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 otherworldly 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’ve taken a long time to get to this book. It feels like the whole world has read it before me – and they loved it. Which meant I got more and more worried that I wouldn’t feel the same, that it was all hype. Here are ten things about Daughter of Smoke and Bone:
1) Laini Taylor’s prose is just exquisite – both whimsical and wistful. It drew me in entirely and had me immersed in this world within a few paragraphs. I couldn’t tell you what it is about her prose exactly that makes it so very beautiful – all I know is that the descriptions delighted me.
2) It is slightly a novel of two halves. The first part, dealing with Karou and her peculiar life, was wonderful. Akiva’s arrival, however, led this book onto a more conventional path. Star-crossed lovers, involving one party who I found a little dull. This disappointed me. I also found the swiftness with which Akiva regains all his feelings a bit hard to swallow. And the idea of true love happening as the two protagonists gaze at each other is just ridiculous – Romeo and Juliet has a lot to answer for.
3) The setting is brilliant. Prague lends itself to folklore and fairytale and is the perfect location for Karou. It’s also lovely seeing somewhere that isn’t the States or London.
4) Karou is a wonderful protagonist. She’s strong and knows her own mind; she’s not angsty; she is confident and brave. I think this is the best kind of heroine – truly someone who young readers can aspire towards.
5) The chimaera are a terrific creation – imaginative, dark and dangerous. Seeing them in all their various forms, and knowing their conflict was a great part of what made this book so impressive.
6) I absolutely loved the idea of teeth and wishes, especially those three levels of wishes. It felt so unique and yet timeless as I read about it. Brimstone, as well, was fantastically intriguing and foreboding.
7) I object terribly to the cliff hanger ending – although at least the second book is out now and I can go and pick it up straight away! I can’t even think how it would have been if I’d read this book when it first came out and had a year to wait until the second… Why such a cliff hanger? Just a cynical ploy to get people to pick up the second?
8) The friendship between Karou and Zuzana is well-drawn, and gives a warm depth to the book. It’s lovely to encounter a friendship like this in a paranormal romance type YA, where usually the heroine doesn’t really have friends and relies exclusively on the chap who she falls deeply in love with. To have an authentic friendship in a novel elevates Daughter of Smoke and Bone above other novels of this ilk.
9) I felt the flashback section dealing with Madrigal was a little clumsily dropped into the story. It was only towards the end that all the pieces came together that I regained all my enjoyment for the novel.
10) Watching her while she sleeps, Akiva? Just no. Stop. It’s not romantic. It’s being a stalker.
In the end the pros definitely outweighed the cons and I would give this a hearty 8/10.
What did you think of it?