Title: Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Author: Laini Taylor
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Publication Date: 27th September 2011
Rating: 5/5 stars
ERRAND REQUIRING IMMEDIATE ATTENTION. COME.
The note was on velum, pierced by the talons of the almost-crow that delivered it. Karou read the message. ‘He never says please’, she sighed, but she gathered up her things.
In general, Karou has managed to keep her two lives in balance. On the one hand, she’s a seventeen-year-old art student in Prague; on the other, errand-girl to a monstrous creature who is the closest thing she has to family. Raised half in our world, half in Elsewhere, she has never understood Brimstone’s dark work – buying teeth from hunters and murderers – nor how she came into his keeping. She is a secret even to herself, plagued by the sensation that she isn’t whole.
Now the doors to Elsewhere are closing, and Karou must choose between the safety of her human life and the dangers of a war-ravaged world that may hold the answers she has always sought.
The first (and best) in a trilogy, Daughter of Smoke and Bone is one of the most breathtaking and enchanting stories I have ever read. It doesn’t quite rival Harry Potter, but it comes very close.
It starts in the city of Prague, which in this novel (and I am very much hoping in real life) is enchanting and mysterious. Karou seems like a normal teenage girl with her blue hair and amazing artwork. But the creatures in her art are real. And they raised her.
This book creates a perfect mix between the real word and Elsewhere – Karou doesn’t know her history, doesn’t know why she grew up with monsters and so the reader learns her world at the same pace as she processes it. It works really well in establishing the novel, and the series as a whole.
There were certain things that really stuck with me about this book. Brimstone, Karou’s guardian, deals in wishes, trading wishes for teeth which people bring him. How cool is that? To have wishes as a currency? And there are different sizes of wishes! Fascinating! My own obsession with this theory stems from Karou’s birthday present every year – Brimstone gives her a wish big enough to learn a language! I am jealous of the extent of her language skills! Give me wishes for my next birthday?
Zuzana is Karou’s best friend, a character described as a ‘rabid fairy’ is fantastic. She centres the book firmly in the real world and keeps it real. With Zuze, Karou can actually act like a teenage girl, a great way to connect with the target audience. Also, she is fascinating! She comes from a family of puppeteers (already cool) and for an art project, she designs a puppeteer which she controls while acting as a ballerina puppet!
I also adored the religious iconography which permeated the novel. The chimaera (the actual name for Karou’s monsters) have been waging a war with the seraphs for as long as they can remember. And yet, in this book we see the angels as the bad guys. I really liked that inversion – where the devilish creatures have the sympathy as opposed to the glorious angels.
Laini’s writing is absolutely divine. She plays with the language until it almost sings to your heart. The way she writes at times made me want to cry (in completely pleasant scenes) because of its beauty! You’ll understand what I mean when you read it!
There is a certain element of a Romeo/Juliet love story between Karou and Akiva, an angel. However, I can’t say too much without giving the game away! I normally don’t like intense love stories in young adult novels – it feels too done – but a twist Laini employs in her book makes it work.
Karou is a fantastic heroine – not my favourite character, but still excellent as a protagonist. Because of her weird and wonderful life, it doesn’t feel at all strange for her to possess so many varied skills which serve her throughout the series. But there are too many excellent characters for me to pick a favourite (I did fall a bit in love with Hazael though – watch out for him!)
It was really difficult to write this review – I absolutely adored the book and would recommend it to everyone. But without ruining the story for you (spoilers), there is only so much I can say. If you were standing in front of me, I’d be handing you the book while speechless or making garbled noises. READ IT!
For those who read to escape, you will love the escapism this amazing world offers. For those who like real-world fiction, it is a good bridge into fantasy. And for those of you who love young adult, read away! There is something for everyone in this book, and I would love to hear your favourite scenes/characters in the comments below!