"review" · fiction · recommend · sci-fi/fantasy · series · young adult lit

Daughter of Smoke & Bone

8490112Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

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.

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*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.

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Daughter of Smoke and Bone Website, wherein an excerpt is provided.

my post on the Faeries of Dreamdark, Books 1 & 2

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audio book trip

We remembered the audio books this time. Natalya and I browsed the considerable audio book collection at the library and left with more hours of reading than the trip should need–just in case one of the narrators was awful, which has happened in the past. Perhaps as we listen to more audio books we will remember the good readers.

When N and I were perusing the three sections of audio books, I noticed Tonya Hurley’s Ghostgirl on the Teen Shelf and was tempted to pick it up. Maybe next time. Because I am familiar with the story or am tempted by the cover copy? No. The book is read aloud by Parker Posey–I mean, how fabulous is that? N didn’t know better and nixed the idea, but Sean agrees–next time.

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We began with Faeries of Dreamdark : Blackbringer [unabridged] by Laini Taylor, read by Davina Porter. You may recall how I raved on this and its second book Silksinger. Davina Porter is a fantastic reader! I am going to remember her for future books. She changes her voice so seamlessly, so perfectly. I was immediately drawn in.

Just the same, we didn’t get too far into this very long reading because we were needing more overt humor over the chilling imagery of a terrible demon on the loose. (The Dreamdark series would be a fun RIP read.)

I picked up Skulduggery Pleasant because I thought it was funny, very Doctor Who-ish. Written by Derek Landy, this audio book version was read aloud by Rupert Degas. When I had read Skulduggery Pleasant I had had very definite sounds of Skulduggery and Stephanie (the two protagonists) in my head. In effect, they were David Tennant and Billie Piper (of Doctor Who). Imagine my distraction when the talented Mr. Degas presented two very different voices. His softened, lilting voice for the daring and sassy 12-year-old Stephanie Edgley sounded remarkably like Billy Boyd as Peregrine “Pippin” Took of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings films.  I also felt that Skulduggery would have been a bit more animated, less like Brendan Gleeson suffering exhaustion and a scratchy throat. Fortunately, Sean and Natalya thought the reading was great and really enjoyed the six discs as it carried us across North Texas.

Except…there are musical/sound effect transitions between chapters here that we had come to mock, but were otherwise not amusing. Really, that they all start with weird music (minus Blackbringer) was startling and slightly icky.

The third book we listened to upon the return trip was Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl : The Eternity Code. Only Natalya and I have read the first book in the series. The Eternity Code, I believe, is the third book. Sean had a passing idea of who Artemis Fowl was.

The reader for this audio version is Nathaniel Parker. The reading was a wonderful experience and the flashes of Liam Neeson and Robbie Coltrane (as Rubeus Hagrid) were not too distracting. Actually it was kind of funny trying to picture the Hagrid figure as the dwarf Mulch Diggums.

I marvel over the voice memory for each character an audio-book reader can employ. I remember trying to assign each character a voice (as recommended by their description) when reading aloud to N when she was much smaller. I would forget and get them mixed up if there were more than 5 characters. N, however, always remembered how the voices were supposed to go. My greatest success is still Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr.

We would have liked to have gotten to Neil Gaiman’s Coraline as read by the author–except we are glad to have not been on the road that much longer. Neil Gaiman was our fail-safe. He softens his voice for the female characters, but does not reach for the falsetto like the previous two mentions. His alterations are more slight. And well, Sean and I adore his reading of The Graveyard Book. Gaiman will be sure to come along with us again.

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How do you prefer your audio-books? Dramatic vocal changes between characters? Female or Male Narrator? Author over Actor? Musical entrances? Warnings that the disc is finished, a ‘would you please change it or you’ll be experiencing two full minutes of deja vu and forget where you’d left off’? Do you have fail-safe readers/series?

"review" · fiction · juvenile lit · recommend · sci-fi/fantasy · Tales · wondermous

oh, how I love these…

{I opted for the short and sweet, fearing the gushing could go on and I would possibly overwhelm us both; so please excuse my understatements, if you would like clarity on a point, please, as always, comment.}

I picked Laini Taylor’s Dreamdark: Silksinger for the cover. I was scanning the shelf for something else when it caught my eye. Then of course I read the jacket and added it to the pile. It is 400-some pages, but the book is 7.64 x 5.80 x 1.45 in. And I hadn’t read a Fantasy of this sort in a while.

In a day or two’s time I started reading Silksinger and I was several pages in when I wondered if it was a Book 2, and if that book cover on the back inside jacket was book 1.  I stopped, went and got Blackbringer and read Book 1 first. And while you could read Book 2 and enjoy it, it’s better with the first first.

I will be commenting on them both together because the second book maintained the first book’s excellence (a rare claim, for which Taylor should be proud).

Faeries of Dreamdark: Blackbringer by Laini Taylor

Illustrated by Jim Di Bartolo

G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2007

(smallish, Hardback), 437 pages.

 

Dreamdark: Silksinger (book 2) by Laini Taylor

Illustrated by Jim Di Bartolo

G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2009.

(smallish, Hardback), 445 pages.

Laini Taylor has a marvelous imagination. Even better, she’s a wonderful storyteller. I finished the first book and was euphoric. After the second book I knew the infatuation was actually love.  What do these books not do well?

I tried to rub the stars from my eyes. I let the stories sit a few days. Now sitting here, typing this post, I can only think a next book is too far in the offing. And also whether two more books on the Christmas list would overburden it.

Poppy Manygreen (Blackbringer, 71)

The things I really appreciated about the reads:

the illustrations (beautiful additions, though you can imagine what they look like, Laini is good with her own descriptions); Jumps straight in; a well-crafted world/lore; great characters/characterization—and their names; humor; the imagery; the language and the fact that I could read it, that I could pronounce the places, etc; pacing; action; a dose of sweet romance; affectionate relationships, family/friends; unflinching darkness; and yes, I was shocked and horrified in book one when….; and I teared-up in book two when….

Bellatrix (Blackbringer, 257)

I was concerned with: the obnoxious heroine possibility.

Though the 3rd person narrative is not limited, Magpie Windwitch is our protagonist in both.  She is quite incredible—almost dangerously so. You could see her unlimited potential, as the story allows for her to find the tools she needs to succeed from somewhere yet discovered inside of herself, from gifts bestowed, from dreams dreamed for her… And yet, she is charmingly young. Bless it, she has flaws, and she is fairly unpredictable (without disrupting the stories logic).  She also has the crows and Talon Rathersting to keep her humble. Taylor also dispenses awesomeness to other characters in the books, which is not often the case in other hero adventure stories.

While:

My love for the Dreamdark books should equate with “everyone should read them!” But that isn’t actually the case. I was thinking about this. I think that a huge number of people aged 9 and up would be entertained by Taylor’s stories, however…

…If you don’t care for Fantasy, these are not an obvious choice; but if you wanted to try, these are upper-middle-grade, highly accessible and paced to move you along, dispensing back story along the way.

…if you are worried about competing/influential mythologies (however fictional in presentation) you will not care for this one, but you probably don’t read much Fantasy anyway.

…if you are tired of charming males in your reading, this should wait awhile.

…if you don’t care for diversity, you probably wouldn’t care for this one; but if you are…I would like to hear thoughts on how you think some of the faeries are portrayed after you’ve read it.

I haven’t tested this series on the daughter yet. She has her own pile of books (I think she has 4 going at once) and her writing, but I plan on having her give them a go…course if I owned them I wouldn’t have to renew them at the Library and I wouldn’t have to keep moving them to the top of her tower of TBRs…

 another book where the content and illustrations are equally lovely.  Jim Di Bartolo's blog.
Laini Taylor's homepage.