The Daughter of Smoke and Bone [ The Daughter of Smoke and Bone #1 ] by Laini Taylor6
Title: The Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Series: The Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Author: Laini Taylor
Publication Date: January 1st, 2011
Publisher: Little, Brown
Rating: 5 stars
The Daughter of Smoke and Bone is one of the best books I have read this year, and the hype has definitely been earned. Laini Taylor weaves words with magic; her style is eloquent and poetic without ever going over-the-top, and I’m sure she’s going to quickly become one of my favorite authors. Beautiful prose mixed with excellent characters that are constantly developing, an enchanting setting, and an intriguing plot makes this a book an excellent start to what will surely be a wonderful and immensely magical series.
The synopsis certainly doesn’t do the Daughter of Smoke and Bone justice. The plot is so much more than what is described there; it is magical and fantastic and utterly beautiful. The chimaeras have a magic in which they can buy wishes of various value, and this concept is so well-executed that it becomes such an entrancing, fascinating thing. I am usually left languid at the magical elements in urban fantasy, but it was just so well-done that it completely enraptured me.
Karou is a flawed and three-dimensional protagonist. Her thoughts, beliefs, desires, and actions are all multi-layered and conflicting in a way that makes her true to life and believable, where many characters in young adult literature fall short. Karou is described as beautiful, and for this, I was thankful, as many authors feel the need to call their characters “plain” when they are obviously meant to be conventionally attractive. Likewise, how refreshing that Karou was not some social pariah! I appreciated her blue hair and her rough-edgedness, the way she yearned for Kaz despite not really liking him, her kindness, and her unusualness.
As unusual protagonists often do, Karou had a “normal” best friend – a human named Zuzana. Fortunately, she was not looked on as lesser by the narrative, nor was she discarded by Karou over the course of the book. Zuzana made for a wonderful best friend (who else teared up when she was taking care of Karou?) and a great character, and I hope she becomes more immersed in the otherworld and becomes more of a central part of the plot in later books.
The love interest, Akiva, was a great character, a bit of a douche, but completely sympathetic. He was bred to be a killer, had very little family in his life, and learned to shut emotion out entirely. He reminded me a bit of Castiel from Supernatural, especially in the way that Akiva had a fair bit of idealism in him, and that it was a person of a race he was taught to devalue that taught him how to feel again.
Prague made for an excellent setting. The imagery was so alive and beautiful and perfect, and how could you have read it and NOT had the sudden, overwhelming desire to visit Prague? The way Prague is described makes it seem like the perfect place to set this fantastical story, as if it were the natural gateway into another world. And the other world! The world of angels and chimaeras was beautifully executed. We got angel politics, chimaera government workings, culture and myth of both, and absolutely no info-dumping.
Neither the angels nor the chimaeras were the bad guys – the angels were bred to be militaristic soldiers, but they were not evil. The chimaeras are called devils in the synopsis and are not always completely human-shaped, but they are not evil. Even the douchebags are not portrayed as unequivocally evil; everyone is flawed and three-dimensional, perhaps morally grey (who isn’t, really?) but never able to be put into constricting categories so vague as “good” or “bad”. Thiago, a chimaera, is the closest thing we have to a villain, but even he is more than that.
The love story moved along quickly, perhaps even too quickly for comfort, but it didn’t seem out of place. Akiva and Kaoru were always depicted as a tragedy waiting to happen, never a happy ending in the making. Their love was functional in many ways, but it was not fluffy or perfect, and they had to deal with both internal and external forces as an obstacle to their relationship – just as one does in real life. Also, the love story never detracts from the rest of the story, and there is a constant balance, no one aspect (setting, romance, characters, etc) ever dominates everything.
Towards the end of the Daughter of Smoke and Bone, I found myself wondering if Megan Whalen Turner might have been one of Laini Taylor’s formative influences, with some of the scenes involving the various myths of creation being highly evocative of scenes in the Queen’s Thief series. This is certainly not a bad thing, as it never seemed like imitation, but rather a testament to Laini Taylor’s skill with storytelling. All in all, this series is off to a magnificent start, and it will most likely find a place on my favorites list.
My only nagging concern is the whole Madrigal/Karou thing. I figured early on that it was going to be some sort of reincarnation type thing, but I’m a wee bit nervous about it! Karou and Madrigal had very different personalities, and now that their…or her…memories are back, what does this mean? Has Karou now reverted to Madrigal? In the end, there certainly seemed to be more Madrigal than Karou, but I don’t WANT Karou to be gone. After all, your experiences play a large part in shaping who you are, and as such, even with the same soul, how could Karou just cease to exist, when she was made into the person she became? In the sequel, will we find that Karou is warring with these two different aspects of her personality, one of the past and one of the present? Or will they have joined into one new personality? Or will one overcome the other? I’m very nervous about the answer to that, but I’m also excited to find out, as I do trust Laini Taylor’s writing enough to have faith in her delivery.