Monday, October 22, 2012

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Genre: YA fantasy/ paranormal romance
Pages: 417 (hardcover)
Published: 2011 by Little, Brown & Co

Around the world, black hand prints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grows dangerously low.  And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages—not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out.  When one of the strangers—beautiful, haunted Akiva—fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?
Daughter of Smoke and Bone has officially redeemed YA paranormal romance and fantasy for me, just when I was beginning to lose hope in the genres.  The story of Karou, a strange blue-haired girl living in the city of Prague who was raised by partly-human monsters called chimaera, and Akiva, the deadly angelic soldier with a strikingly perfect face and a poisoned past who finds himself bizarrely drawn to this not-quite-human girl he has never met, is utterly unique and utterly thrilling.  No mere "angel romance story", this book is practically devoid of fantasy cliches-- Lani Taylor has created a fantastical world and fantastical creatures all her own from her own twisted brand of angel and demon and alchemical mythology.

The characters-- I really can't remember the last time I got so fond of nearly all the characters in a book.  Karou is my kind of heroine: she collects magical wishes on a necklace and has a half-dozen or more tattoos-- the ones on her wrists read "True Story", which I thought was too funny. She goes to art school, dodges her stalker-ish ex-boyfriend, Kaz, and has her own little flat in Prague.  Yet she is desperately curious to know that truth about the otherworldly activities of Brimstone, her chimera guardian and a sorcerer, who sends her on errands around the world to bring back teeth-- animal teeth, human teeth, teeth collected in unorthodox and probably illegal ways-- so that he can work his mysterious brand of magic.  Karou's best friend Zusana, a fiery marionette-maker who is hardly bigger than a marionette doll herself, is two or three cuts above the token "quirky best-friend/confidante" YA character-- her snark was much appreciated.

The romance between Karou and Akiva was-- as those of you readers who know how I feel about romance in most books can probably guess-- not my favorite part of the novel.  But, there is tragedy involved in their relationship and tragic love *sighs* is so much more romantic, in my opinion, than regular ol' love.  I'm hoping that the next book in the series develops Karou and Akiva's relationship in the present day to a greater extent, as YA desperately needs some more well-developed romance.

Karou's origins are a deep mystery, more to her than her secretive chimaera guardians, who stubbornly guard the truth about how she came to be raised by them in Brimstone's shop.  She and the angel Akiva, who runs across her on one of her teeth-smuggling errands and is instantly entranced by her, sense that Karou is far more than human.  The way the truth of Karou's background unfolds is unpredictable and shocking, and we are left with a cliffhanger-- the book ends before Karou's reaction to discovering who she truly is is ever fully revealed.  I'm actually glad I was late to this book's party, because I won't have to wait long for the sequel, Days of Blood and Starlight, to be released in November.  I definitely hope that fantasy and paranormal readers tired of the same old cliches will take a chance on this book; I'm really glad that I finally did.

Quotes: --"Hope can be a powerful force. Maybe there's no actual magic in it, but when you know what you hope for most and hold it like a light within you, you can make things happen, almost like magic.”
--“It is a condition of monsters that they do not perceive themselves as such. The dragon, you know, hunkered in the village devouring maidens, heard the townsfolk cry 'Monster!' and looked behind him.”
--“Have you ever asked yourself, do monsters make war, or does war make monsters?”
--“The streets of Prague were a fantasia scarcely touched by the twenty-first century—or the twentieth or nineteenth, for that matter. It was a city of alchemists and dreamers, its medieval cobbles once trod by golems, mystics, invading armies. The wind carried the memory of magic, revolution, violins, and the cobbled lanes meandered like creeks. Thugs wore Motzart wigs and pushed chamber music on street corners, and marionettes hung in windows, making the whole city seem like a theater with unseen puppeteers crouched behind velvet.”

My Rating:


Ruperto Prieto said...

Hmm... Nice review! I've seen this books many times at my favorite bookstore, the cover though isn't working for me. I guess I shouldn't judge it by the cover alone. I'm glad you liked it very much!

Miss Page-Turner said...

YAY!I really loved Daughter of Smoke and Bone and am glad that you did, too:) I can't wait to read the sequel!!

Aylee said...

YES I felt the same way! It was just so surprising and unique for a paranormal romance type of read! I could've done with a bit less focus on the romance because it's not my favourite thing either though.

Kat said...

@Ruperto-- I don't know if I love the cover, either. They could have definitely thought of a better design.

@Miss Page-turner-- I can't wait, either!

@Aylee-- We seem to nearly always have the same consensus about books-- similar reading tastes! Yeah, the last little bit of the book had a little too much romance, but everything up to that point was brilliant. Glad you enjoyed it, too. :)

Maria Behar said...

Hey, Kat!

WOW. This is an absolutely FABULOUS review!! As I've ssid before, and will again, you have a WONDERFUL writing style! It flows, keeping my interest throughout. And your analysis of the characters and plot is so entertaining! Love it!!

I totally agree with you regarding this book -- it's definitely several cuts above the usual YA fare. I think it even ascends to the level of literary fiction. The only quibble I do have with the plot is the reason Brimstone needs those teeth. I think it very much goes against the grain, for anyone who believes in God. That's all I will say, so as not to spoil things for other readers.

Having said the above, I still love this book! Aside from the characters and plot, I also ADORE the prose style! That quote you've posted about the city of Prague is one of my favorites, too. What BEAUTIFUL writing!!

I also agree with you about Karou. What a terrific character!! I love that she's an art student, and in the magical city of Prague, to boot! And, she has BLUE hair. I don't dare dye my hair that color, but I wish I could. I don't because heck, I have to go to work in order to make a living. If I were an eccentric millionaire, then you can bet I would dye it that color in a heartbeat!! In other words, Karou is my TRUE self...sigh...

Thanks for another terrific review!!

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