Monday, October 31, 2011

Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor

Title: DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE (Daughter of Smoke and Bone, #1)
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy
Publisher: Little, Brown (US) / Hodder & Stoughton (UK & Aust)
Publication Date: September 27th, 2011

Synopsis: 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?


I've been wanting to read DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE ever since it began circulating around Blogspot. How could you not? The cover is quite transfixing, with a synopsis to match.  A combination of fantastical, supernatural elements, a unique heroine and a fresh take on a withering genre makes DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE one hyped up novel that does not disappoint.

In the beginning we meet Karou: a young art student living in Prague, who is also an errand girl for the monstrous Brimstone. Aside from the fact that her hair grows out of her head a brilliant blue and she has a string of wishes around her neck, Karou could pass for a normal seventeen-year-old girl. But there's something missing; something that makes her feel like she's not whole. 

Prague is a character in itself, aided by Laini Taylor's expressive writing which allows just the right amount of description to make the setting - so different from anything that I've read before - interesting and vivid. You really do feel as though you're there. Then you follow Karou through a door and into Elsewhere and everything shifts. In the devil's shop with hummingbird-moths fluttering around the lantern lights and strange creatures scurrying in the dark corners live the beings - more animal than human - who make up Karou's makeshift family. They call themselves Chimaera, and they could pass for monsters in any other setting. Brimstone deals in wishes, trading them for teeth which he sends Karou all over the world to collect. At this point we don't know what Brimstone's fascination with teeth is, and neither does Karou. In turn this creates part of the mystery that follows the first half of the novel which is slowly unveiled to the reader as it is to Karou. 

I don't want to go too much into exactly what happens, because I feel like it would ruin the experience and this is definitely one of those books where you simply have to read it. However I will say that what could be described as the "twist" in the novel was - to me - more of a succession of events that were plainly supposed to happen. There wasn't a great big SURPRISE, but at the same time it didn't take away from the enjoyment. 

The romance part of the novel could be seen as very stereotypical of Young Adult fiction these days: love at first sight (almost), wanting to be together when you really can't; very much the star-crossed love promised in the synopsis. Nevertheless, the quality of the writing and the characters helps steer away from what could be an over-the-top approach, making for some beautiful moments between the two. But the romance does come fast, and did teeter towards the predictable at times. 

If I'm honest the part of the book I probably enjoyed the most was the writing. Laini Taylor's talent is one that far surpasses many others in the same genre. Her prose is beautiful without being too much, and there's an almost lyrical quality in the way she weaves words together. I was pretty much a hulking green monsterette of envy whilst reading this book. That said, Laini Taylor could have written about pirate elves who take over a kingdom of marshmallow clouds and I still would be left thinking, "Why can't I write this good?"



  1. I agree with many of your points. There were so many elements that I've found in other YA novels, but Laini Taylor really made them refreshing. I LOVED this book!

  2. I didn't LOVE Laini's book, but yes I can fangirl with you over her writing. She just WOWed me with her descriptions. That opening paragraph alone was enough to suck me in.

    For me, the first half of the book was better than the second half. The last chapters felt like an info-dump, Akiva felt too perfect, and the romance, despite its origins, was, like you said, predictable. Pile that up and I don't have an undying love for the book, but I did like it a lot.

    Loved reading your review, and you write so eloquently :)

    - Asher (from Paranormal Indulgence)