasy elements, seemingly never wanting to draw the content too completely into any given sub-genre.
Plot: The opening chapter of the novel is undoubtedly its strongest, setting the scene with evocative description and quite simple, direct language. From then, the action moves at a considerably swift pace, which impacts greatly upon both the development of Heaven and David’s relationship, the exploration of their characters and the building of tension. While the romance between Heaven and David isn’t necessarily a case of ‘insta-love’, it is quite quick to come about, however genuine the emotions involved appear to be, and this lessens its credibility. The elements of original fantasy lore also are presented often at random and in brief instances, resulting in some confusion as to what is threatening Heaven, and what the nature of her condition is.
Writing: I believe this is Christoph Marzi’s first novel in English, as he has several books published in his native German, and at times this slight separation lends his writing a distinct flavour of exoticism. Some of his descriptions, while never abundant, create some rather interesting imagery, and he has a rather blunt manner when describing emotion that is refreshing and honest, especially when portraying young adults and their interactions with one another. One thing I especially appreciated about the construction of the book was its setting; it takes place in London, but much of the action is concerned with the rooftops of shops, houses and apartments throughout London’s suburbs, which is where David and Heaven go to find their solitude. Getting to spend time in such a specific and surprisingly evocative location was quite a treat.
Renee’s rating: While I did find it hard to connect to the characters, and I deeply regret the quick pacing at which the events of the story progressed, I enjoyed the more original and magical aspects of Marzi’s novel, and would be interested in reading more YA work from him.