on 29 August 2013
Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone is a brilliant read and one I would recommend to all! The writing is beautiful, the story is captivating and its characters are vibrant and all too lifelike. This is truly a book that will stay with you for many years to come. Taking the reader on a fantastical journey through a realm torn by war, yet filled with magic, it is a captivating read full of treachery and forbidden love.
Within its pages, this book manages to weave together elements and beings from all walks of life. With characters of fallen angels, chimera and a lone wish monger who exchanges wishes for teeth, The Daughter of Smoke and Bone has no shortage of mysteries and intrigues. With the story set against the backdrop of Prague, the mix of fantasy and reality soon draw the reader into a world of art, friendship and long forgotten myths. I found it almost impossible to put this book down.
The story begins with Karou, a feisty, blue haired, teenage art student who is much more than she appears. Never knowing her parents, she was raised behind closed doors by creatures known as Chimera. A mix of beast and human, they are seen as monsters from every eye but hers, yet they are the kindest beings she knows. However when Brimstone, her foster father/employer, sets her on another mission to collect him teeth with which to make wishes, things suddenly turn horribly and irreversibly wrong.
When the doors to her odd, but much loved `family' of chimera are destroyed, leaving Karou stranded, she finds herself drawn into an age long war between the Chimera and the Angels. Beautiful and formidable, they are everything the Chimera aren't and Karou instantly despises them. Setting out on a journey, she plans to rescue her `family' before they can be destroyed but first, Karou must learn about her own part in this war. Both the one she must play in the future... and most importantly, the part she played in the past...
It's been a while since I read a book so gripping, but this one had me enthralled till the very end. Not only is the story unique, but each character broadens the books dimension and Laini Taylor has a great eye for detail. Her descriptions are vivid and colourful and her imagination is beyond scope. For example, there are many brilliant words in this book, but my favourite verse is without doubt this one:
`I don't know many rules to live by,' he'd said. `But here's one. It's simple. Don't put anything unnecessary into yourself. No poisons or chemicals, no fumes or smoke or alcohol, no sharp objects, no inessential needles - drug or tattoo - and... no inessential penises either.'
I have recommended my friends read this book just for those few lines alone! And you have to admit - it really is fabulous advice! My only criticism is that it was a cliff hanger ending which I always hate, although the book certainly left me thirsting for more. So overall a brilliant read with a great storyline, amazing characters and the most vibrantly written prose I've ever seen. 4 ½ stars!
This is an inventively plotted fantasy novel with a difference. Set initially in Prague, it's the story of teenage art student Karou. But the story quickly morphs from college classes and boyfriend troubles into something much stranger. What are the strange "errands" Karou must fulfil? Where does she go when she disappears from the city without warning? How can she speak so many languages? Why does her long, bright blue hair never seem to need dyeing?
We soon understand that this is a girl with a foot in two worlds; the everyday urban one populated by humans, and the place she calls "Elsewhere", where she was raised by chimaera - hybrid creatures much stranger than herself. But her secret world is under threat: deceptively beautiful interlopers are marking it for destruction, along with all it contains. And Karou's peculiar fate is to fall in love with one of them.
The plot shape of the novel has much in common with "Romeo and Juliet", just like the 'Twilight' cycle, but it's much more inventive and colourful than the vampire series. Closer in scope and intention to Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy, it introduces a heroine as spirited as Lyra - and with an equally confused heritage to deal with. Karou's loyalties are divided, her path never clear. Should she trust the world that raised her and cared for her, or set herself adrift on a new river of discovery? Which kind of love is best - that of an adoptive father, or that of a murderous soulmate?
Daughter of Smoke And Bone is part supernatural romance, part epic fantasy. It starts small, but its world quickly opens out and reveals imaginative dimensions you simply don't envisage at the start. It only fault is that the main plot twist of this first book in the trilogy is a little to easy to predict; Karou's secret past isn't quite as much of a surprise to us as it evidently is to her. But this is a small complaint. Read and enjoy - I'll certainly be devouring the subsequent instalments when they appear.
on 27 April 2012
This book started really well with witty banter between friends and the great premise of a young protaganist who lives a double life; art student in Prague and messenger for a mysterious group of magical creatures hidden behind various doorways across the world.
I loved the writing style and really warmed to the central character but then she starts to fall for a strange angelic guy who is ridiculously good-looking even though her instincts tell her he is an enemy and I couldn't help thinking that a great fantsy premise had strayed into Twilight territory. The pace seemed to sag a lot in the middle of the book but then through section three we learn more about elsewhere and the magical creatures who exists there and the story seemed to come alive again.
I would recommend it to lovers of Fantasy Romance
I'm not saying it's a bad book. It's fun. There is some great dialogue and subtle prose, lovely description and some unique concepts.
But it reads like a sugar rush, like devouring every single Young Adult teenage girl novel since 1990. YA has mostly moved on from the inevitable 'beautiful heroine, so beautiful everyone stares', with her supporting cast of equally beautiful friends and loves. The blue hair, tattoos, the karate, the flying, the magic, the more magic, and then throw in some angels/demons, throw in some war, throw in a masquerade ball, now we have a reincarnation subplot, now have a love story, oh wait - a forbidden love story, of course, and...
And it all just gets too much, like it was a checklist of popular ideas rolled into one. The unique idea of the Wishmonger is lost amongst the rest, which is a shame because I loved the system of scuppies and shings (though Gavriels just made me think of Guy Gavriel Kay). The decision to set it in Prague is completely lost as the dialogue is still extremely American, with American slang, humour and reference (example: Czechs do not take the North American brand known as Tylenol. They take Paralen there.) It is tiring to read of the heroine's unstopping perfection and her ability to wish her appearance, linguistic skill and flying ability takes away any sense of risk from the book.
I'd have probably liked this a lot more when I was 12 or 13, and I admired Dee's martial arts in The Forbidden Game, and Jennifer's subtle beauty, and Audrey's Euro-sophistication - but that was various qualities spread out over a cast, not lumped all over one heroine who, for all her flashy skills, fashion descriptions and beauty, we still don't really know as a person.
It is enjoyable, like candy floss is enjoyable even though everyone's now moved onto health foods. But you still wish that the Wishmonger plot developed into something fresh and new, and not just the old magical-beautiful-girl-with-forbidden-angelic-lover again.
on 4 May 2013
More akin to the Twilight series than His Dark Materials it became obvious very early in the story that this book is a magical teen female read. Unfortunately that wasn't apparent when I bought it. Not badly written but the plot isn't strong enough to appeal to all reader groups. The use of magic to fill plot holes is liberally applied. Not for me this one.
on 5 September 2015
This book came recommended, and I was excited by the premise. It's a good idea, but poorly executed, with two dimensional characters and every YA cliche you can think of. Some of the ideas were really clever, I loved the wishes system and the idea of rebuilding bodies from teeth, but they were ultimately lost in the myriad cringy character cliches and overblown romance. The main problem was the character development - take our heroine Karou for instance. She is the wet dream of every alternative 17 year old girl who fancies herself to be a tragic romantic heroine. A 17 year old art student with tattoos, blue hair and a black belt in karate lives alone in Prague with a tiny adorable feisty goth best friend and a convenient benefactor to provide money and wishes to her every whim? Please. The goth best friend comes out with such dreadful lines as “Hey! My body may be small, but my soul is large. It’s why I wear platforms. So I can reach the top of my soul.”. Yuck.
The problem is that there's no criticism from the author. We need Taylor to have some self-awareness as a writer, which she lacks in wide-eyed spades, and we as readers desperately need for a critical view of the characters to give us some relief from their cloying "perfection". Without this self awareness they just seem silly and the writer naïve. Taylor has no subtlety, and no idea how clichéd and two dimensional they are. It left me embarrassed for her, tired and irritated by Karou and Zuzana, and practically rolling my eyes by the time the predictable Romeo and Juliet romance hit the pages.
It is highly Americanised, and you get the impression that Taylor set the action in Prague because she thought it would be gothic and romantic. The city is poorly researched, and one of the characters takes some Tylenol, an American brand not available in Europe. Sloppy.
Worst of all was the dreadful literary device towards the end of the book where Karou breaks the wishbone and discovers who she really is and we are subjected to a clunky attempt to spread her reaction across several one-line chapters. Writers with far more skill would not attempt this.
To sum up, recommended for teenage girls going through an especially dramatic phase. Anyone else, steer clear.
on 16 May 2013
There are books that are hyped up, that may be good but not great, but a fantastic marketing scheme brings them to be talked about everywhere *cough*twilight*cough*. There are books that are ignored by the masses that break your heart, there are those that you bring into your world when your not reading them, those that make you switch off to the outside world and devour them in one go, and of course those that don't really do anything for you at all.
Then there's Daughter of Smoke and Bone.
A book thats got a steady stream of recommendations, that I wouldn't be surprised to see being made into a movie soon, and a book that I was reluctant to read because of this.
I should have read it sooner, Daughter of Smoke and Bone is a book that does all of the good things in that list, and more. The storytelling abilities of Taylor are second to none, and the book makes your heart sing. Then it breaks that heart into a thousand pieces. In a good way. Its been a long time since I've found a book that I think about when I'm not reading it, that I can't wait to get back to, one that I don't want to end.
The plot is difficult to explain, especially without making it sound completely rubbish - as I found out when telling my mum she has to read it. So....here goes.
Karou (it means hope - thats important, don't forget it!) is a blue haired (AWSOME - i note that Taylor has pink hair, I love her :D), tattooed teen (also awesome, for once the tattooed is not the edgy, snarky girl, but the lead), attending art school in Prague. Karou draws beautifully and her drawings are infamous around the school, they tell the story of a group of four Chimera, led by the terrifying yet some how heart warming Brimstone - who trades in wishes, exchanging them for teeth (of any variety - human, animal etc). But Karou's drawings are not fantasy, she was raised by the very monsters she draws, and she's now their errand girl in the human world. Karou doesn't know what Brimstone does with the teeth, he won't tell her, nor does she know why she has two palm tattoos - that have been there for as long as she can remember.
Karou balances Brimstone's world with her own, but when black hand prints start appearing on the portal doors (the entrances to Brimstones store), and Karou is attacked on an errand, she makes a grave mistake and is thrown out of the world she loves. It is only then that Karou can start to understand the real story behind her strange upbringing, the history of the Chimera and the war she's apart of. We also meet her best friend Zuzana who is in my opinion one of the best `best friend' characters I've read in a long time. Zuzana is the one thing that keeps Karou human in the story, with out her, Karou would be too perfect, too wonderful, but Zuzanna's character is a great addition to the subplots that go on.
Character development is the key word in this story, everyone starts out in once place, and ends in another, some just build upon what they are, others change in the readers expectations completely. The reader wants to love Brimstone but how can you love a monster? How can Karou love him when he's nothing but dismissive of her?
I cannot express the love for this book, and its not because is a fantasy story, nor is it the magical element, I think its the writing, Taylor takes the reader on a journey (cliche'd I know) and I think that she would be able to bring that magic into any story, contemporary or fantasy. The ending is not what I was expecting, and sets up the magic for the next book, but I felt a little deflated (only a little) hence 4.5 stars, it was almost as if there could of been a chapter extra to finalize a few things in book 1. But as criticisms go its minor. I'd also like to see more of Kaz, another great character who adds depth to Karou's world. I cannot wait to get stuck into book 2!
on 18 December 2012
Before I started reviewing I always thought writing about books I hated would be harder than writing about books I loved. But to my surprise I found that it was the other way round. Writing about why I disliked something turned out to be relatively easy. I can rant and rage and write down exactly why I didn't like it. But putting into words how I feel about a book I really loved is difficult because I know that no matter what I write it will never do the book or the feelings that book invoked in me justice.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone is one of those books; it moved me, engaged me and threw me head first into a world full of magic. I do not stand a chance of conveying to you how much I loved and adored this book, but I am going to try.
The storyline was original and interesting, it was set in the modern day but there was a dark gothicness to it that made if fell more like historical fiction then modern fiction, but that worked really well. What helps is Lani Taylors writing which is rich and creative. The atmosphere this book creates is one of its highlights and I loved that it took a darker route instead of the lightness most YA books take. The world building is impeccable and I could envision everything in perfect detail.
Taylor also managed to create characters that were diverse, interesting and individual. I was able to identify with Karou immediately. She was different and likeable. I also loved Akiva, he wears his heart on his sleeve and does the right thing even though he knows it will cause him unbearable heartache. The romance between them was spellbinding; I loved them together even if it was angsty, which normally I hate.
The only fault I have is that the last quarter is not as free flowing and interesting as the rest, with exception to the last chapter/few pages which made me want to throw the book at a wall and sob into my pillow, somehow I resisted, instead I just say there once I was finished in awe.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone is frankly one of the richest and most exciting YA books I have ever read, it was outstanding and if you have not read it yet, please do, I hope you love it as much as I did.
Karou's a student at the Art Lyceum of Bohemia in Prague where her drawings of monsters and demons earn her the admiration of others, including her best friend Zuzana. They think that Karou's stories about the people she draws together with her stories of travelling around the world are harmless fantasies. But Karou's stories are true. Raised by the ram-horned Brimstone in a place that is Elsewhere, Karou now runs errands for Brimstone, travelling through the doors that exist between the real world and Elsewhere to bring him the teeth that he needs for his work.
When an errand brings Karou into contact with Akiva, a beautiful winged man who `normal' people can't see, Karou discovers not only the truth about her past but also the nature of Brimstone's work and why the teeth are so important. Karou's discoveries may be too late, however, for the doors to Elsewhere are closing, cutting her off from the only people who can help her discover where she belongs ...
Laini Taylor's novel (the first in a YA trilogy) is a stunning work of fantasy, filled with sumptuous imagery and vivid description.
Karou is a spirited heroine. I admired the way Taylor depicts the tension that Karou's secrets create within her and the impact they have on her relationships - particularly with Zuzana who cares about Karou but is tired of being excluded from her life. Karou's frustration with Brimstone's refusal to discuss his work, why he needs his teeth or to answer her questions about her own past is coupled with love, particularly evident in the scenes between Karou and snake-bodied Issa who mediates between them.
Although the book's beautifully written and I liked the characters, there's little actual plot. Instead the story's predominantly set up, complete with a lengthy chunk of backstory dropped in right at the end. I didn't so much mind the set-up as it's well drawn and I believe there'll be a pay-off in later books, but the backstory felt as if it was there to give weight to the romance between Akiva and Karou, but Akiva is too underdeveloped here for me to believe in him (little more than a beautiful man with a tragic past).
Notwithstanding the lack of plot, there's enough good writing here for me to want to see where Taylor takes her characters next, not least because of the cracking cliff hanger ending.
on 13 November 2011
There are some stories that are truly special; the kind of stories that bury their way inside, claw at the chest and tug at the gut. They make you forget the world around you and for a while you disappear into another place, another time, another life.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone is a very special novel.
Karou drew me in from the first glitter of her thoughts. She's an incredibly enigmatic, funny, young, wise, vulnerable, strong, beautiful paradox of a heroine and I utterly love her. Karou's world is unlike anywhere I've ever been before, from the gothic, creative and atmospheric streets of Prague to the warm, bizarre and frighteningly wonderful shop of horrors where her family of Chimaera stay. Each character, from the human Zuzanna and Kaz, to the brisk, compelling Brimstone, and the darkly stunning Akiva, is exquisitely drawn. Taylor's realm of the fantastical is brought to life through the well-rounded characterization, and indeed her untouchable imagination. I could lavish praise upon praise on Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and write screeds and screeds about her gorgeous prose, EPIC and truly unique tale of war, the lush and heartbreaking romance that could give fiction's greatest love stories a run for their money, and about how every time I sat down to crack open the pages I knew my breath would be kidnapped a time or two and knew a feeling of complete contentedness awaited me.
But I won't.
Instead I highly recommend you find out for yourself just how extraordinary Laini Taylor's world is.
I'm in love with Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Really and truly in love.
One of my favourite reads EVER, never mind of 2011.
Ten Explosive Stars!