Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor

Release date: September 27, 2011
Publisher: Little, Brown
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 418
Buy the book: Barnes & Noble | Amazon | The Book Depository
Ebook available from: Barnes & Noble | Amazon
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?
Where to start? I had a completely different idea of what Daughter of Smoke and Bone was going to be in my head when I began. I don't really know what that was, but it seemed awesome. Why my brain didn't pick up on the angel and demon clues, I do not know. BUT, when we got into that I groaned inwardly. While I honestly deeply enjoyed Laini Taylor's completely original and unrelated to practically all things angels and demons, I couldn't get that niggling idea that they WERE angels out of my mind. And I'm just tired of angels. So tired I couldn't even get past the prologue of Torment. I think a rereading of Daughter of Smoke and Bone, knowing what I'm going into will help me a bit, but at the same time, I really did enjoy it. Am I making sense?

The most striking and, honestly, the most enjoyable part of the book is Laini Taylor's genius writing. Her descriptions of the streets of Prague made me feel like I was there, walking along with Karou, experiencing the sights and sounds of the city. The atmosphere was ridiculously spot on throughout the whole book, and I always felt like my disposition was perfectly suited to the action. There's something almost macabre about the way the book is visualized, but it's beautiful. She brings out the darkness of the world through her settings and through her story. Reading Daughter of Smoke and Bone was a treat for my good writing denied mind.

I also found Karou to be a very compelling protagonist. She has lived this extraordinary life the people around her wouldn't imagine in their wildest fantasies. She has been shot, deals with the scum of the earth bartering for teeth, grew up with amalgam animals that are the stuff of fairy tales, and knows that wishes do honestly come true. At the same time, she's lived with more mystery in her life than anyone around her. She's not told what the teeth are for, where wishes come from, or even the origin of her chimera friends. Just that is fascinating by itself. Added in with the adventure Karou finds herself in, we are in for a riveting read.

In addition, I found that every character was there for a purpose. In a ridiculous number of books, aside from the integral players--in this case, Karou, Akiva, Brimstone, and Thiago, basically--anyone else is really not treated as important. This is completely untrue here. I adored Zuzana and laughed out loud several times in any scene she was in, and could tell she was a true friend to Karou. At the same time, that was not all she's around for in the book. She's a fleshed-out person, one who has a life aside from her dealings with Karou, though those are integral. This is my point. So many times we have characters thrown in just to serve as information spouts or as an obligatory friend, so someone doesn't seem like a total loser, and they fall flat. None of Laini Taylor's characters were like this, and for that I salute her.

Yes, it sounds like I'm raving. And there's a lot to rave about. But (yes, a BUT!) I couldn't help but feel that it suffered from the oft noticed lack of a developed romantic relationship. Sure, they're lovely looking people, but love and a relationship so world-moving as Akiva and Karou's tries to be should be based on a little more than attraction. Something more is alluded to in the story with Madrigal, but it didn't convince me. His life is saved, hooray. She did something out of the norm, hooray. But all he notices is her beauty and that she saves him. She notices his beauty and saves his life. Ta da! Love. This is really my only hangup, and why I gave it four stars. I'm hoping a sequel fixes this complaint and can earn five stars from me. I really want to, but, alas, cannot in good conscience.

Risk a paper cut? This is really a cut above many, if not most, crazily hyped books out there right now. I don't think anyone could regret reading it and don't worry about the angel thing. Not a problem. :)

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