Book Review # 13: Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor
Number of Pages: 418
Date published: September 27, 2011
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
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 grows 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 beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery 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?
To be honest, I do not fancy books about magic or adventures heavy on fantasy but it’s a different story when mind-boggling hype is concerned. Hence, my recent interest in Laini Taylor’s series. So what makes this series such a hype?
The covers sure don’t cut it. I guess the next thing to assume is that a superior story hides behind that disenchanting cover. Then again, maybe the characters are too fascinating to not read about. Or maybe it’s the setting? Or is it the writing? Wrong. It’s everything.
The novel opens in Prague, capital of the Czech republic, a city too haunting and bewitching to be described in words. Don’t worry. The novel already does plenty of that. Now, in an apartment in the city lived Kaoru, an art student, or at least this is the identity she has assumed over the years as she remained ignorant to the truth of who she really was.
Kaoru’s sketchbooks are filled with drawings of monsters whose existence she shrugs off to others. In reality however, these monsters are the only family she knows. To others, she seems to mysteriously disappear on errands but in truth, these errands have long been a part of her family’s life.
This does not mean that she completely understood the complexity of her circumstances but she had given up on asking, as questions only merited more questions and she, gaining little to no responses at all, eventually found the mere act of interrogation pointless. Despite this resolve, she continued to feel hollow and half-done, as if some part of her was elsewhere. Then again, who wouldn’t? Her entire life was a question she was forced to cease pondering about.
Not long after, significant changes started to happen. The greatest of which occurred after Kaoru is sent once again on an errand. What was once a perfectly atypical knowledge of her life became even more so when she sets eyes on Akiva, haunting and beautiful, too perfect in any human being’s eyes, and strangely screams danger.
Crossing paths with Akiva prove to be anything but bloodless and as Kaoru begins to connect with this stranger, doorways to secrets of both cruel and passionate paths are brought to light. So who is Kaoru and what will she do once she finds out the truth about herself?
I gave this book a perfect rating. This surprised me because I rarely give perfect ratings to series especially not during the first installment, but I couldn’t retract not even half a point from my score because everything was just, in the spirit of the novel, devilishly good. What’s there to like exactly?
1. All together, it’s an intricately woven, breathtaking alternate universe.
There’s an abundance of art and imagination present in the characters and the setting. Prague is just the perfect place to go to if you want that weird magical feeling while your limbs tread through town. But more than Prague, there’s the impeccable web of winged creatures whose worlds are undergrounds for battles, sorcery, and wishes, all of which are carved skillfully and without fail.
It’s satisfying to read about these things despite knowing that they are not real. When reading this book, one does not wish for superpowers, but for scuppies, gavriels, and portals – elements that usual fantasy novels do not entail. Even I’d like access to a portal myself.
2. The writing is surprisingly beautiful and poetic.
Who would have thought that poetic writing would make a young adult, fantasy novel more appealing and easier to read? There’s a gorgeous feel to it, as if one absorbs and flows through the words rather than read and process them as what reading normally demands. The writing is creative but not over the top. It’s filled with the right amount of descriptiveness. It strays away from the usual cauldron of details and fills the page with the necessary specifics, only it still does so craftily, offering readers with genuine curiosity rather than boredom.
The streets of Prague were a fantasia scarcely touched by the twenty-first century – or the twentieth or nineteenth, for that matter. It was a city of alchemists and dreamers, its medieval cobbles once trod by golems, mystics, invading armies. Tall houses glowed goldenrod and carmine and eggshell blue, embellished with Rococo plasterwork and capped in roofs of uniform red. Baroque cupolas were the soft green of antique copper, and the Gothic steeples stood ready to impale fallen angels.
3. The plot twists are indeed, well, twisted.
The story starts slow and successfully builds a solid foundation. The twists do not come until much later, during the last third of the series but the solidity of the foundation and the information that the author made an effort to elaborate during the first half was what brought about a perfect fit. Some of the revelations were not entirely unpredictable but the supporting eye-openers make up for those.
4. All other unmentioned reasons that accompany a must-read series
I’d rather not elaborate on wondrous settings or awe-inspiring characters because these are but minor reasons for the perfect rating I gave. The first three statements are satisfactory grounds for anyone to read this book.
The novel is 400 pages. That’s a lot for a young adult novel but this one has that unique flair and persistence that most of us crave from a fantasy novel. It has a premise that may have been thought about a number of times but was not successfully given the right words until now. Of course,a perfect first installment only makes me look forward to a promising build up and hopefully, a first in my noteworthy fantasy series stockpile.
Well, there’s nothing else to tell but reading this book has made me certain that it does not fall short of the hype it creates. Daughter of Smoke & Bone is a rare, exceptional read and is everything a fantasy novel should be.
Favorite Quotes from Daughter of Smoke and Bone:
It is a condition of monsters that they do not perceive themselves as such. The dragon, you know, hunkered in the village devouring maidens, heard the townsfolk cry ‘Monster!’ and looked behind him.
For the way loneliness is worse when you return to it after a reprieve—like the soul’s version of putting on a wet bathing suit, clammy and miserable.
With the infinite patience of one who has learned to live broken, he awaited her return.