YA Weekend: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal Fantasy
Series: Book 1 of Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Date of Publication: September 27, 2011
Let me just start this review by saying how glad I am to have finally picked up this book! Now that I’ve finished reading it, I can’t help but wonder just what on earth had kept me waiting so long. It also just occurred to me that 2013 has been a great year for me when it comes to Young Adult paranormal fantasy novels featuring angels.
The interesting thing I found about Daughter of Smoke and Bone is that it really reads like a book with two distinct parts. The first part introduces us to our main protagonist and narrator Karou, a blue-haired young woman studying at an art school in Prague. Her sketchbooks are filled with drawings of chimeric monsters and other fantastical beings, which all her friends think are the products of an excessively-active imagination. None of them know the truth, that the strange creatures are in fact all very real, and Karou is a very special girl. In her secret life she runs mysterious errands for her foster family, led by the demonic looking Brimstone, the chimaera whose shop opens a portal between two worlds.
But then around the world, burned and blackened hand prints begin appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged figures that witnesses can only describe as angels. Thus we meet Akiva, one of these beautiful, angelic strangers, who happens to catch sight of Karou while she was on one of Brimstone’s errands. In my eyes, the moment they clashed heralded the beginning of the second part of the story, told mostly in flashbacks and memories. It’s a shame that I can’t really say more, because this to me was where things started getting really good. I won’t spoil the book, but I will bring attention to the opening lines, which I think sums things up nicely:
Two words: forbidden love. I’ll admit I have a weakness for it. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always appreciated having a little romance in my reading, but I generally don’t go all sentimental and lose my head over mushy stories of star-crossed love. But Forbidden Love will do it. Every. Single. Time. I am such a sucker for all that comes with it, the ache and longing, the clandestine meetings and the inevitable tragedies. I swear it should be like a genre in itself! Something about books like this make me get all tingly inside, and then everything else just fades away as I become inexorably hooked.
The second half of Daughter of Smoke and Bone did just that to me. The first half was pleasant enough, but I did not feel the connection to this book until Karou and Akiva finally meet and their relationship is explained, the intricacies of their story peeling away gradually, layer by delicious layer. Normally I think I would be repelled by this style of story-telling with all the time jumping and perspective switching, but somehow the author makes it work.
It helps of course that Laini Taylor writes oh so beautifully. The intensity and passion in the romance is almost palpable, due in part to her wonderful prose. Also, when she’s not enchanting me with her rich and detailed descriptions of the city, she is making me smile with the bright and spirited personality of Karou. As to the former, I loved that this book takes place in Prague, the perfect setting for a story like this about myth and magic. Everything comes together to create a mood that is all at once sensual, dark and bewitching.
This book, especially with the revelations contained in its final chapters, completely captivated me. Yes, my penchant for this kind of love story may have a lot to do with it, but at the same time, the beauty of the writing as well as the sheer amount of creativity and inventiveness behind the book’s premise cannot be denied. I don’t often feel the urge to jump right into the next installment of a series, even for books I’ve really enjoyed, preferring to take breaks in between. But I didn’t want to wait for this one. Even as I write this, a copy of Days of Blood and Starlight is now in my possession and waiting to be read, and I am very much looking forward to starting it next.