Series: Daughter of Smoke & Bone #1
Published by Little Brown & Company on September 2011
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Source: My copy
Amazon • Amazon UK • Book Depository
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 otherworldly 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 colour. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.
When beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery 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?
Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love. It did not end well.
Wow, what a commanding start to a novel. That opening sentence hooked me in, it set the bar high and boy does Laini Taylor deliver! Daughter of Smoke and Bone tears down the common formula for paranormal romance and sets a new standard. Based in Prague you meet Karou the azure haired girl an aloof art student by day and mysterious errand girl for the chimaera named Brimstone by night. While she is human, Karou was raised by Brimstone and some of his colleagues in his workshop hidden “elsewhere” accessible only through portals disguised as doorways. Brimstone tells her nothing, everything is a secret and Karou is raised a lonely girl who feels separate from humanity and with no clue as to how she ended up under Brimstone’s care. All this changes when by complete chance she encounters Akiva on one of her mysterious errands and her world starts to come apart.
The world building in this book is phenomenal. I’ve never been to Prague but I desperately want to go after reading countless descriptions of city scenery this being one such example:
The streets of Prague were a fantasia scarcely touched by the twenty-first century—or the twentieth or nineteenth, for that matter. It was a city of alchemists and dreamers, its medieval cobbles once trod by golems, mystics, invading armies. Tall houses glowed goldenrod and carmine and eggshell blue, embellished with Rococo plasterwork and capped in roofs of uniform red. Baroque cupolas were the soft green of antique copper, and Gothic steeples stood ready to impale fallen angels. The wind carried the memory of magic, revolution, violins, and the cobbled lanes meandered like creeks. Thugs wore Motzart wigs and pushed chamber music on street corners, and marionettes hung in windows, making the whole city seem like a theater with unseen puppeteers crouched behind velvet.
Along with the beautiful descriptions of Earth, Taylor introduces Eretz a world filled with Angels and Demons and torn viciously apart by war. You can visualise this alien land so well through the story and even though the book is laden with descriptions and explanations it at no point takes away from character development.
I loved the character of Karou. She was smart, clever, witty with just a hint of sorrow. You got a real sense of her inner strength even though she is fairly reserved – definitely not a flashy heroine! I was a bit worried by Akiva initally – I thought he was going to be a little too heartless and cold to me. There is nothing I like less than a girl who fawns herself over a complete asshole. Thankfully he wasn’t like this at all and as the story progresses you really appreciate how he is actually flexible and willing to grow.
The relationship that develops between Akiva and Karou could have so easily crossed the line into creepy and unrealistic but instead its authentic and innocent. You find yourself wanting it to work out for them against all the odds. Taylor shifts this story between both their perspectives and it really helps strengthen the realism in their growing love for one another. It’s hard to go into their relationship without giving too much of the story away but you do believe that these two are destined to be together and to do great things for the fate of 2 races and 2 worlds.
I also loved the fact that there is no clear cut good and evil in this book and that war isn’t anything to be glamorized instead its something that literally consumes both sides and everyone loses out:
Have you ever asked yourself, do monsters make war, or does war make monsters?
While this sounds like a standard Young Adult romance it truly isn’t. The story changes about half way through when Karou learns the answers to just a few of Brimstone’s secrets and it almost feels like you are reading a different novel. This is not a story of happily ever afters even if it started with a fairytale beginning. This is a story that sends you on a whirlwind of all sorts of emotions, from grief, love, shock, betrayal and tragedy. It leaves you out of breath at the end and in complete awe. I was unable to contemplate starting another book for a good week, it took me that long to digest it.
I find myself recommending this book to everyone I know. While the story resolves itself and leaves the reader feeling complete, the ending is still a cliff-hanger and I can’t wait for 2nd novel – Days of Blood and Starlight to be released in late 2012. I read this book in January 2012 and I won’t be surprised if in December this year I still list this as one of the best books I read in 2012. This book deserved its 5/5 stars and then some.
– Love, love, love this book!
Daughter of Smoke & Bone