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.
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 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
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!
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 30 December 2014
I adore this book. It's beautifully written and reads like a fairytale. Stunning backdrop, gorgeous story, with a heartbreaking reveal. It's wonderful. But...
I've since read books 2 and almost 3; what a terrible terrible shame. Book 2 begins to lose the plot completely, and book 3, well I'm very close to DNF's. The writing style of book 1 is beautiful. But into book 2 and the prose becomes needlessly flowery. The story gets lost somewhere behind the author flexing her poetic muscles. By book 3, I've been smacked about the head so many times with purple-prose that I just can't see the plot for the poetry.
So, I wanted to write this review to warn others.
Book 1 ~ Stunning! a must read.
Book 2 ~ uh oh, we're beginning to lose the plot.
Book 3 ~ where the hell did the wonderful magic go? Who the fudge cares about Eliza?
I'm sorry. I wanted to love this series. I still do want to love it, but I can't.
on 27 January 2012
There was so much promise and potential here, old stories and new concepts blend together effortlessly. Teeth, the magic shop, the Chimera, the hierarchy of wishes, the girl who doesn't know who she is.
The first 160 pages are great, even excellent in places.
Characterization is good, the plot moves along at a nice pace and the writing is of a high quality; then the whole thing quite suddenly devolves into every bad romance novel ever written. From that point it is simply an exercise in dullness.
Every third sentence becomes a description of the main character's love interest or his description of her, the plot is completely abandoned. Almost nothing happens for the rest of the book, at all. Chapter after chapter is surrendered to another seemingly unending flashback to characters I don't care about and the author never tries to make me care about.
The quality of the writing drops too, a paragraph is even closed with "all hell broke loose" a cliché I thought had been consigned to the realms of poorly written fan fiction years ago.
I don't understand why the romance is even included let alone why it needs to consume half of the book. When used correctly it should enhance the story and deepen the characters but here it beheads the story, leaves it bleeding to death in some back alley in Prague and proceeds to reduce the characters to shallow, dull facsimiles of their former selves.
A disappointment, there was the potential for so much more.
on 24 November 2011
I orered this book having listened to the reviews about it on Radio 2. I was really excited about it as it had a number of rave reviews however, it just didn't live up to expectation.
It is certainly an imaginatively rendered world, with fascinating monster characters and begins well. The lead character is the kind of girl teenage girls want to be: sassy without being obnoxious, strong minded and, of course, gorgeously attractive. At first she does also seem to be well-rounded and believable but, as the love interest begins to dominate the storyline, the characterisation is lost and the flashback of the relationship explores only a series of rather dull cliches seen only too recently in teen fiction and with far greater depth. It lacked any ral engagement with the theme of love and the relationship lacked reality and substance.
I felt let down by a book which started with such great promise.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone has been on my "To-Read" pile for such a long time. Throughout the time most of my friends and fellow readers have been gushing about how great it is. For some reason I didn't buy into the craze, maybe I wanted to not follow the crowd or something independent and cool, so decided to wait for a bit. What. An. idiot.
I was fully expecting to be smacked in the face with a pretty standard dystopian. Sometimes I like a good old dystopian. This is not that book. It is so much better.
Set in the beautifully woven streets of Prague, we are introduced to Karou. A blue-haired art student who fills her time scribbling down her drawings of imaginary mythical creatures with hybrid appearances and magical capabilities. But Karou has a secret. Her drawings are not an art students imaginings at all. They are real.
You see Karou works for Brimstone. A hybrid creature of epic proportions. Brimstone, in fact, is basically her family having raised her from a baby with the help of his three fellow hybrid companions residing in his shop. Ever since she can remember Karou has been running errands for her ever-mysterious care giver. And not normal errands like taking out the rubbish or cleaning her room. Karou finds teeth, brings them back to Brimstone and has no clue whatsoever what he then proceeds to do with them. But it's okay, because she does so in the coolest way imaginable - she opens numerous doors, but essentially portals, into different countries and continents across the globe. That's right, Karou's illegal transportation of teeth doesn't just stay in Prague!
Sadly for Karou her adventures are about to come to an end as black hand prints begin to appear in the doorways to her portals and one by one the portals begin to be destroyed. And this is a problem for Karou, because her payment comes in the form of wishes. And she's pretty fond of using them to her advantage - namely making her pompous ex-boyfriends butt (and other things!) itch in public. So why is this happening? Well, there's an ancient feud between chimera (Brimstone-esk creatures) and the Seraphim (Angelic creatures).
You might be wandering how a girl of 17 could possibly get away with such mischief in so many countries without getting into trouble. And this is where the wish concept comes in. What a great concept. So there are types of wishes within this world from Scuppies and Shings (pretty rubbish ones) to Gavriels (Life changing ones) and Karou is sometimes rewarded with them after her pursuit of teeth. Some of which she squanders on blue-hair! But others she uses more to her advantage - like becoming multi-lingual. I love this concept, especially when used against her irritating classmates, and I love that Taylor has introduced a new language to us in the form of wishes.
Karou is the most exciting female lead I've been lucky enough to pick up in a while. She's observant, she's witty and she doesn't fall into the typical doe-eyed pretty girl category. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that Karou is sassy. I loved it. She uses her magic/wishes in brilliantly funny ways, I love how she doesn't fall for her player of an ex-boyfriends charm and instead plays evil tricks on him from time to time. One of the things I enjoyed most actually about her character was that some of her dialogue was genuinely laugh out loud funny. It's embarrassing to laugh in a train station isn't it? But I couldn't help myself.
As I mentioned, the world building is fantastic. I haven't come across Laini Taylor before but she's definitely won herself a new fan because her writing is beautiful. I was sucked into the various worlds so quickly and became completely immersed by her characters and her creations so whole heartedly.
Some of the concepts are really exciting too. The hybrid creatures/chimera are a unique twist on Dystopian fiction for me and some of the mythology she uses to describe their existence is compelling. Taylor actually does something really interesting with the theory of monsters in this book and dares to question what constitutes a true monster, are they always grotesque and ugly? It really had me thinking. It's so refreshing for the angelic creatures to not always be the good guys!
"It's a condition of monsters that they do not perceive themselves as such."
I especially liked that Taylor ventured into new territory and made angels pretty ugly. Not all of them I admit, but some of the usual tactics YA authors play to sell their pretty characters were not evident in this book and I can't emphasise enough how great it is to have a different spin on things for once.
The actual plot that I've just laid out for you though is really only relevant for the first half of the book because the second half could be a completely different book. The mythology becomes much heavier, which reads beautifully, and a number of different stories and worlds become woven into the original story you thought you'd signed up for. At this point I think Taylor runs the risk of losing some readers. It is hard to keep up sometimes and it genuinely doesn't seem to flow like a standard novel might as it strays away entirely from an exciting adventure into more of a love story. For me it worked, I thought that was a great twist and even when I thought I had guessed the eventual turning points and plot changes, I really hadn't.
It's at this point that I would usually embellish on the romance and it's developments. I feel like if I did this I'd be spoiling the story and potentially the surprise. For this reason, all I'll say is that Akiva, a representative of the Seraphim is a great character and has lots of interesting stories. I liked how he was used to explore if monsters realise they are monsters and if there are even monsters at all. Let's be honest, we've seen Angels done to death and they're all pretty much the same. He doesn't fit the mould at all of the usual love interest, aside from being beautiful, and I adored his story.
Okay, so there is something I didn't like despite all of the embarrassing gushing I've subjected you to. The editing errors within the Kindle edition are pretty noticeable towards the end of the book. Mostly it's the odd missing word or incorrect spelling so nothing major, but it did start to annoy me. Having said this, I haven't read the tree-book version so this may be different. But I mean, if that's the biggest issue I had then you're on to a winner I'd say!
It is true that what you see is NOT what you get with this book. So if you think that's not for you then opt out now, but I personally thought the ideas were unique, exciting and the new take and insight into a unique world full of unrequited love and good versus evil was exactly what I was looking for. You have to read this. I can't wait to see what Taylor comes up with in the sequel.
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!