Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Hodder (Sept 2011)
Hardback, 420 pages
Paranormal Romance | Urban Fantasy
There has been quite a lot of buzz about Daughter of Smoke and Bone so I’ve really been looking forward to reading this one.
The Otherworld Taylor has created, named Elsewhere, is mysterious and intriguing and the characters are imaginative and fun. The angels are frightening but beautiful and the Chimaera strange and complex, and Karou is a fabulous heroine.
As I read through each chapter, Daughter of Smoke and Bone just got better and better. The world building more vivid, the characters more captivating. I had difficulty putting this book down. Taylor’s writing is smooth, descriptive and easy to read. I glided through each chapter effortlessly and was so mesmerised by it that I hadn’t noticed when two hours had passed.
What starts out as a good, but not unfamiliar story, about a young girl at school, with a loyal best friend, immersed in the supernatural, soon turns into a completely different young adult novel, one which I haven’t come across before, making it unique.
Like Carolyn, I’ve seen this on the book blogosphere, with people commenting that it is probably one of their favourite books of the year. So I was rather excited about picking it up. Although is it just me or do you sometimes find when a book has been so revered by others, it’s easy to get swept up in the buzz and then be a little disappointed by the story itself?
And I did find this was the case very slightly with Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed it, but it’s perhaps not the best I’ve read this year.
I totally agree that the book got better and better with each chapter, I thoroughly enjoyed the clever and unique world building Taylor has created, it is rich and fascinating. Set in Prague, it tells the story of Karou, a human girl who has been raised by otherworldly creatures, the chimaera. The chimaera can only be reached through secret doorways scattered about the globe, which enables Karou to transition between the two. The concept of the secret doorways totally captured my imagination! In some respects it had the same appeal as a modern day Secret Garden.
I agree with Laura that sometimes a book can be hyped up and then not meet expectations, I hate it when that happens, but I didn’t feel it did with this book. Although it’s probably not the best book I’ve ever read, it is one of my favourites of 2011 and definitely one of the best young adult novels I’ve read.
Karou is a talented artist studying at art school in Prague. Brought up by the charismatic but aloof Brimstone who deals in teeth and wishes. Karou transports from her life in Elsewhere to her life in Prague via portals from one world to the other.
Karou, being young and impulsive, is a little frivolous with her wishes. Most of the time she uses her necklace of wishes given to her by Brimstone for harmless things to help her along in life, such as wishing to speak Czech so she could study in Prague, as well as twenty other languages, unlocking her door when she’s forgotten her keys or wishing the eyebrows of the girl who slept with her boyfriend to become overly bushy…
Her best friend, Zuzana is fab – she really lightened the tone. But when she finds out about Karou and her life the story jumps forward three months so we never get to see Zuzana’s surprise or disbelief and then her realisation that what Karou told her is true. Because of this I really had to keep reminding myself that three months had passed and that was why Zuzanna was so easy breezy about the angels and chimaera and all the other supernatural oddities that were happening around her.
The one aspect I noticed and really enjoyed was the limited amount of angst. There really isn’t much of it and Karou and Zuzanna are pretty mature for their seventeen years, especially in the latter part of the novel.
The story moves along at a good pace and I was completely engrossed. I enjoyed Karou’s world, friends and magic. The fight scenes are pretty good too and Karou can kick some serious butt. I liked that one of Karou’s weapons were devil eye tattoos on the palms of her hands and she gets satisfaction from her weapons, especially when she buys a new set in China!
I liked how the narrative set up Karou’s life and how she balanced it between that as a human, studying art in Prague and life as Brimstone’s ward. I find it interesting that you described him as charismatic Carolyn, as I found him really intriguing, probably one of my favourite characters in fact, but more monstrous than charismatic. He balanced on a strange edge between fatherly on occasion and at other times quite chilling.
My favourite part has to be Brimstone’s occupation as a wish bearer. Trading wishes for teeth. Karou’s frivolous wishes did make me smile. Who wouldn’t want to make the eyebrows of the girl who slept with your eyebrows bushy? And there’s a great scene scene when Karou is doing life drawing, but I mustn’t say anymore!
I felt that the story was pacey, but did not really begin to pick up speed when Karou’s world comes crashing down. When the doors to elsewhere close leaving Karou cut off from her other-worldy family, she suddenly finds herself amidst a war she didn’t know existed. On one side the chimaerean and the other the seraphim or angels.
Interestingly, there is no clear division between good and evil in this novel. There are people that commit evil deeds, but one side is not necessarily better than the other. You could easily think the chimaera are the baddies due to their magical powers and unorthodox appearances, but as the book progresses you see that things are not that clear cut. And this was a concept I found cleverly portrayed. If there is no good and evil, how do you define right and wrong?
I definitely agree with Laura that Brimstone balances between being a loving fatherly figure and something a little more deadly, however, I definitely found him fascinating, which is probably why he is also one of my favourite characters in the book.
I enjoyed Brimstone’s occupation too and I liked the idea of trading teeth for wishes. I did have my suspicions as to what the teeth were for and my thoughts were proven right when all was revealed near the end.
If I had one negative it would be how quick Karou and Akiva’s love for one another grew. Akiva has been a hostile, cold angel devoid of emotions for centuries, and to just get his feelings back in a day after meeting Karou was a little unrealistic.
However, once I got over this blip, I really enjoyed their interactions with each other and the romance is an intense, sweeping love story that fills the heart. My favourite part of the novel was the last third of the book. The flashbacks to another time were just fabulous, which I won’t go into as I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but let’s just say I can’t wait for book two!
This book has definite crossover appeal and I would highly recommend it for adults as well as teenagers. Taylor’s imagination is just superb, and the world of Elsewhere is amazing. I loved reading about the Chimaera, a strange bizarre combination of animal parts, and the Angels, born of fire who are anguished, tortured beings. I am also intrigued to find out who, and what, Karou is.
Karou is a fascinating lead character, with her blue hair and tattoos. She does come across as quite young at first, but very quickly progresses in maturity. Determined and tough, but equally sensitive and vulnerable.
I’m impressed Carolyn guessed the significance of the teeth, as it kept me guessing for a long time. As did the reason why these creatures had raised a human child, what was her significance and what happened to her family?
The book is also comprised of some truly creative characters. From Karou’s chimaerean family, I wanted to delve into Brimstone’s mind and find out what exactly made him tick, to, as Carolyn has already referred to, the warm and very lifelike friendship portrayed between Karou and her human best friend Zuzana.
Of course I must not forget to mention the angel Akiva. As this book would not be complete without a love story, and going with recent trends, Karou’s love interest is Akiva, a lost Angel. No longer sure of his path and tortured by his past, but it does make for a compelling story that is easy to get absorbed in. As Akiva and Karou become ever closer, the horror of the war dividing them becomes only more paramount. I didn’t struggle so much with Akiva’s transition from an angel devoid of emotions to one devastatingly in love, as I felt there was enough back story to cover this change. And found I got more sucked into the star-crossed lovers aspect of their story.
CAROLYN: Daughter of Smoke and Bone is a wonderful combination of urban fantasy and paranormal romance, with an amazing heroine and unique secondary characters. A new and refreshingly original world and a fantastic beginning to a new trilogy. I will definitely be continuing this series and wait with bated breath for the next instalment.
LAURA: Daughter of Smoke and Bone is a uniquely drawn novel, rich and creative. For me it’s pulled into two parts: before the doors to elsewhere close, and after. With second part of the novel by far having the grittier storyline. Marketed as a YA novel, I think this book would appeal to readers who normally only pick up adult novels too.
BOOKS IN SERIES ORDER
- Daughter of Smoke and Bone
- Days of Blood and Starlight
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