Also by this author: Days of Blood and Starlight, Dreams of Gods and Monsters
Series: Daughter of Smoke and Bone #1
Published by Little Brown Books for Young Readers on June 5, 2012
Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance, YA
Around the world, black handprints 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 grown 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?
I decided to tackle the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series this month for the Summer of Series challenge. And seriously, I am so glad I made that decision. This book was phenomenal. Unlike anything I’ve ever read. It is unique…yet familiar. It has beautifully-crafted language…yet it’s never pretentious. And it has characters whom you care for throughout the entire novel. My only problem is the sudden drop-off of some secondary characters. Now let’s get to it.
This story is the beautiful combination of utterly fantastical and simply normal. And Taylor somehow made these two very different concepts work in the main character of Karou. She was both normal and…not normal. The character development in her was beautiful. And this mix of normalcy and fantastic was also beautiful. Let me give you an example…Background: there’s an angel sitting in front of Karou (not an angel in the same sense that you’d imagine, but I’ll get to that later), and he’s an enemy angel, so obviously this isn’t a normal moment for most people. But for Karou…here are her thoughts:
She kind of wanted to take off her boots, but that was something you didn’t do if there was any chance you might have to quickly flee or kick someone. Judging from Akiva’s plain exhaustion, she didn’t think she was in danger of either. The only danger was of foot smell.
She kept her boots on.
This is something that a teenage girl would honestly think in front of boys or such. And for Karou, this is a thought she would have even in this kind of dire and magical moment. Because she’s just a teenage girl swept up in this magical world. And I loved seeing the intertwining of these two worlds shown in the character of Karou.
Second, I loved Karou. Besides what I’ve already talked about, she is just awesome. She’s this kick-butt beautiful girl with bright blue hair who happens to be a sort-of assistant to a chimaera in a different world. She has all these quirks that make her so relatable and so real, despite the very unrealistic surroundings around her. Also, she collects languages like someone collects stamps. So she’s awesome. And throughout the book, Karou kind of goes on this journey of self-discovery, unbeknownst to her. What’s cool is that we are taking that journey along of discovery along with her, trying to figure out who exactly she is. So I really care for her and I need to see where she goes next in the sequel.
The writing is so beautiful. And a lot of times, when I read almost poetic sounding language (*cough We Were Liars cough*), it comes off almost pretentious and not at all how someone actually thinks. And I realized that problem stems from the first person perspective. Because that’s honestly their thoughts. In this book though, it’s third person and therefore the narrator can be poetic if he pleases. But it’s just beautiful. Let’s take a look at Karou’s first description:
Karou was, simply, lovely. Creamy and leggy, with long azure hair and the eyes of a silent-movie star, she moved like a poem and smiled like a sphinx.
This poetic language also works because I can still picture what they’re saying. Sometimes metaphors and similes get lost in the comparison and perhaps the author knew what he/she was trying to say…but it’s hard for the reader to sometimes bridge that gap. This wasn’t the case! I just loved it. And it didn’t take over. It just felt natural and not forced at all.
Neeeeext, this world is just so unique. Laini Taylor must have such an imaginative mind. Each character is so different and well-developed. Man, I don’t really want to say more because I don’t want to give it away.
But despite it being so unique, it’s also stemmed from very familiar concepts to us. Which is an interesting twist on things. It’s the basic angel versus devil story that we all know to some extent, even including the fallen angels who are thrown out of “heaven.” But Taylor takes these stories and changes them. It’s interesting because they say it’s us as humans who have heard bits and pieces of the truth and that’s all we know. So Taylor took these bits and pieces and wove together an entirely unique story. Oh man, this review is getting long but I have other things to say! The pacing was SO good. Taylor seemed to know exactly when to end a chapter, when to switch to a different character, when to end one of the parts. Basically how to make me want to keep reading and never stop. Bah. Also what was interesting it that towards the end of the book, we start figuring out the “secret” that is Karou’s life but it’s not really uncovered in chronological order. The story gives us bits and pieces from the beginning and then from the end and then it kind of slowly works its way to the climax moment. So you can see the end from the beginning but you weren’t able to know what actually happened to get to that point. Which was something I don’t think I’ve ever seen before but it really worked here because I had no idea how some things were going to work out.
My one teency-weency problem was that some of the secondary characters, like Laini’s best friend Zuzana, are kind of forgotten in the second half-ish of the book. I want to know how she’s reacting to things! So I hope she comes back in the sequels.
But I say: READ THIS BOOK. If you like fantasy at all, read it. If you don’t, give it a try. Books can always surprise you.