Daughter of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor

Buy from Amazon.ca, Amazon.com, or IndieBound

Author’s website
Publication date – September 27, 2011

Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) 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?

Thoughts: This book starts off in a fantastic way to get the reader interested. We dive headfirst into the life of Karou, protagonist, dweller in both the mundane world and among the chimeras she grew up with. Taylor does a wonderful job of blending reality with fantasy, and of showing the difficulties of living in two different worlds. Karou’s relationships suffered greatly for all the secrets she had to keep, something which many urban fantasy writers will touch on but for the most part gloss over the more painful and inconvenient aspects of. Realism also shone through in the dialogue, with Karou having conversations that encompassed crude insults, sexuality, and slang in a way that’s perfectly suitable for her age but that others may deem inappropriate for that age group to read.

Many of the high points of this novel do come out when compared to other works. Not that the book would falter without that comparison, mind. It just becomes stronger for it. Taylor clearly understands how late-teen minds and social interactions work, and doesn’t try to dumb them down for propriety’s sake.

he first part of the book centres mostly around Karou, with the occasional point-of-view chapter from Akiva, an angel who is assisting in cutting off the portals to the chimera world in order to reduce their “demonic” influence. Gradually we see more of Akiva, until it almost feels as though the viewpoint has switched to him entirely. Thus rather than the angels of the book being presented as the bad guys, we get a somewhat more balanced perspective, seeing things from both sides.

Though in regard to the reason why angels have a grudge against chimera, I have to agree with Karou that in a war, the invaders are always the bad guys.

A story of war and love told from both sides is always interesting, in that even when you support one side, part of you can’t help but at least sympathize with the viewpoint of the other, even if you don’t find yourself agreeing with it. It highlights how very rarely is one side completely right and the other completely wrong, and this is definitely no exception.

My biggest complaint about this book is that it starts off as a very interesting tale with a large amount of fascinating mystery, segues into being a story mostly focused on love, and then the last half of the book is spent giving us the backstory that led up to the earlier events in the first place. While I won’t deny that the backstory was fascinating to read, showcasing Taylor’s incredible sense of creativity and fluid style, I very often found myself wishing I could depart from Madrigal’s story and get back to seeing Karou. The star of the show spent surprisingly little time on the page, and spending the latter half of the book on backstory made it feel slower-paced than the beginning, even though it was no less action-filled.

The story very often departed from a linear timeline and jumped back and forward a bit, showing memories of memories, and that was occasionally difficult to keep up with.

But I can’t deny that the author has incredible talent here, and in spite of its flaws, I was captivated by the world that Taylor created and developped. I’m greatly looking forward to reading the sequel, and Taylor’s style or writing alone could keep me coming back to her books time and again.

(Preview provided by NetGalley, later purchased in full by me.)

5 comments on “Daughter of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor

  1. I've heard plenty of positive thing about this book so I'm glad I bought a copy to read! It's great to see a book set in a different city than the usual New York as well! :)

  2. I completely agree. Dispite the lengthy chunk of backstory, Smoke & Bone is a triumph. I'm usually not a reader of YA at all (especially those with romantic elements) but this hooked me. Cant wait to see more on the movie adaptation!

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