Luli Wei is beautiful, talented, and desperate to be a star. Coming of age in pre-Code Hollywood, she knows how dangerous the movie business is and how limited the roles are for a Chinese American girl from Hungarian Hill—but she doesn’t care. She’d rather play a monster than a maid. But in Luli’s world, the worst monsters in Hollywood are not the ones on screen. The studios want to own everything from her face to her name to the women she loves, and they run on a system of bargains made in blood and ancient magic, powered by the endless sacrifice of unlucky starlets like her. For those who do survive to earn their fame, success comes with a steep price. Luli is willing to do whatever it takes—even if that means becoming the monster herself.
Luli was an interesting character for sure. I enjoyed that she maintained her values as much as she could whilst on the rise to fame. She could of easily accepted her place at the studio and became one of the changelings but she stood her ground and never fully gave in or gave too much of herself. You have to be a bit selfish to abandon your family and steal your sisters name in the hopes of becoming a star which made her more realistic and relatable.
The writing was simply beautiful. Lyrical, descriptive and so atmospheric I could picture every single scene with clarity. It was a little difficult to imagine the studio space especially the first time Luli and Greta head to the fires, but you definitely get accustomed to the style and whimsy of this reality. I think not fully being aware of what’s happening and being a disoriented pulls us into the story and we get more a feel of what Luli is dealing with.
This book really teeters on the edge of fantasy without being outright fantastical. It was in your face but it would be brief and unassuming and no one would react to any of it. The Hollywood setting is just so interesting and I would of loved if we could of explored a little more of the filmmaking process than what we got. Being a part of the interviews and the red carpets instead of just being told about them.
There just wasn’t really any kind of built up of anticipation or stakes that kept me invested. In the end I was just reading to pretty much finish the book as opposed to having an interest in how these events were going to unfold.
⭐️3/5 stars A solid story just a touch too long.