Sunday, November 6, 2011


Daughter of Smoke & Bone - Laini Taylor
Publisher: Little, Brown (Hachette)
September 27, 2011
Daughter of Smoke & Bone @ Parental Book Reviews

One of the only times I've been able to venture out into the blogosphere this fall was to write my incomplete review/thoughts of Laini Taylor's newest book.
I've been finished with it for over about a month, and just going off the top of my head, all that comes to mind is "WOW."

I've been in a reading slump for...basically this whole year. A couple of gems have crossed my path, including Jellicoe Road, Divergent and Unwind, but most of the books I've read lately haven't left much of an impression.
This was the kind of book, though, that made reading *fun* again. I felt completely grossed in the story and constantly wondered what would happen next. I haven't felt this excited about a book in a long while.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone has quite a few strengths, and the first thing I should mention is Laini Taylor's exquisite writing style. Her prose is lovely, but it's also intimidating, and apart from making me feel just a tad inadequate about my own writing abilities, it was as close to a perfect experience as I can imagine. There was an underlying simplicity to it that, in actuality, is probably really hard to accomplish. But she makes it all seem so effortless.

As far as the story goes...WOW again. Look, I've read more than my fair share of angel books over the years. In fact, I try and stay as far away from angels in YA as I can. But I've never encountered a book that made the antithesis of angels - demons - so prominent. As an aside, I liked that the so-called "demons" were referred to as chimaera. So how to describe the setup of this story? I would hate to compare it to Romeo and Juliet because, as I've said before, I think Romeo and Juliet is one of the least romantic, pathos-heavy stories out there (but not West Side Story, which is one of the thoroughly *coolest* stories). But sure enough, there's a star-crossed love story featuring an angel and a chimaera, set against the backdrop of an otherworldly war. Akiva wasn't your typical YA love interest-useless-studmuffin, but he wasn't your (also typical) YA love interest-angry-jerk, either. And for the most part, I thought Karou was a lovely main character. A nice combination of strong/independent, but vulnerable/humble as well. I'd have to say, though, that my favorite character was good old Brimstone. Too bad we don't get to see that much of him. :/

The concept of teeth & wishes (won't elaborate further) was so ingenious and original, I marvel at how Laini came up with it all. And probably my favorite aspect of the story is, once again, something that will most likely go unmentioned in other reviews: Laini's fantasy universe is so brilliant because of her ability to make it all seem so realistic. I'm often distracted by fictional place-names that *sound* too fictional. But some of her places within that otherworldly universe - Loramendi, Astrae - sounded like they could be actual places. Also, the basic languages of the angels and the chimaera didn't sound particularly "made-up" either. That is something that is really hard to do - take a 100% fictional idea and make it sound like it could *actually* be real.
So yeah, it was a little thing, but it was a little thing that made all the difference to me.

There were really only two things about Daughter that I didn't find enjoyable, and I'm just going to mention them briefly. #1 - the first two chapters of this book could have been omitted, in my opinion. Daughter transforms into more of a fantasy, but the opening chapters read like your average paranormal: we see Karou deal with her loser ex-boyfriend, we hear her internal thoughts about all the regrets she has over said ex-boyfriend, Karou goes through a couple days as a "normal" teenager as an art school student, Karou and an almost-stereotypical "best friend" character wander around Prague discussing various really seemed like I was reading two stories packed into one. What I'm trying to say is that there were parts in the beginning of Daughter that I found unnecessary because it just seemed so average. Karou is such a butt-kickingly cool character, and the world of the angels-chimaera and the mysteries of Brimstone's teeth shop are so EXHILARATING that I didn't need that averageness. I don't want Karou to be "just like everybody else" because she's not! But once I got about 50 pages in, then things started looking up and changed for the better. Also, Kazimir - Karou's loser ex-boyfriend - was completely unnecessary. He added absolutely nothing to the story, and in my opinion, he even hindered it, because he made me wonder, "If Karou is so smart and resourceful and she lives with a FREAKING demon-"Godfather"esque Brimstone, why in he world would she get sidetracked by this idiot? She must not be so smart after all!"
Anyway, besides that...I didn't particularly like the ending. The last "big reveal" about Akiva just had me shaking my head, muttering, "Oh gee wiz." After such an amazing read, the ending bordered on "melodramatic" and makes me a little apprehensive about the direction of the sequel.

So...going by just the story alone, Daughter of Smoke and Bone would get a nice 4/5 from me. But Laini's beautiful-but-unpretentious prose, coupled with her extraordinary creativity and sheer originality bolstered the rating to a 5/5. For more mature readers, this is DEFINITELY a book I can recommend! Just skim over the first 40 or so pages :)
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