I've been a fan of Laini Taylor's work for several years now (and have enjoyed spending time with her at Kidlitosphere conferences), so you may take that as full disclosure as I review her work. Daughter of Smoke and Bone is Laini's latest book, a paranormal young adult novel featuring an ongoing battle between angels and chimaera, and a star-crossed romance between a human girl and an angel. Like all of Laini's books, it is full of fantastical elements, intricate language, and memorable characters.
Karou is a human teenager. She lives in Prague, attends art school, and laments her poor choice of ex-boyfriend. Karou also has blue hair (down to the roots) and odd tattoos, knows how to fight with knives, and hopes to one day be able to fly. She was raised by, and still runs mysterious errands for, Brimstone, part-man, part-ram, part- ... dragon? Brimstone lives with three other chimaera in a hidden lab, collecting and stringing together teeth for some unknown purpose, and making magic. Karou runs errands for him, passing through the portal of his lab into other parts of the human world. On one such errand, she encounters the beautiful, tortured seraphim Akiva. The two are immediately drawn to one another, despite their differences.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone is full of magical moments, some lovely and some macabre. There is considerable suspense, as Karou tries to understand who she is, what Brimstone is doing, and why she feels so connected to Akiva. But me, I read Laini's books as much for the lyrical, insightful writing as the story. I read for passages like these:
"The falling snow and the early hour conspired to paint Prague ghostly, like a tintype photograph, all silver and haze." (Page 1)
"For the way loneliness is worse when you return to it after a reprieve--like the soul's version of putting on a wet bathing suit, clammy and miserable." (Page 21)
"It was a remarkable sight, the sky beginning to flush pale at the roots, all the towers bathed in a soft glow, the streets of the city still shadowed and aglitter with fireflies of lamplight and the weaving, winking beams of headlights." (Page 217)
Despite the threads of magic, war, and the Prague art scene, Daughter of Smoke and Bone is at heart an unabashed love story. A well-written love story, in which both parties are fighters, but still a love story. With multiple descriptions of how gorgeous Karou and Akiva are, and how being in love feels. Like this:
"He took her face in his hands and a sunburst went off in Karou's chest. She held herself quiet, her motionlessness belying the rushing within her. No one had ever looked at her like Akiva was right now, his eyes held wide as if he wanted take more of her into himself, like light through a window." (Page 248, as published with an apparent very small typo).
Daughter of Smoke and Bone is the first book in a new series, and ends on something of a cliffhanger. Although I don't love Karou quite the same way that I love Magpie Windwitch, heroine of Laini's Dreamdark books, I am certainly looking forward to the next book.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone is highly recommended for fans of young adult fantasy, or anyone who would like to be immersed in an epic love story. There are plenty of other paranormal romance novels out there, but Daughter of Smoke and Bone stands apart, with glowing prose, unusual characters, and three-dimensional world-building.
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: September 27, 2011
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
© 2011 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).