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Review of Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor | What YA Reading?

November 30th, 2011

Daughter of Smoke and Bone

by Laini Taylor

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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 has 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?

 

This. Book. Is. Friggin’. Amazing. Where can I even begin to start this review? I guess that I’ll try to make this as simple as possible: I LOVE IT!!! IT IS SPECTACULAR!!! 5 STARS! Daughter of Smoke and Bone is one of the best YA books that I have ever read.

This is one of those books that you can’t even begin to describe. Anything I say could not possibly measure up to the wonder of Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Basically, all you need to know is that you should read it. Right now. Stop reading this review, drive to the nearest bookstore, and buy this book. It is beyond worth it.

Karou doesn’t know who she is. Her hair is naturally blue, her body is riddled with scars and tattoos, some of which she thinks she was born with, and she grew up living with four monsters. Brimstone, who is supposedly the devil himself, was the closest thing to a father Karou has ever had, and Issa has a human head and torso and is snake from the waist down. Every once in a while the back door to Brimstone’s shop will be knocked on, and Karou will be forced into a closed off room. The front door of Brimstone’s shop, however, can only be opened from within. It leads to any and every city on Earth. It is through this door that humans enter the shop to trade teeth–animal or human– for wishes. Brimstone is also called the Wishmonger, because that’s what he deals in: wishes. However, the core of Daughter of Smoke and Bone is quite clear: hope is the wish.

The world building is utterly captivating. Brimstone and his crew and shop are the essence of that childhood dream about the world of monsters that you never completely imagined. But behind this dream lies a mysterious secret: the teeth. What in all the devils does Brimstone need teeth for? The queerness of the teeth necklaces is the best part of the world building; it’s strange, and sort of gross, really, but you embrace it wholeheartedly because it fits into Brimstone’s shop. It fits with Issa’s pet serpents, the fire roaring as the foursome of monsters chit-chat quietly, and the magical doorway that could lead you anywhere.

And then there’s Prague, one of the worlds on the outside of Brimstone’s doorway. This is where Karou lives. It’s beautiful and whimsical and dark, like a black castle with dozens of turrets. I love it. I blame you, Laini Taylor, for my bypassing my usual bought lunch in order to save for my ever-extending trip to Europe.

Do you remember those fairytales that you used to read as a child? Not the stupid rainbows and kittens of fairytales (*cough*Cinderella*cough*), but the good kind. The Grimm kind. The kind with dozens of unexpected twists, imperfect perfections, morbid innuendo and, perhaps, a not-so-happy ending. Daughter of Smoke and Bone is one of these fairytales. It is written poetically and beautifully:

It is a condition of monsters that they do not perceive themselves as such. The dragon, you know, hunkered in the village devouring maidens, heard the townsfolk cry ‘Monster!’ and looked behind him.

It was all but naked, a bloated torso with reedy arms wrapped tight around the human’s neck. Useless legs dangled behind, and its head was swollen taut and purple, as if it were engorged with blood and ready to pop in a great, wet burst.

Here and there, feathers fell, and they were like tufts of white fire, disintegrating to ash as soon as they touched the ground. In Delhi, a Sister of Mercy reached out and caught one on her palm like a raindrop, but unlike a raindrop it burned, and left the perfect outline of a feather seared into her flesh.
“Angel,” she whispered, relishing in the pain.
She was not exactly wrong.

Moving onto the characters: Karou is one of those strong, kick-crack heroines. She does what she thinks is right, no matter the circumstances, and defends herself with ease. Akiva is more complicated. He sort of switches from the bad guys’ team to the good guys’ team and back again, but in the end, I believe that he chooses right.
That’s one of the best parts of this book: you can’t always tell the good guys from the bad guys. The angels have fought against the devils for centuries, but as a reader, you are exposed to both sides of the story. That’s part of what makes this story so real: amid the clash of monsters versus angels, because both sides of the story are still somewhat innocent, there is hope. But there is not peace.

At one point, Daughter of Smoke and Bone doesn’t focus on Karou anymore, but somebody else. It becomes a story within a story, a novella with a novel, and it adds depth to the plot. I loved it.

I love it.

If I could sum up my feelings toward this book in one word: love. 5 stars. I’m a picky reader, but… 5 stars!!!

 

I’ll keep you posted,

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  1. Pingback: Book Lover in Prague | What YA Reading?

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