Saturday, April 19, 2014

Weekly Book Review: Daughter of Smoke & Bone

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Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor
Released: September 27, 2011
Genre: Young Adult


"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?"

[from Laini Taylor's official blog.]


This book came to me highly recommended by some random strangers on the internet. They lauded its beautiful prose and imaginative mythology, so much so that I went into the book primed for disappointment. Fortunately, Taylor's novel matched those strangers' praises even better than I could have hoped.

There were a few snags at the beginning. I rolled my eyes through initial descriptions of our two main characters and their alien perfections, ready to declare them both Mary Sues. After a weak first impression, however, the star-crossed duo grew on me, and though I was not particularly engaged in their will-they-won't-they love story, I was so enraptured by the rest of the novel that it didn't matter.

Aside from a few genre cliches in regards to certain characters (Akiva especially), the mythology Taylor has built is refreshingly original. The main objects of my fascination were the mysteries surrounding Karou's very strange life experiences. Why had this seemingly normal human girl been raised by monsters like the ram-faced Brimstone and the snake-entwined Issa? What were the eye tattoos on her hands, and why were they there? What lay beyond the door that Brimstone forbade her from opening? Why did Brimstone need the teeth he sent Karou to collect? These questions propel the book along at a steady pace, and the answers doled out are satisfying.

Daughter of Smoke & Bone excels in description, painting both earthly and otherworldly scenes with equal mysticism. In Taylor's capable hands, the streets of Marrakesh are only slightly less interesting than Brimstone's workshop. My only complaint in regards to description--and it's a slim one--is that it can be hard to remember which of a chimaera's body parts are animal and which are human, though considering later revelations in regards to Karou's bestial foster family, this confusion may be completely appropriate.

If you like your world-building intricate and original, and your prose smooth, sweet, and delectable, Daughter of Smoke & Bone and its successors should suit your tastes.

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