Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini TaylorWow. I barely know where to begin in attempting to review this book; everything I write down seems to pale in comparison to how beautifully this book was written, how utterly imaginative the plot and characters were and how completely touching the story as a whole was. I'm the type of reader/reviewer who's always jotting down notes as I read, usually just a memorable quote here and there...or a general observation to elaborate during the review. To put things into perspective, by the time I was about halfway through this book I already had pages of notes and quotes. And not just short one-phrase quotes; but entire paragraphs of truly delightful prose, the kind that paints a vivid picture in your mind...a pretty remarkable feat considering how other-worldly Daughter of Smoke and Bone is. Sadly, my laptop died as I was initially starting to write this review yesterday; which means all my saved quotes and thoughts on this book died along with it so, I'm going to start fresh and try my best to do Laini Taylor justice.
Daughter of Smoke & Bone #1
Published September 27 2011 by Little Brown Books
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 grows dangerously low.
And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherworldly 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 beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery 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?
Like I mentioned, I've never read anything that comes even remotely close to Daughter of Smoke and Bone; it's so ineffably original. The story starts with our main protagonist Karou. Karou is a student studying Art in Prague and while that may not sound overly unique; Karou has a secret. Hers is a double life. You see, Karou was raised by demons, or rather chimera. (In this world chimera are sort of half or mixed breed humans/animals). Ever since she was a baby, these chimera have been her family; they have cared for her, raised her, protected her. While she still attended regular school while growing up, she also went home through a portal that links Brimstone's lair to our world. Now a young adult she has her own flat, but she still runs errands for Brimstone...very peculiar errands. Brimstone is in the business of collecting teeth; human and animal teeth which he trades for wishes...wishes that often come with a terrible price but wishes nonetheless. Karou travels our world seeking, trading and transporting teeth for Brimstone. She has never been told what Brimstone does with these teeth, or indeed why he collects them. And that's not the only secret that has been kept from Karou. She has no knowledge of her real family, or her past. She lives with the constant feeling that there is something missing...something she's missing...something else she ought to be doing...something important... but what? As Karou sets off on yet another errand, black hand-prints begin appearing on Brimstone's portal doors all over the world. People world-wid are reporting odd sightings , some claim to have seen unearthly beautiful beings take flight, there are whispers of angels... And an ancient other-worldly war between the two archaic races is about to come crashing down on Karou and turn her reality upside down.
As far as our hero goes, Karou is beyond awesome. This blue haired and black eyed artist who moonlights as a trader and transporter of illicit goods is trained in self defense, knows her way around with knives and walks fearlessly out to meet all kinds of seedy and quite frankly scary characters. I loved Karou pretty much from the first pages but she keeps getting better the more you discover about her. I especially loved her thoughts; her inner voice. She has an precise yet artful way of expressing her feelings . And having had such a unique upbringing and life gives her an incomparably colourful way of seeing things. While she is a bit innocent at first, as the story progresses and we learn more of the secrets about Karou's life, she becomes much more determined, complex and resourceful. She's like no other heroine I've encountered and hands down one of the best I've come across. As for the other characters in the book, they are rich and varied; humans, chimera and angels. But fear not, these angels aren't your usual pure benevolent angels; these are warrior angels as fierce and terrifying as the chimera might be. Worthy characters of mention or obviously Brimstone, Zuzana (who is awesome) Akiva *swoon* and Issa. The characters were all in perfect balance, flawed yet endearing. Some are easy to love, others are fun to hate. Each character feels authentic; complex and well...alive.
Where the storytelling is concerned I can only say it was above reproach. Laini Taylor has a style all her own. While there were some words I wasn't familiar with, for the most part, it's familiar words used in new and original words. It's descriptions I could have never imagined that fall into place perfectly. Never overly complicated or rambling, her style is direct, yet lyrical. The words are unusual, but fitting. In the beginning the world building fits in seamlessly, bit by bit as needed, never too heavy but never lacking. The intrigue is flawlessly done giving you just enough to get you fully immersed in this world and hooked. At about the halfway point, the romance factor really kicks in; and it is beautiful. It's complicated and poetic and the gave me chills on more than occasion. I also loved how the dual narration kicked in in specific places, giving us a complete picture for everyone involved. I have no other words, it was beautifully and masterfully done.
I have nothing but praise for this book; it has everything I look for in fiction: action, intrigue, romance, fantasy, a kick ass female lead, a swoon worthy love interest and an ending that will leave you begging for more. It's enchanting, odd, incredibly imaginative, and perfectly written.
Instantly added to my favorites bookshelf; highly recommended!