Author: Christoph Marzi
Publication date: February 2nd 2012
Publisher: Orchard Books
The night that Heaven lost her heart was cold and moonless. But the blade that sliced it out was warm with her dark blood. Forlorn, bewildered and throbbing fearfully, the heart was mirrored in the curved, silvery knife.
Heaven by Cristoph Marzi is a very unusual and refreshing modern day fairy tale. It was originally published in German in 2009, then translated to English and published by Orchard Books in 2012. If there’s one thing I love about Orchard, it’s that they’re not afraid to publish strange, risky titles that are clearly not for everyone (case in point: Ultraviolet). Heaven is a perfect example of precisely that – it is a beautiful, but unsettling story with a deeper allegorical significance. It can be taken at face value, or dug into for as many layers as any individual reader sees fit.
For seventeen-year-old David Pettyfer, life in Cardiff with his family became almost impossible when he was fifteen years old, so he ran away to London where he pushed drugs to survive. A year later, he got a job at a small bookstore and a tiny room above it and managed to turn his life around. He works for an old widow with a gift for finding rare books. One night, while running across the rooftops in Kensington, he nearly falls over a beautiful girl crouching in the dark. Her name is Heaven and she claims her heart has been cut out from her chest by two evil men. Naturally, David assumes she’s drunk or on drugs, but when they get to the emergency room, her lack of heartbeat confirms her story. Pretty soon both David and Heaven are being chased by these two evil men all over London. In order to survive, they need to find a way to get Heaven’s heart back.
For what’s basically an urban fairy tale, Heaven is extremely fast-paced. Remember Run Lola Run with Franka Potente? That’s how it felt to me. David and Heaven were constantly moving, changing, running from one life-threatening situation into another. Still, David wasn’t too quick to believe Heaven’s story. After all, no one can lose a heart and live to tell the tale. It wasn’t until the ER doctor frowned and went to make a mysterious phone call that David realized Heaven was telling the truth. Although David felt immediately attracted to this dark-skinned girl, their romance didn’t develop instantly. They took the time to get to know one another as much as the circumstances allowed before falling in love.
There were two things that disappointed and made me lower my rating. Villains were the first. They too were straight out of a fairy tale, but pure, unrestrained evil isn’t nearly as frightening as subtle evil. Instead, it can be almost ridiculous at times, and with these two, Marzi walked a very thin line. Secondary characters were also neglected, especially in the first half. Interludes, small chapters from their points of view helped, but there were some I wanted to know more about.
Regardless of its few flaws, Heaven deserves far more attention than it’s been getting, if for nothing else, then for the novelty it brings to the Young Adult genre.