Saturday, March 24, 2012

Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Laini Taylor

Title: Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Author: Laini Taylor (author website)
Release Date: Sept. 29th 2011 by Hodder & Stoughton
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Urban Fantasy
My Rating:1 star2 star3 star4 star5 star

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.

From Goodreads:
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...

My Thoughts:

“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:

  1. Daughter of Smoke and Bone (2011)
  2. Days of Blood and Starlight (expected 2012)

45 comments:

  1. marvelous review Sarah! HOLY MOLLY!! you do make justice to this book and you were so assertive with the quote you chose!! They are indeed breathtaking and illustrate so well the beauty of Taylor's writing as well as the beauty of the novel itself.

    Well done my sweet ^.^ muah!! me be ULTRA SUPER happy that you loved this book as much as I!! I cant wait to read the sequel! Akiva and Kaoru's love story is so beautiful! it defies their own enemy natures! I have a review on it too XD just in case you want to know my opinion ^_^

    http://dazzlingreads.blogspot.ca/2011/11/review-daughter-of-smoke-and-bone.html

    Take care my sweet! have a beautiful Night over there ^_^ muah!

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    1. Aaaaah, Natalia, THANK YOU! I loved the book SO much, and YAY! I thought the quotes were lovely and couldn't resist :D

      In fact, I'm pretty sure you could poke a stick anywhere in DoSaB and wind up with an amazing quote :D

      Eeee! Not only do I WANT to know your opinion, I simply MUST! *runs off to your dazzling blog!* :D

      Delete
  2. Amazing review chicky! I really loved this one as well the characters, the setting, it was all amazingly imaginative I couldn't get enough! You really nailed it! So happy when I see others who loved it! :)

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    1. Aw, Giselle, THANK YOU!
      EXACTLY. Everything about the book I LOVED ♥

      Delete
  3. Replies
    1. ...
      I'm actually thinking of replacing my entire review with your comment... it about sums it up XD

      Delete
  4. You seriously write some of the best reviews I know. I think you'll be going on my blog roll. ;) I can't miss any more!

    This review is PERFECT. You have described practically everything I adored about this book and I'm thrilled you loved it as much as I did. It's definitely one of my favourites and I can't wait for the next one!

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    1. Aw, Sam! Thanks on both accounts!
      Oh, seriously, it was an amazing book. I loved EVERYTHING about it. It was an instant all-time favorite :)

      Delete
  5. You say that Laini Taylor has gorgeous writing; I say that YOU have such gorgeous writing that it kind of makes me want to sing a song based on your words! <3 I love how you describe Karou and the world and the author's awesomeness (and everything, really!), and I love how you make me want to read this book all over again so I can love it as much as you did!

    Beautiful, gorgeous, and perfect review, Sarah!! With as many books I have to read as I do, I haven't re-read a book in a while -- but this is definitely being thrown to the top of that pile! :) <3

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    1. *hugs* Mimi, you made my day! Thank you, my dear! I truly, truly, TRULY loved DoSaB... it's one of those ones I turned the final page on and it became an instant favorite :)

      Delete
  6. Oh Sarah, you know how I feel about your review in Goodreads. I probably can't leave a good long comment since I'm absolutely speechless now but YOUR REVIEW IS A GODDESS, YOU ARE A GODDESS and your review just makes me want to re-read Daughter of Smoke and Bone! Like Sam said, it's PERFECT and if there is a word more than PERFECT, I will definitely use it to describe your review. If this comment goes on, I might end up writing an essay on how PERFECT is Sarah's review of Daughter of Smoke and Bone? XD

    LOVE YOU AND YOUR REVIEWS FOREVER! <3

    ReplyDelete
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    1. AJDGAJHAFHD!
      CELINE!
      *crashtacklehug*
      I ♥ you. Thank youuuu!
      It was hard not to write a decent review about such an amazing book ;)

      Delete
  7. Um, wow. This one sounds interesting. I like how you didn't even know where to start or how to critique this one. That says something. I think it makes this book unique and it makes me want to read it. I have been trying to win this book on giveaways but with no luck. I guess I will have to buy it after a review like that.

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    1. Jen, I really think you'll like this one. I thought about you while reading it... it's the quality of the writing. Just flawless... and Taylor imagines a world as gorgeous and strange as Kate Daniels', I swear. Err... after a comparison like that, you'll hate me if you don't adore it, huh? :S

      Delete
  8. AAAAAH I'M SOOOOOO EXCITED TO READ THIS ONE!!!!!!!!! I was lucky enough to be gifted a copy from another super sweet blogger, and I can't wait to start it! It sounds so incredibly unique!

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    1. Eeee! Natalie! I can't wait for you to, either!
      I KNOW you like, like... 'proper' fantasy. Like epic, Tolkien-esque stuff? George R.R. Martin and whatnot? (am I imagining this?)

      ANYWAY, my point was this: there's a real fantasy feel to DoSaB. It's... not just YA paranormal... it's much more expansive, and the strange imagination behind it all is brilliant. I really REALLY hope you love it! ♥

      Delete
  9. What a gorgeous, brilliant, stunning review. I feel I need to write a review for it! DoS&B is one of the most stunning books I've ever read. It's exciting to find a review that gives it justice. So happy you loved it!

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    1. Oh, Andrea, thank you!
      "DoS&B is one of the most stunning books I've ever read."
      EXACTLY!
      ♥♥♥

      Delete
  10. I NEED to read it soon. I got this when it first come out but I've yet to read it. I don't know the reason why I've not picked this book up; it's on my Kindle, waiting to be read. Your review just makes me want to stop what I'm reading/ doing, and just read this book. BRILLIANT review, Sarah!

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    1. Oh, Mesa, it's EXTRAORDINARY! I hope you love it every inch as much as I did! ♥♥♥

      Delete
  11. I'm super super glad you loved this book as much as I did. Fantastic review, Sarah! As always! I just wished we could have the sequel right now in our greedy little hands !!!

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    1. Eeee! Thanks Erin! Oh, seriously, I loved it so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so sooooooo much!

      Err... OK, seriously... something about brings out my inner fangirl :P

      Oh goodness, I've never wanted a sequel as bad as I want Days of Blood and Starlight... I'm thinking, and I seriously can't think of anything...

      Delete
  12. Sounds pretty good. I shall read at some point I promise :)

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Oh, it's BETTER than pretty good. For realses.

      UGH.

      You're going to hate it to spite me, huh? -___-

      Delete
  13. I JUST finished this (on audio) and was so stoked to see your review! FANTASTIC! Loved it. Can't wait for book 2.

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    1. SQUEE! So glad you loved it! Oooh, was the audio good? The only audiobook I've EVER listened to is Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets read by Stephen Fry... and... err... well, I practically knew the book by heart BEFORE I listened to it, so... ? :D

      Delete
  14. I have to agree with Sam a thousand times over when he says you write some of the best reviews. EVER. You really have outdone yourself with this one. Such a book deserves beautiful and talented writing to give it justice and every word you wrote accomplishes that in spades <3

    When people compare books to Harry Potter, I often grumble because... IT'S HARRY FREAKING POTTER, FOOLS, NOTHING COMES CLOSE! But this? Daughter of Smoke and Bone is in the same league as Potter and that is not a place many can actually climb to. Can you imagine what the series will be like as a whole?! *faints*

    You make me want to fall back into this world again and again and again and oh my gosh, just thinking back on some scenes... my heart is breaking already! And oh... I think this may hold one of the best YA romances of all time <3 Hello. Hello. Hello.

    AMAZING, BREATHTAKING, *INSERT A THOUSAND OTHER GUSHY ADJECTIVES* review! <3

    ReplyDelete
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    1. ASDFGLADGJGAFS! I don't know what to say beyond... OMFG DoSaB. SO. GOOD.

      THANK YOOOOU!

      Seriously, I SWEAR I've never compared anything to Harry Potter before... I mean, it's like comparing a sand castle to Everest... just... not even... yes. But Laini's imagination and world building! Oh goodness. It's.. fhkwv!

      I want to crawl into the pages and live there.

      Also: I want blue hair.

      Delete
  15. Oh. My. Freaking. Gawd. Sarah!! Your review=perfection! Everything you said is just spot on--this could easily me my fave review of yours. Of course you have a way of writing such brilliant reviews that they're always beautiful. I just love this book and agree that Taylor is an artist. There hasn't been a book this unique and completely captivating in a long time. It's in a world of it's own and I'm ecstatic to hear you loved it babe!! Totally awesome xoxo <3

    ReplyDelete
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    1. EEEEEEEEE! *hugs*
      Rachel, thank yooooou!
      Actually, I think it's kind of MY favorite review of mine, tooo! But it helps that this is officially one of my favorite books EVER. I mean, if I count Harry Potter (the series) as once book, DoSaB I think would easily get in my top 5? At least top 10... it was EXTRAORDINARY.

      Delete
  16. I'm glad you loved it, Sarah. :) I liked this one overall too, although I had a few issues with it. I'm curious to see where the story goes, though! The author definitely created a highly unusual and memorable story.

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

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    1. Thanks Wendy! Sorry you had some issues with it... but I guess that's the thing--why we love (or don't love) a book is subjective, right? I actually really enjoy hearing about why my friends DIDN'T love a book I did :D

      My best friend and I can hardly agree on a book, but I really enjoy the conversations we have about it ;D

      Delete
  17. Hm... So I'm guessing you liked it? Haha, just kidding. I'm so happy to hear that you loved it, Sarah! I LOVE Laini Taylor's writing. I had a few minor issues with this book, but still liked it a lot. I can't wait for the sequel! Marvelous review, Sarah. :)

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    1. Mwaha! Now whatever gave you *THAT* idea? ;D
      LOVED it. I can totally understand having a few issues with it, and I was thinking about something similar the other day, and incidently, the most recent Winter X-Games. In Lola and the Boy Next Door, Cricket says 'it's a person's imperfections that make them perfect for someone else,' and it really rang true for me. Recently, Shaun White scored a PERFECT 100 on superpipe in the Winter X Games... but his run *wasn't* perfect. Was it the best run ever seen at the games? Uh, yes. But at the end of the run, he touched the side of pipe when he landed, and that's BAD. That means NOT PERFECT. But he scored perfect... because of the rest of it kind of... I don't know... cancelled it out? I think that's how amazing books work :D

      Delete
  18. :O :O :O
    So... wow. I think your review just blew me away here. o: Oh boy. I guess there's no doubt about it, but I'll have to pick it up, huh?! I'm so glad you liked it so much!! It sounds super good and now? Now I'm desperate to give it a try. I want to experience it all too! Fantastic review as always, Saz!

    ReplyDelete
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    1. BEX! YOU HAVE TO! YOU MUST! YES!
      Oh, it's so so so SOOOO good. It goes down in my faves of all time. I swear :D

      Delete
  19. Ahh I love this book a lot and your review is absolutely beautiful as always, Sarah! It makes me want to re-read it and get lost in its world. Laini Taylor's prose is so exquisite, she really is meant to be a writer.

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    1. Thanks Elena! EXACTLY. Oh, I loved DoSaB so SOOOO much1 ♥

      Delete
  20. SARAH. Your review is... mind-boggling. Your love for this book is so clear in every word you've written. So inventive, so full of creativity. Sadly, this isn't one of my favorites, mostly because the perfection in some places was a bit... I don't know, irritating, but I must admit a combo of Karou and Laini's BEAUTIFUL writing is more than welcome, because I loved both aspects of her book.

    But, your review brought me back and helped me relive those special moments, those bright and stunning flares of intense, creative writing that paints these lovely pictures of the world in a way that's somewhat foreign to us. LOVED this review, Sarah!

    Asher

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    1. Mahaha! I love that! 'The perfection was... irritating.' I know that feeling. I really, really do.

      I loved it SOOOO much, but I so understand not everyone loving it, and you having issues with ti :)

      Thank you SOOOO much, Asher! ♥♥♥ you!

      Delete
  21. I loved your review! I just flew throug it and I enjoyed myself very much with your words ^^ Thanks for sharing this!

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    1. Thanks so much, Mel! I loved this book so, so very much, I desperately wanted to do it the justice it deserves. So glad you enjoyed!

      Delete
  22. Woah, Sarah, gorgeous review! I am so envious of Karou's language collection - I want me some scuppies, and whichever one it was that gave Karou her languages. Such amazing ideas and images and words! And I liked that Zuzanna was a solid friend for Karou too.

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    1. EXACTLY THIS. Oh goodness, if I could have written any book, EVER, this would be it. It's so beautiful, and the languages! And the Zuzanna! And the *swoons*

      Delete

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