Title: Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Author: Laini Taylor
Publisher: Hodder Paperback
Release date: August 26th 2011
Buy at: Book Depository
“Errand requiring immediate attention. Come.
The note was on vellum, pierced by the talons of the almost-crow that delivered it. Karou read the message. ‘He never says please’, she sighed, but she gathered up her things.
When Brimstone called, she always came.”
In general, Karou has managed to keep her two lives in balance. On the one hand, she’s a seventeen-year-old art student in Prague; on the other, errand-girl to a monstrous creature who is the closest thing she has to family. Raised half in our world, half in ‘Elsewhere’, she has never understood Brimstone’s dark work – buying teeth from hunters and murderers – nor how she came into his keeping. She is a secret even to herself, plagued by the sensation that she isn’t whole.
Now the doors to Elsewhere are closing, and Karou must choose between the safety of her human life and the dangers of a war-ravaged world that may hold the answers she has always sought.
There are perfect books. Books with characters that jump out of the pages, settings that envelop you until you forget your own life and world, stories that make you cry or laugh with joy. There are books that are priceless. And there are books that lure you in with promises of perfection and leave you kicking and screaming in the mud.
You probably already have an idea about which category this book fits into for me, although it might be a bit of an exaggeration to say I kicked and screamed. I didn’t. I was merely frustrated. Very frustrated. But let’s go back to the beginning.
This book has everything a good Young Adult’s book (or any book for that matter) should have: a well rounded main character, interesting and diverse side characters, good prose, and a hint of mystery indicative that a good plot is about to be unfolded.
On the characters field, we must begin with the main character Karou. A girl whose hair grows naturally blue and an art student whose drawings and stories of fantastical beings draw many to her, she leaves little to desire. She has flaws and virtues. She yearns. She fears. She feels completely and absolutely human. What’s more, though Karou has a foot in one world, and one in another, she does not let it stop her from living a human life. Antagonists, irritating ex-boyfriends, teachers, and a best friend, she has them all. And unlike other YA’s, when Karou does something that gets her human world life in jeopardy, there are consequences. The authoritative figures are not, for once, forgotten.
More than all that, I loved Karou’s relationships with her family of monsters (who felt as real as you and me; were it not for their physical descriptions, one would think they were nothing but 100% human) and with her best friend, a witty puppeteer whose adoration for a musician never steps in the way of hers and Karou’s friendship. These relationships were unbelievingly genuine, and rich of perfect dialogue and banter.
It is a shame that the same did not happen with the eventual love interest, with whom I felt no build-up, no nothing. It felt like just another cliché instalove kind of thing. Taylor offers an explanation for it later in the book, but it is a cliché all of its own. The characters, both likeable, have the seeds for chemistry, for a blooming, real relationship, for a greater development. That did not exist. It was this that spoiled the second half of the book for me when I had enjoyed the first one thoroughly. And why did I enjoy the first part so? Both due to the points discussed in previous paragraphs and because of something else: fantastical wordbuidling.
No, really. Secret doors all over the world that lead to a shop where a monstrous creature trades teeth for wishes, macabre restaurants in the middle of Prague, creatures with wings and eyes of fire, a door that must remain closed, beads that grant wishes of different sizes and consequences,… There is so much detail, so much beauty, so much promise. The worldbuilding was so convincing, it was hard not to believe that any door could lead to Brimstone’s curious shop.
All gone to waste by romance clichés.
Well, perhaps not all. It is still a lesson in world and character building, and it does contain smart storytelling filled with parallels for the attentive eye (though I must confess there was a little too much purple prose at times for my liking). And besides, who’s to say the second book will have as much void romance? In some ways, the first one felt like the set up for a play. Hopefully, the real story will begin with the second book.
Like I’ve said, the potential is most definitely there.
Originally posted at Blurbarians.
The book in a quote
“Wishes are false. Hope is true. Hope makes its own magic.”