Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Author: Laini Taylor
Published: September 27, 2011
Hardcover, 418 pages
5 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

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 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?

This story swept me up and still hasn't let me go. Karou is not the kind of character you get to see very often, and her story begins as what could easily be a contemporary story about a girl trying to figure out who she is, but quickly unravels into something so much bigger, a world that will claim you and make you never want to leave. Taylor weaves a complex tale of loyalty, love, and family. Karou's life is full of mystery. She has blue hair, fills her sketchbook with pictures that seem way too crazy to be real, and can speak many languages, some of which aren't human. By day she is an art student, hoping to stop her feelings for her ex-boyfriend, and trying to spend time with her best friend, Zuzanna. But most of the time she's running errands for Brimstone, her would-be father who is anything but humanly. To her, its normal, but she has no idea where she came from or who she really is. But the more she finds out, the more she wants to just be a regular girl.

Prague is the perfect setting for this rich, beautiful story. The old buildings and dark alleys left lots of room for mystery and the angels. It's as much a character as Karou or Zuzanna or Akiva. Brimstone's apartment, the Poison Cafe and the bridge all play important parts in Karou's story. The hints at what will happen are so well written, I couldn't believe it sometimes. One sentence and suddenly I'd know something bad would happen three chapters later. Taylor has a wonderful way of subtlety slipping in dramatic irony and making each scene count. Her words describe both the real world and a world we've never seen, but after reading about, seems way too real. 

This was just the beginning to a fantastic journey through the worlds. I'm a sucker for Romeo and Juliet like stories, and this reminded me of the star crossed lovers in the best sort of way. I'm normally disappointed when it comes to direct re-tellings, so this was perfect in the way that it literally had nothing to do with the play, but made me think of all the things I loved about the Bard's tragic play. Two people from totally different worlds who know they can't be together, who know there is no way their story will have a happy ending, but decide to be together anyway. They want to stop the war, they want everyone else to know that it's possible to not have to be enemies, and Karou and Akiva are the epitome of lovers who will do anything to be together. This is the just the beginning of their love saga, and I'm already invested.

“Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love. It did not end well.” 

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