“Daughter of Smoke & Bone” by Laini Taylor

One of my blogging goals for this year is to work on whittling down my TBR pile of review copies from last year’s Book Expo America.  From the moment that I began reading Laini Taylor’s “Daughter of Smoke & Bone,” I was enthralled.  Taylor builds a magical world reminiscent of Neil Gaiman’s “Neverwhere“–simultaneously menacing and full of wonder.

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

Karou is a teenage art student growing up in Prague.  She fills her sketchbooks with drawings of chimera, half-human half-animal creatures.  Karou’s friends believe that she’s eccentric, evidenced by her stories, her blue hair, and her tattoos, but Karou has a secret.  Her hair really does grow that way, and the chimera that she draws just so happen to be her adopted family.  Every week, she slips through a door into another world, where a chimera named Brimstone traffics in teeth and wishes.  His shop is guarded by Issa, who makes customers wear one of her snakes around their necks to keep them from stepping out of line.  Karou runs errands for Brimstone in the human world, but is forever frustrated by his vague answers to her questions about his world.

One day, an angel falls from the sky.  He’s on a mission as part of an ancient war between the angels and the chimera.  When he sees Karou, he is captivated by her, feeling himself drawn to her even though she is associated with his enemies.

Karou finds herself caught between two sides in the battle between the angels and the chimera.  She envisions a world of peace, where the two sides live in harmony.  Is she too late to stop the carnage and protect the people she loves?

I can’t stop gushing about how much I love this book.  Karou has such a strong personality and sense of wonder, and it’s almost tragic to see that innocence get stripped away as she learns more about the ultimate price of magic.  She realizes that Brimstone’s vagueness was a way of protecting her innocence and giving her a childhood, as generations of war have destroyed the fabric of both chimera and angel society.  Regardless of who is right or wrong (and we see very clearly that the chimera are justified in their revolt against the angels), we see the very real impact of a prolonged war that has jaded society to the point that a normal childhood or a walk in the city sound like mad and unreachable dreams.

As a YA novel, “Daughter of Smoke & Bone” tastefully tackles difficult subjects that teens face without being preachy about them.  For example, Karou muses about regretting having slept with her ex-boyfriend when they were dating.  She realizes that it was a mistake and that he was a complete jerk, bragging to his friends about an experience that she had expected to be private and special.  At the same time, she learns from her mistake, and her life is in no way over.  At another point, we see a character realize that she’s involved with someone because of his social position and the expectation that she’ll go along with it rather than because she actually likes him.  Later in the book, we see a completely different kind of romance develop, where two characters are lovers, but have a respectful relationship that is enhanced by their physical connection.  The author’s portrayal of teenage sexuality was refreshingly honest, and I liked that the emphasis was on mutual consent, respect, and trust, rather than on the flat stereotype of a fantasy prince.

If you love YA novels, magic, or books that make you think about the difference between how the world is and how it could be, then “Daughter of Smoke & Bone” is pure gold.  Laini Taylor weaves a world inhabited by rich yet tragic characters, and I look forward to seeing them make their dreams a reality.

Categories: Fiction | Tags: , , , , , | 30 Comments

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30 thoughts on ““Daughter of Smoke & Bone” by Laini Taylor

  1. Pingback: “Days of Blood & Starlight” by Laini Taylor | Books Without Any Pictures

  2. Pingback: Bout of Books 8.0 Progress Update (round 2) | Books Without Any Pictures

  3. Pingback: Daughter of Smoke and Bone Book | Sweep Tight

  4. I love this book! I’m glad you like it!

  5. I really enjoyed the world building in this book, and Taylor is an excellent writer. I also agree that the relationship aspects of this book were refreshingly honest about what most teenagers are facing. I really enjoyed it.

    • I loved that she didn’t over dramatize the relationships, but made Karou’s ex seem like the kind of guy anyone could have dated before realizing he was a mistake. More importantly, it’s not the end of the world or her life. I love it when books can help teens with the issues they’re dealing with rather than preach at them or pretend that those issues don’t exist.

      I agree that the worldbuilding was phenomenal–the doors to the world of the chimera were such a neat concept, and I loved the descriptions of Karou’s adventures to find Brimstone his teeth.

  6. I love this book, so glad you did as well!

  7. Angel/demon books don’t often appeal, but this one has me intrigued. I love that concept of a hidden world on the edge of the “normal” world, and it sounds like the book handles many layers and concepts in a tasteful and effective way…

    • It’s oh so very good! The angel/demon story works here, even though the angel character is a bit flat (It’s okay though, because the other characters are so wonderful that they completely make up for him). I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked up the book, but it wasn’t the formulaic paranormal story that I had expected. The author has such a vivid imagination!

  8. It was one of my favorites from last year – now I just need to find time to read book 2! 🙂

  9. Glad you enjoyed it, I hear nothing but good things about this book. And how can you not want to read an author who has pink hair? I need to give her a try.

    • You should! I have a feeling that you’d like it. I’m itching to read the next one, even though I have most of my reading already picked out for the next month or so…

      The author’s hair is brilliant. There are days when I wish that I could get away with having pink hair in my professional life, but somehow I feel like it would not go over well.

  10. Good plan on getting through the older BEA books (I need to do the same). Glad you enjoyed this one – I feel like I need to go to Prague one day because of this book.

    • I still have a lot of them left, and I feel bad that I haven’t gotten to them yet. One of my friends who has travelled extensively throughout the world tells me that Prague is hands down her favorite city. Makes me want to go, lol.

  11. This sounds great. You had me at the first line with the comparison to Neverwhere. I’m buying this for our tutoring center now!

  12. I also loved this! As soon as I started the book I was gripped, entranced even. I really enjoyed the setting in fact it just made me want to go to Prague – like, right away! I loved the doors and the other worlds and I thought Karou was a great character (plus her friend whose name I cannot remember!). I wasn’t quite as keen on the angel character (again forgotten the name Doh!) But, the concept she’s come up with here is really original and Taylor has a great story telling voice. Not quite sure why I’ve not picked up No.2 yet!
    Lynn 😀

    • It took me a bit to warm up to Karou and Zuzana’s quirky speech patterns, because most teens don’t talk like that, but they really grew on me. I agree with you on Akiva–he wasn’t my favorite. Maybe he just annoyed me because of his role in the conflict. I loved the minor characters the most–Brimstone and Issa are wonderful!

      I’m giving my copy of the book to my sister this weekend. I think she’ll love it as much as I did. 🙂

  13. Btw – I like your new look. That dragon’s a cutie.

    • Thanks! He’s not 100% finished, but even the mockups are adorable. Fierce, cute, and slightly deranged.

  14. I bought this not too long ago and now I’m so glad I have, it sounds really good.
    If only I would stick to my TBR pile and not buy new things. I seem to have such great books hidden in it.

    • I do the same thing… I keep planning to read more of my TBR, but then I go to the bookstore and can’t stop myself. I’m waiting for about three more to show up in the mail too. 🙂

  15. Pure gold. Well that’s an endorsement!

    • It’s so so so so so so so good! Unputdownable, magical, and at the same time capable of exploring darker themes in a very mature way. I hope the sequels are as good.

  16. Wow! This book sounds amazing! Awesome review 🙂

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