Author: Laini Taylor (author website)
Release Date: Sept. 29th 2011 by Hodder & Stoughton
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Daughter of Smoke and Bone is a rare creature indeed. It's storytelling at its best; its most potent, born of a kind of dark, seductive magic—complex, multi-tonal, beautiful—from the mind of a true writer: An artist, a creator. Laini Taylor is a craftsman, and her creation, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, is nothing short of magnificent.
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 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 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 apologise, guys, this is a long one. I couldn’t do it justice with anything less.
The Story:Karou belongs to no-one, and no world. A beautiful, tattooed, blue-haired girl, she’s an enigma, even to herself. Her friends think her wild stories and extraordinary sketches of half-man, half-beast creatures are fiction—exactly what she allows them to think. Just like she lets them think she colours her hair blue, when it in fact grows that way from the roots, thanks to a wish she made at the age of seven. Her friends don’t know she speaks twenty-seven languages, only one of them learned, not all of them human. Her friends think the Wishmonger, Brimstone, part man, part lion, part bull, is a fairytale, when in fact Karou was raised in his fantastical shop in ‘Elsewhere’. A shop where he grants wishes to humans in trade for teeth—both animal and otherwise. The door to which opens to cities all over the world...
But the world is changing, and war is brewing. Karou will be forced to choose between the human world, and the mysterious ‘Elsewhere’ she barely understands herself... and after seventeen years, Karou must finally learn who—and what—she is.
But this is not just her story... meanwhile, beautiful, tortured Akiva flies on fiery wings around the world, determined to put an end to Brimstone’s ‘evil’, and forever close the doors to Elsewhere. He never counted on encountering a strange blue-haired girl. A girl he cannot understand, yet who feels strangely familiar. A girl from whom he cannot stay away...
“Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love. It did not end well.”This is such a strange book to review. To talk of any one aspect, in isolation from half a dozen others, seems to do it a disservice, as it’s the sum of so many different shades and layers of creativity that blend to make it such a dazzling whole. To talk of strange, lovely Karou, without talking of beautiful and mysterious Akiva, or to talk of her ‘Chimaera’ family, such as the Minotaur-esque Brimstone, or adoptive mother-figure—half-woman, half-snake—Issa, is to tell only a fraction of a story. To isolate any one aspect of Karou’s splendid self is to show a shimmering thread, but not the glorious tapestry: Lovely, but abstract, lacking the meaning it deserves.
It’s the context of every strange little quirk of Daughter of Smoke and Bone that makes it shine. Nothing within its pages is inessential. Every fleeting, ephemeral detail combines to form a masterpiece of fiction.
“Happiness. It was the place where passion, with all its dazzle and drumbeat, met something softer: homecoming and safety and pure sunbeam comfort. It was all those things, intertwined with the heat and the thrill, and it was as bright within her as a swallowed star.”So perhaps we should talk of its creator. Laini Taylor. Taylor is nothing short of an artist. She has a way of presenting the bizarre in so matter-of-fact a fashion one can’t help but be charmed, and she tells her story with an imagination as brilliant and twisted as the inimitable Terry Pratchett, J.K. Rowling, or, dare I say it, Neil Gaiman. It’s this kind of imagination that breathes life into new worlds, gives breath to strange, beautiful new creatures, and forms a reality distinct and separate from our own, yet achingly familiar. The kind of world and reality you fall into, that immerses you, and that you find yourself shocked to be torn from. Taylor forms a place as real and magic and wonderfully make-believe as the Narnia and Hogwarts of a million charmed childhoods.
“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.”While every glittering facet of the glorious gem that is Daughter of Smoke and Bone shines, its characters need to be dwelt upon. A mystery even to herself, Karou is strange, beautiful and compelling. She has no family, beyond the peculiar creatures who raised her in Brimstone’s curious shop, and she has no attachments to the human world, beyond the fact that she is human herself. Her whole life, Karou has felt unwhole, as though she is missing something, and, as such things often to come to pass in such stories, she is. But despite her missing something, Karou is a whole and splendid character, as colourful and vibrant as her peacock-blue hair. Karou is imperfect, but it is her imperfections, her mistakes, and her occasional selfishness that makes her innate humour, selflessness, wit and intelligence shine. Her every word, thought, and secret longing burns with the glorious intensity of the sun, and she is a joy to read, to know, to learn.
“This new thing between them it was... astral. It reshaped the air, and it was in her, too—a warming and softening, a pull—and for that moment, her hands in his, Karou felt as powerless as starlight tugged toward the sun in the huge, strange warp of space.”When we finally meet Akiva, haunted and broken, Karou’s world starts to make sense. Akiva holds the keys and answers Karou and the reader do not. Akiva is as beautiful and compelling in his own ways as Karou, but infinitely more bitter and broken. When the two meet, they are drawn together, a force of nature, a gravitational pull, like the moon and the earth—undeniable, elemental and unbreakable. Their story is as dazzling as starlight, as lovely as the moon, and as vast and breathtaking as the night sky with her entire treasure of sparkling jewels. As Akiva’s back-story is revealed slowly, in parallels with his and Karou's present, it’s as beautiful and heartbreaking as the rest.
“Love is a luxury.”
“No. Love is an element.”
An element. Like air to breathe. Earth to stand on.
The Verdict:I’m hardly sure of where to start, or, for that matter, where to finish. The vibrant characters? Taylor’s stunning, lyrical prose? Misty, mysterious and lovely Prague? Brimstone's wishmongery, bizarre and eclectic in the elusive ‘Elsewhere’? Daughter of Smoke and Bone is a thing of overwhelming beauty. Every detail of it is rendered with a true craftsman’s attention to detail, and the world that results is vivid, strange, and strangely real.
As Daughter of Smoke and Bone drew to its inevitable close, I longed for it to continue. But just when Karou and Akiva's story ends—for now—it begins. Its closing pages are filled with beauty and anguish, glorious joy and fierce pain, heartbreak and tragedy, but beautiful tragedy. If Daughter of Smoke and Bone is just an opening chapter, what follows promises to be a truly extraordinary journey.
Throughout Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Taylor’s writing shines, her creativity glows, and I was repeatedly teased with chills; caught up in such sweeping, overwhelming beauty my chest ached. It’s a story of true scope, real brilliance, and unique vision. It could have been told by none less than Taylor, just as Harry Potter could have been told by none but J.K Rowling, Lord of the Rings by Tolkien, or Narnia born of any imagination other than C.S Lewis’. It is thrilling and lovely and strange, and utterly distinctive. It’s beautiful. It’s dark. At its ugliest it’s resplendent. For me, Daughter of Smoke and Bone was perfect.
Books In This Series:
- Daughter of Smoke and Bone (2011)
- Days of Blood and Starlight (expected 2012)