The best way I can describe Daughter of Smoke and Bone is that it’s refreshing.
The book follows Karou, a young woman going to art school in Prague. There is much more to her then one would guess, her blue hair isn’t dyed, but actually is “naturally” blue, and the fantastical sketches in her notebook might not actually be fantastical. Oh, and she can speak a ridiculous amount of languages… more than any normal seventeen year old would have learned… and can I point out that not all of them are human.
Karou’s family is made up of Chimera, creatures that appear to be animal/human hybrids. Her father figure is Brimstone, a creature known as the Wishmonger, who trades wishes for teeth (human and animal). Karou has no idea why Brimstone collects teeth, but shrugs it off as a weird hobby. Karou’s world shatters when one night, the secret door to Brimstone’s world is destroyed in a fiery inferno.
Laini Taylor spins a fantastic tale, creating a believable world filled to the brim with interesting mythology. She goes about this in a rather effective way giving her reader just enough of the background to make them feel like they are in a world that does exist… that has some history to it, and that drives the reader to keep reading to find out more because they truly want to learn. What we find out is that there is another world where the Angels and the Chimera have battled for as long as either side can remember. Karou has no idea about what her family comes from and what is happening in their world even though she runs errands for Brimstone.
Taylor takes the idea of magic and creates an interesting spin on how it works. From what I have seen and read there has been a movement away from the Disney-ifed concept of magic and a spike in the idea that magic will have a price. This book is no exception. The magical system in this book is clever and works in the world of the story adding to the feeling that this is one compact functioning world.
The other thing that was really done well was the portrayal of love, relationships and sex. I find that in a lot of teen literature sex tends to be portrayed in a couple of reoccurring fashions:
1. Sex either DOES NOT exist, is never mentioned or alluded to. The culmination of the character’s romantic experiences end with a kiss or an embrace.
2. The other route teen novels tend to follow is mentioning sex just to mention sex. Sexuality becomes a shock factor. The equivalent of “Hey Mom look what I’m reading!”
Daughter of Smoke and Bone mentions sex, and it does so rather early in the book. But it works. It’s part of the character, used to add another layer to her. The same can be said for relationships. Karou has a love interest, but she NEVER drops the ball to run off and be with him. At one point she tells him that she will choose her family over him if the decision ever came down to it. I was blown away.
I loved this book and I couldn’t put it down. Taylor shows herself to be a strong writer and manages to tell a story full of love and heartbreak in one of the most believable fashions that I’ve seen in a while. If you love your paranormal romances, your urban fantasy or your regular fantasy or maybe are just looking for an enjoyable read that breaks from tradition then I recommend this book.
AFTER THOUGHT: According to Laini Taylor’s blog the movie rights to this book have been sold to Universal. I’m a little bit iffy on the idea of making this book a movie. I believe that it could be visually stunning, as long as it’s not given the Twilight treatment and just pumped out to be another teen paranormal romance movie. This book is so much more, and I hope if it does become a movie it won’t be simplified.