Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Book form: e-book, mobi format
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (September 27, 2011)L
Language: English
Target group: older YA  (like 16+) and adults who like the genres
Genre: gothic urban fantasy, paranormal romance

Meet Karou, a reclusive seventeen-year old art student who lives in Prague. She is a girl with incredible blue hair and a collection of strange tattoos, including one on each wrist (reading “True” and “Story”) and open eyes (hamsas) in the centre of each palm. She draws fantastical creatures called chimaeras, made up of mish-mash body parts taken from different animals. She tells equally fantastic stories about them with a cynical grin and people think she just has colourful imagination like every artist. The problem is that these stories are true and she really leads a double life – something not always easy to combine, especially if you are a school- attending teenager and you’d rather hang out with your friends doing stuff…
Karou lives on the fringes of two words, never sure where she really belongs and who or what she is. Her chimaera family is hardly willing to reveal any secrets and more and more frequently her foster father, called Brimstone, sends her out on strange and dangerous missions around the globe to buy teeth of different creatures, human teeth among them, in underworld black markets. Karou brings them back to his secretive magical workshop but she is never told what he needs them for and why so many are needed at all. She becomes sick and tired of these missions and secrecy.

When scorched black handprints starts appearing on doors to different magical portals all over the world, rumors start flying of angel sightings. The acpocalypse seems to be drawing near. But it’s not until Karou comes face-to-face with one of these angels, a seraph warrior to boot, in a back alley in Marrakesh that she realizes what it really means to her.  It seems the apocalypse will be something very personal. The angel, treating her as an enemy at first, tries to kill her but then, unexpectedly, he decides against it. It seems that he recognized her and Karou is drawn to him as if they were meant to be together and she has been looking for him all along. Is he really the one? 
What I liked:
The way the book starts. It is a paranormal romance but it starts where usually such novels never dare to thread – Karou rejects, like for the umpteen time, a clumsy attempt to kiss and make up, made by a boy called Kazimir who is a devastatingly handsome young actor and a selfish orifice in one (quite a mish-mash, don’t you think?)- as soon as he took Karou’s virginity he boasted of it to all Prague and the immediate vicinity in minute detail; he also started cheating on her with one of their mutual friends in no time at all. Now he wants Karou back because… she can help him earn more money. Isn’t he a sweetie? Such a piece of normality in an YA book I always like and appreciate. The way Karou treated the said orifice boy (ok: an asshole, here you go) was also great – her feelings were hurt but she still showed a great sense of humour and a lot of integrity. Let’s face it, integrity is something most contemporary teens seem never heard of so it was a fantastic lesson delivered without moralizing. Well done!
The setting. Prague is a magical city and it was obvious the author has felt that charm as well. The fact that this book’s narration takes place mostly there I found really enticing and I must mention we get a few nice descriptions of different streets and places. What a pity we never hear Zuzana or Karou actually speak Czech.
As I’ve already mentioning the setting…the narration pace is not bad either! Laini Taylor weaves words together beautifully and she crafts the plot so that you are completely pulled into her world, captivated and forced to read on. You simply devour her creations and her unique fantasy Prague. I liked demons a.k.a. chimeras the best.
The sense of humour. You got one sample in my Tuesday Teaser not so long ago. It is always easier to make me like a book when one or several of characters are cynically sweet. Here the dialogues between Karou and her friend Zuzana were my favourite scenes. That and the little creature called Kishmish – I simply adore the name! If you don’t know any Slavonic language you might wonder why – here is the explanation. I use this word from time to time if I want to describe something that doesn’t resemble really anything at all. Kishmish, as its name indicates, is a mixture of different animals, in this case a bat and a crow or a raven.  A great idea for a name of a small demonic entity!

Finally…the wishes. You know the saying – be careful what you wish for because sometimes you can get it. It is a recurrent theme in this book as well – emphasizing the fact that plenty of people don’t think about their wishes at all despite the fact that they should do it for their own good.  Brimstone pays for the teeth he buys with wishes currency in the form of beads or metal discs; some of these wishes are innocuous – they can do little more than make another person sneeze or itch; the others can be so enormous that the rippling consequences are impossible to predict. The whole premise brings new meaning to the saying, quoted above. I like new meanings so I enjoyed it very much. I hope that narrative theme will be continued.

What I didn’t like:
 Well…angels. As simple as that. No surprises, I know – more often than not I have issues with them. In this novel angels are not only divided into males and females (the same is true for demons) and I somehow always find such a division deeply wrong, but they also come as heavily muscled, incredibly handsome/beautiful beings which, nevertheless, have to use a bathroom (gasp!) and shave (a double gasp!) Of course I am thinking about the males but I suppose she-angels shave as well, maybe just different body parts; anyway I wouldn’t be surprised if they did. Well, would it actually hurt if these angels turned into humans? Ok, I might have survived angels and their shaving issues if not for another, bigger snag. Enter Akiva, the bane of the book!
Akiva the seraph warrior and the main squeeze of our sweet Karou is too handsome and too schematic for his own good. Almost no sense of humour, just a lot of attitude, soldier training and two big wings which can set a house on fire. No fun. To tell you the truth while I was truly engrossed in the first half of this book, by the time Akiva was introduced and the story began describing his love with Madrigal (a demon girlfriend from his past, I say no more because it is a major spoiler) I had slowly begun to lose interest. I simply knew what would happen next as if a malevolent fallen angel whispered it in my ear. Unfortunately I was right every single time. No good – omniscience is bad for your morale.

Then the pinkish romantic thread hit me like a ton of rose petals (always nicer than a ton of bricks but equally heavy and a bit stifling after a while) – Romeo and Julliet, the star-crossed lovers and their tragic story haunted me all over again throughout the second part plus some reincarnation as condiment and an eternal battle between…er…two evils…well…anyway these were the most silly parts in otherwise quite original YA book. I can clearly see the direction in which the author is going and so I am half in half out for the next installment that, I am sure, will be published in the near future. I fear it might ruin the initial premise for me. It would be such a pity. What’s more, we might not return to Prague any time soon although I do hope we will. We’ll see.
Final verdict:
Not bad start for an YA romantic book but…I have a feeling it might get worse. A lot worse. I do hope I am wrong. Still, before I get the second installment I will have to read some reliable reviews.

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12 Responses to Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

  1. Well, I'm glad you tried it. What I liked about the angels is that they may NOT be angels as we know them at all. That has yet to be proven yet. I just liked the possibility that was different.AND of course… inessential penises! LOL

  2. I have to wonder, since all romantic heroes are pretty boys these days, if anyone would buy a Rochester as a romantic hero. Or Heathcliffe. Or Oliver Parkin. When you get caught up in these fantasies, will a regular man do?

  3. Tracy says:

    When you get caught up in these fantasies, will a regular man do? My man is better than any fantasy, Red Witch :)And can you imagine the high maintenance needed to keep up with a perfect angel? Yawn.And I thought Angels were supposed to be hermaphrodite/sexless (the movie Dogma, anyone? or the play Angels in America)

  4. Anachronist says:

    @ Melissa's What I liked about the angels is that they may NOT be angels as we know them at all. That has yet to be proven yet.I hope it will turn that way. These angels are basically just differently flavoured demons to me.AND of course… inessential penises! LOLLol indeed!@ The Red Witch – I suppose most girls know pretty well that thes super pretty, super handsome heroes don't exist. If they think otherwise, well, my commiserations – an asshole like Kazimir is nothing nice, despite his pretty packaging.@Tracy's can you imagine the high maintenance needed to keep up with a perfect angel? Yawn.LOL, it would be rather impossible to keep up with him without real magic!And I thought Angels were supposed to be hermaphrodite/sexless (the movie Dogma, anyone? or the play Angels in America)I suppose a lot of harm to YA literature was done when the authors discovered that biblical tale about Nephilims and fallen angels having sex with human women…

  5. Philip Pullman gave them genders and sex. So did Milton.

  6. I found the cover of this book so intriguing.

  7. Anachronist says:

    @ The Red Witch – but the Bible was first anyway!@Brooke – nice to see you here! The cover is very nice indeed – makes me think of the Venetian carnival!

  8. Aurian says:

    Great review Anachronist, you always make me smile with your direct honesty. I am not sure this is a book for me, for 1: YA, for 2: angels, for 3: apocalypse. Looking forward to the next review 😉

  9. Blodeuedd says:

    For some reason I just get confused, I guess that means this book is just not for me.And yes why does angels have to shave and poop?

  10. Anachronist says:

    Thanks Aurian. With so many reasons you are doomed not to read this one. @ And yes why does angels have to shave and poop?Blodeuedd, really no idea. Perhaps they are no angels after all.

  11. Sounds like an interesting book. I really like the creativity of the character names. Nice to have a different view of paranormal aside from the usual vampires. I like the angels angle. Thanks for sharing.

  12. Anachronist says:

    You are welcome Lena. My pleasure and thanks for a visit.

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