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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

'Daughter of Smoke and Bone' by Laini Taylor

From the BLURB:

Errand requiring immediate attention. Come.

The note was on vellum, pierced by the talons of the almost-crow that delivered it. Karou read the message. 'He never says please', she sighed, but she gathered up her things.
When Brimstone called, she always came.

In general, Karou has managed to keep her two lives in balance. On the one hand, she's a seventeen-year-old art student in Prague; on the other, errand-girl to a monstrous creature who is the closest thing she has to family. Raised half in our world, half in 'Elsewhere', she has never understood Brimstone's dark work - buying teeth from hunters and murderers - nor how she came into his keeping. She is a secret even to herself, plagued by the sensation that she isn't whole.

Now the doors to Elsewhere are closing, and Karou must choose between the safety of her human life and the dangers of a war-ravaged world that may hold the answers she has always sought.

All around the world burnt handprints are appearing on doorways. Beautiful men and women are wandering the streets, but their shadows belie their bodies. Change is in the air . . . and all the way over in Prague, seventeen-year-old art student, Karou, is filling her 92nd sketchbook full with wonderful drawings of hybrid creatures; serpent women and Minotaur men.

Karou is no ordinary young woman. She has never-dyed blue hair. With the wish of a bead she can speak new languages, and she’s a professional tooth collector. Because though Karou is human, she was raised by ‘beasts’. Chimaera are the bizarre and beguiling hybrid creatures and Karou’s surrogate family – raised by the horned Brimstone, and beloved of the serpent Issa. Their hidden world was Karou’s childhood.

But some evil force is threatening to tear Karou’s family apart – wrenching closed the human and Chemaera worlds, forever. Karou is being stalked by an angel with fire eyes. His name is Akiva, and he can’t stop thinking about the blue-haired girl he spies on the streets of Marrakesh. But there’s a connection between Akiva and the burned handprints – he is the first wave, the beginning of the end.

‘Daughter of Smoke & Bone’ is the first book in a new paranormal series by Laini Taylor.

If Guillermo del Toro was to write a book, ‘Daughter of Smoke and Bone’ would surely be it. Laini Taylor’s novel is a mythical wonderland, like ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ meets C.S. Lewis’s ‘Chronicles of Narnia’. The book is filled with fascinating creatures; from crippled angels to wolf soldiers, and in the middle of them all is Karou, with a foot in two worlds but feeling like she belongs to neither.

Karou’s sketchbooks are filled with impossible hybrid characters, and all her classmates are enchanted by their drawn shenanigans. But what they don’t know is that all of Karou’s drawings are real. The ‘errands’ she runs at the drop of a hat take her all over the world – through portal doors that magically take her directly to the busy streets of Marrakesh and to the hustle of Paris. I adored Karou. Taylor has written her as a total enigma – on the one hand she is a very distinctive character, utterly unique and endearing so that readers form an instant kinship with her.

Karou was, simply, lovely. Creamy and leggy, with long azure hair and the eyes of a silent-movie star, she moved like a poem and smiled like a sphinx.

But for all of Karou’s adorable quirks and distinct style, she is a woman who feels out-of-place. She can’t help but shake a feeling of forgetfulness, of being on the wrong path in life. When burnt handprints and a man with fire eyes start plaguing Karou, she’s terrified. But for the first time in her life she feels right . . . as though she’s finally following the right directions.

The plot of ‘Daughter of Smoke and Bone’ is delectable and cunning. Taylor will keep you guessing breathless, utterly enraptured by the exotic locales and Karou’s mysterious stalker. But the real, sublime joy of the book simply comes from Taylor’s writing. Her prose is succulent, her descriptions flawless and her settings amazing. My jaw dropped so many times throughout my reading, as I was struck dumb by Taylor’s words and world. Her dialogue is especially sumptuous;

‘I’m asking the questions’ said Akiva. ‘And I suggest you answer them.’ He was impatient to get on and meet the others, but loathe to leave this mystery hanging over him. If he didn’t find out who the girl was now, he would never know.
Eager to be helpful, Razgut supplied, ‘She tastes like nectar and salt. Nectar and salt and apples. Pollen and stars and hinges. She tastes like fairy tales. Swan maiden at midnight. Cream on the tip of a fox’s tongue. She tastes like hope.’

‘Daughter of Smoke & Bone’ has been one of the real hits of 2011. This is the book everybody is talking about, and for good reason. Laini Taylor has written a glorious mishmash of fantasy and religion, fusing them to our world with an incredible story about a lost blue-haired girl. I can’t recommend this book enough, and I can’t wait for the second instalment. Laini Taylor is a wicked writer and ‘Daughter of Smoke & Bone’ is vital reading.



  1. I loved Akiva but I didn't like the sudden romance between Karou and Akiva. There was no hint of it and then they're suddenly all over each other.

    I also didn't like how the resurrection thing went about. I don't like those novels with past lives and the couple meeting again. In Karou's sitch, I would be wondering if Akiva was thinking of her or Madrigal! A definite no-no for me.

  2. @ Alice - YES! That is very true about the Karou/Akiva/Madrigal love triangle. It was touched on when Akiva told Karou "Remember, I fell for YOU!", obviously expecting some back-fire from the revelation. I have an inkling Taylor might keep that in her bag of tricks for book #2. Because I was concerned that at the end of 'Smoke & Bone' Madrigal seemed to take over Karou - there seemed very little of her left. I think the book ended on such a rush, that when Karou has time to calm down she'll start asking those very tricky questions...

  3. Sounds very intriguing and clever! Brilliant review :)

  4. I greatly enjoyed this newcomer in the YA paranormal romance Genre. The mystery and mythology was well thought out and interesting. Clara's mother is half blood angel making her only a quarter blood. The romance was surprising and healthy (as opposed to the obsessive relationships that are commonplace in YA) and the mountain setting made for a beautiful backdrop. The ending was final enough to be satisfying but the mythology and mystery leaves the reader excited for the next book in the trilogy.


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