Little, Brown & Co, 2011.
Hardcover, 418 pages. Young Adult Fiction.
(a National Book Award Finalist)
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? ~Publisher’s Comments
Hello and Welcome Laini Taylor to the field of Young Adult Fiction. All those already heavily populating the shelves of the Paranormal and Romance, Taylor has upped the ante. Yes, I know Taylor is already much celebrated in the YA realm with Lips Touch Three Times,and those coming out of Middle-Grade fiction should be familiar with her Faeries of Dreamdark series (which is fantastic). Just the same, Daughter of Smoke & Bone is playing the popular game this time, and winning.
Admittedly, I do not read much Young Adult, and even more rarely the Paranormal Romance. But swimming amidst the heavily perfumed and bloodied waters, Laini Taylor should rise to the top; that is, if good writing is still respected. And if one should need to defend the phenomena and marketing darling that is Paranormal Romance, Taylor is a good sell for deftness and originality while still including the beloved belly-warming and a suitable avatar for the reader.
Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love. It did not end well. (part 1)
One of the many things that blew me away in the Faeries of Dreamdark series was not only her effortless world-building, but Taylor’s use of a myriad of myths to her own end. She spins her own yarns out of old and disparate threads and weaves her own original works. In Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Taylor takes the figures of the Seraphim and Chimaera and creates a marvelous history and conflict. And while the story is populated with these mythically-proportioned creatures, the story itself is very familiar—on a number of levels.
One, is the Fantasy Taylor creates. A world at war after the slave class finally rebels against their oppressors. The conflict when two star-crossed lovers meet. The prices they must pay. Two, Karou, whomever she really is, is a bad-ass. She is beautiful and mysterious and magic. The most beautiful men (plural) on set desire her, and not in desire’s most mild form. While I understand this move, I really hate it. Are flaws flaws if the heroines are still so effing appealing? Three, there is the charmingly quirky friend. Taylor writes friendships really, really well–so well you wish she could come and write you some friendships. And family relationships. Her characterizations are damn good is what it is. Four, the romance is hot*. Who wouldn’t want to be loved by a MAN like Akiva? (a few of us are so lucky.) Of course, it is, at present, that inarguable physical draw–so as to make it unmistakable that the two belong together (on some primal level; you know, the most trustworthy source we have). Five, “to be continued…” Yes, Daughter of Smoke & Bone is a Book 1.
Daughter of Smoke & Bone is the kind of romance I loved as a Teen–and still do. sigh. But real love is complicated. It must test its physical symptoms.The clothes have to be retrieved from the floor and put back on. True Love must transcend time and conflict, doesn’t it? And boy is there a doozy of a complication. So, thanks for that Ms. Taylor. Also, the kind of female protagonist we love doesn’t disintegrate in the presence of a sexy male protagonist; especially one we are allowed to get to know.
Daughter of Smoke & Bone, while primarily Karou, shifts when necessary into principle characters and their histories. Any departures are carefully timed and tuned. And yet, Daughter of Smoke & Bone isn’t too predictable in the unraveling of its grand mystery of who Karou is. And while I hope that the subsequent books will be handled in the fashion of the Dreamdark trilogy**, I am guessing there is more of Karou to be revealed. At the very least, there will be more on Karou and Akiva—there’d better. I am excited to see the realm Taylor will manufacture for us in the continuation of Daughter of Smoke & Bone. I only hope I will not have to wait a really long time for it.
*harlequin-esque. The sexual content is not explicit, but present. Karou regrets the loss of her virginity early on (in reference); and later there is the less regrettable loss (more detailed). Perhaps a good lesson on minding the quality of your first partner? And in thinking harder about the theme/placement of those tattoos? If only they could be wished away. anyway, just a note for those concerned parents with their tweens shopping Teen shelves. Taylor is not terribly gratuitous, and is age appropriate as Daughter of Smoke & Bone is Young Adult fiction.
**Each were woven around a new protagonist’s adventure, while still maintaining the trilogy’s overarching story and the consciousness previous heroes and their trajectories.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone Website, wherein an excerpt is provided.
my post on the Faeries of Dreamdark, Books 1 & 2