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Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone is a brilliant read and one I would recommend to all! The writing is beautiful, the story is captivating and its characters are vibrant and all too lifelike. This is truly a book that will stay with you for many years to come. Taking the reader on a fantastical journey through a realm torn by war, yet filled with magic, it is a captivating read full of treachery and forbidden love.
Within its pages, this book manages to weave together elements and beings from all walks of life. With characters of fallen angels, chimera and a lone wish monger who exchanges wishes for teeth, The Daughter of Smoke and Bone has no shortage of mysteries and intrigues. With the story set against the backdrop of Prague, the mix of fantasy and reality soon draw the reader into a world of art, friendship and long forgotten myths. I found it almost impossible to put this book down.
The story begins with Karou, a feisty, blue haired, teenage art student who is much more than she appears. Never knowing her parents, she was raised behind closed doors by creatures known as Chimera. A mix of beast and human, they are seen as monsters from every eye but hers, yet they are the kindest beings she knows. However when Brimstone, her foster father/employer, sets her on another mission to collect him teeth with which to make wishes, things suddenly turn horribly and irreversibly wrong.
When the doors to her odd, but much loved 'family' of chimera are destroyed, leaving Karou stranded, she finds herself drawn into an age long war between the Chimera and the Angels. Beautiful and formidable, they are everything the Chimera aren't and Karou instantly despises them. Setting out on a journey, she plans to rescue her 'family' before they can be destroyed but first, Karou must learn about her own part in this war. Both the one she must play in the future... and most importantly, the part she played in the past...
It's been a while since I read a book so gripping, but this one had me enthralled till the very end. Not only is the story unique, but each character broadens the books dimension and Laini Taylor has a great eye for detail. Her descriptions are vivid and colourful and her imagination is beyond scope. For example, there are many brilliant words in this book, but my favourite verse is without doubt this one:
'I don't know many rules to live by,' he'd said. 'But here's one. It's simple. Don't put anything unnecessary into yourself. No poisons or chemicals, no fumes or smoke or alcohol, no sharp objects, no inessential needles - drug or tattoo - and... no inessential penises either.'
I have recommended my friends read this book just for those few lines alone! And you have to admit - it really is fabulous advice! My only criticism is that it was a cliff hanger ending which I always hate, although the book certainly left me thirsting for more. So overall a brilliant read with a great storyline, amazing characters and the most vibrantly written prose I've ever seen. 4 ½ stars!
(review also posted over on my blog - whisperingwords)
About the book
The Daughter of Smoke and Bone is the first book in a series by Laini Taylor. It was published by Hodder and Stoughton on 29th September 2011. The book is 432 pages long.
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 colour. 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-coloured 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?
What I thought
It took me a long time to get around to reading this book, even though others raved about how good it was. There were other books I wanted to buy before this one and I just kind of forgot about it for a while. Once I did finally start reading it though, I couldn't put it down.
The Daughter of Smoke and Bone tells the story of Karou, an orphan who is the ward of Brimstone, a chimera who makes wishes from bones in the world of Elsewhere. From the very beginning, I could tell that this book would be magical and not only because of the setting and characters. Karou is a teenager who tries to go to school, has blue hair and runs errands for Brimstone whenever he needs her to. Her life is crazily busy and often has to run off without a moment's notice which is obviously not a normal way for a teenage girl to live. Karou in herself though was extremely special. Her character has a great personality and is really interesting to read about. She has never felt as though she belongs in the human world but she doesn't feel as though she really belongs in Brimstone's world either.
This story is set in Prague during the winter. Having been there myself in March when the snow falls quite heavily, I could picture some of the scenes exactly and especially those on the Charles Bridge. The setting itself was very magical and mystical and with the descriptions of the strange streets and shops, it made it even more so. The majority of YA books are set in America with a few set here in the UK but there aren't many that are set elsewhere. This book being set in Prague made a huge and welcome change and I was so glad to see that another setting could be done so well - if not better.
Other characters are just as well written as Karou. Her best friend Zuzana has an infectious personality and I really wanted her to have a bigger part in the story. As Karou spends a lot of time between worlds, doing all kinds of crazy things, I thought that it was good for her to have a human friend even if their friendship was strained at times. This also gave Karou the chance to slow things down and have a somewhat normal life for a little while. Brimstone was by far the most interesting for me though as you never really get to find out too much about him. He is surrounded in mystery and very much keeps himself to himself. I wanted to know so much more about this character so was thankful when a few small details were given about him.
Angels and The Fallen are a big thing in YA books but The Daughter of Smoke and Bone does this in a new and fresh way. Avika is a wonderful character and although he and Karou should be sworn enemies, they cannot stay away from each other. Avika has a past and one that Karou doesn't know a lot about. I loved finding out more about Avika and what he had done previously but also what he was doing now. Due to Avika's past, just over half way through this book, the plot begins to flit between past and present so that we can fully understand his actions, which was something that I really liked. The romance between Avika and Karou was extremely believable unlike in other YA books where the two characters seem to fall in love instantly. There is worry and indecisiveness on both sides and each character is wary of the other to begin with. The build-up of this relationship is slow but that's what makes it so real in comparison to other YA relationships.
The plot is a little disjointed at times due to the changes in time but this doesn't mean that it is hard to follow. There are large chunks of the book that are set in the past so when it goes back to the present, it is easily recognisable. The Daughter of Smoke and Bone is exciting and holds many secrets that are yet to be revealed. Laini Taylor doesn't reveal everything in this book but she does give enough to make the reader want more. I desperately want the sequel to this book but the release date seems to keep getting pushed back for one reason or another. However, once it is released though I will be buying it immediately.
Although this is a YA book, it can be enjoyed by adults and I think that it sits happily in the middle of both genres. I loved this one so would highly recommend it.
Karou lives a double life. On the one hand she is a seventeen year old art student in Prague, only concerned about fending off her ex-boyfriend. On the other, she runs errands for Brimstone, a decidedly non-human being who raised her. Then one day, she meets an angel...
This is the premise of Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone. It does get a lot more complex than that, but this is an adequate summary for the purpose of this review.
From the outside, Daughter of Smoke and Bone is an attractive book. Of course we shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but lets face it, we all do to an extent - the attractive hardback edition of Daughter of Smoke and Bone sat on my bookcase for a few days, calling to me to get stuck into it. I have been lured in by pretty covers promising more than the book inside could deliver though, so while I admired the cover, I planned to wait until I was well into the book before passing judgement.
The best laid plans seldom pan out though - I was judging Daughter of Smoke and Bone pretty early on. Fortunately, it was a favourable judgement - I was hooked. The hints of a secret life and strange characters slipped into Karou's "normal" life made me want to know more. Even once we met these strange characters, there were many unanswered questions, and of course more questions were thrown up for the reader and Karou as the book went on and she was plunged headlong into a world she realized she had only scratched the surface of in her childhood with Brimstone.
The story is exciting, and grabs your attention. Karou is a good lead character, a strong young woman who doesn't know who she is, but is determined to find out. The non-human characters she meets along the way are all somewhat enigmatic, never fully revealing themselves or their intentions.
The divide between good and evil is heavily blurred in Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Brimstone and the other friends from Karou's childhood are chimaera, which traditionally should be evil - but they are the closest she has to family and they have raised her with love. Angels should be good, but in Daughter of Smoke and Bone they are not clearly so. In fact, if I had to pick out who were the bad guys, I would probably say the angels. But it isn't quite that clear-cut.
The story, setting and characters of Daughter of Smoke and Bone become quite complex and interwoven as the book goes on, particularly once some flashbacks become part of the story, yet not once did the story become bogged down in detail, even in the sections telling the history of the angels and chimaera. Taylor has a way of writing a fantastic story set in a completely formed world while making it seem perfectly natural and straightforward for the reader.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone is the first in a trilogy, and given how full this first novel was, there is clearly a great deal more to come in Karou's story. I was shocked and upset by the revelation which came close to the end of the novel, but I'm rather hoping that it wasn't true, and that all will be resolved in the books to come. It is a beautifully written, well-crafted novel with a wonderful story, and although aimed at young adults, this is a novel for everyone which rises above age groups.
This review was originally published on www.curiousbookfans.co.uk. A review copy of the novel was provided by the publisher through Curious Book Fans.