After reading Daughter of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor, at the beginning of this year, I felt transformed. It does sound melodramatic, but we are, after all, talking about YA – and when something works – it works. This book has become a bench mark, in which I refer to, when I’m reading and reviewing YA books. It is truly a 5 star book, and one of the best books I’ve ever read in the YA/ Fantasy genre. So be forewarned: this review is pure, unadulterated gushing.
In preparation for the upcoming second book release in November I’ve been listening to the audio version, and much to my delight, it was amazing the second time around in this format. The narrator in the audiobook certainly does Karou justice, capturing the tumultuousness of the story in her narration. I’ve read reviews that describe this book as two in one, and this is a correct assertion. Laini Taylor tells two very poignant stories that mesh in a climactic way. That’s all I’m going to say about that for spoiler reasons. Trust me. It’s thought provoking to say the least.
Laini Taylor possesses that rare dual trait in writers: beautiful writing AND a beautiful story. Her writing really is just so pretty. I found myself re-reading and re-listening just to hear her descriptions. They are never repetitive; it’s astounding how Taylor finds so many different ways to describe even the mundane. The story flows so well, and the pacing is just right. There is purpose behind every character and every scene, that moves the story along perfectly.
Karou the main character has been raised by magical chimaera. Her chimaera family are described as a mash up of different animal parts. They have terrifying features, but Karou loves them like a daughter cherishes a beloved aunt or grumpy father. Yasri, Issa, Twiga and Brimstone are all lively characters that endeared themselves to me and I would gladly refer to them as family as Karou does. Laini’s chimaera are doting family members that adore Karou. They rely on her to go on various errands, stepping through magical portals that deliver her to different parts of the world. She balances this eccentric secret life with a normal one, of broken-hearted art student. The story is written so smoothly that the transition between worlds is second nature to Karou, and also becomes second nature to the reader.
Karou and her best friend Zuzana exchange some very funny and poignant conversations. This friendship was very touching, never contrived, and very real. Karou’s lonliness is heartbreaking. She’s a reflective, intelligent protagonist. The angst, self doubt and longing to be a part of something normal is all relevant and pertinent to this story.
The chimaera and the angels in this book do a swap of sorts. Chimaera, we learn through Karou, seem to be loving and “good”, while the angels are firey tyrants that burning everything down, and trying to kill people. Akiva is introduced when trying to kill Karou for aiding the “Wish Monger”, Karou’s very own, Brimstone. Akiva sees him as playing a role in the lengthy war between the Seraphim and the Chimaera. This switch of good and evil works extremely well in this story and makes it intriguing. Akiva’s realization of what Karou could mean to him becomes believable, and Taylor does a masterful job of making it all work.
Without giving too much away, the latter part of the book is a different kind of story based in the chimaera world. We meet Madrigal, and the fantasy level of the book, is elevated dramatically. I loved every bit of it. It completely captivated me. Taylor ties these two stories together with such a cliff hanger! This is a story with incredible, unique characters, vividness and emotion, which will stay with me for a long time. It’s a must read for any YA/ Fantasy enthusiast.
About the Blogger
I review Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance books with a focus all things werewolf. Based out of Ottawa, Canada