Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor
Series: Daughter of Smoke & Bone #1
Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Published on: September 27 2011
Genres: Young Adult
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Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.
In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.
And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.
Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real, she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands", she speaks many languages - not all of them human - and her bright blue hairactually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.
When beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?
Laini Taylor is a genius. No really. You know how “they” say that all myths and fairytales have an element of truth in them? How that element of truth is where the myths and fairytales originally came from? Well, in Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Laini Taylor treats all the myths like they’re Athena—sprung fully formed from the head of Zeus. Greek, Middle Eastern, Egyptian, various and sundry Pagan belief systems, it doesn’t matter, it all combines to make one glorious whole. There are Mesopotamian Hamsa on the hands of resurrected Naga (Hinduism/Buddhism), Greek Minotaurs, Egyptian jackals, and a multitude of other mythological creatures. Hamsa that repel the mishmash of creatures’ enemy, the Seraphim. Seraphim who are wholly unconnected to Christian, Jewish, or Muslim ideologies.
And the magic that both sides utilize must be paid for in PAIN. This (IMO) is the best and cleverest part b/c in European folklore, both Eastern and Western, there are all kinds of pagan belief systems focused on witchcraft, earth worship, manipulation of the elements, etc. Almost all of those belief systems center on the principle of payback. Karma. The Golden Rule. Pick one. All variants of the same basic idea—if you put good in the world, it will come back to you, and if you put bad in the world, that will come back to you as well. Taylor takes this principle and transforms it into something with tangible, immediate results. In her world, you don’t have to look over your shoulder waiting for your bad deeds to catch up to you, you pay as you go. Or someone pays.
Right. So. Meet Karou. Karou is a blue-haired girl who lives in Prague, where she is in enrolled in a school of the arts. Before that she was somewhere else, and before that, yet another place—rootless, homeless, Karou. When she was a child, she lived in an other-place, surrounded by other-creatures who were her friends and family, but when she got older, Brimstone (the othercreature in charge of those who raised her) sent her out into the human world, to learn human things, and run human errands b/c Karou is human.
But if Karou is human, then how did she become a part of this otherworld? How did she acquire languages as birthday gifts, and why did her hair turn blue when she wished it? Why has she had tattoos of an eye on the palm of each hand for as long as she can remember, and why does she constantly feel like something is missing, that she should be doing something, being something, a part of something, that she is not?
Daughter of Smoke & Bone will make you ache. It will make you clench your hands and clutch your arms around your stomach in trepidation of what Karou will learn, must learn about herself, about the othercreatures she calls family, about the strange, burnt hand prints that show up on the doors that are the gateways to their otherworld, and about the beyond beautiful man with the shadow that has giant wings who put them there.
Inexplicably, I left these books off my list of Top 5 YA Series a few weeks ago. It somehow slipped my mind, though it has clearly earned its place there. It’s simply the most brilliant and unique story I’ve read in recent memory. I love the characters, both main and secondary, I love the world-building, and the romance is simply fantastical. Daughter of Smoke & Bone hits you straight in the feels, and you love every second of it, want more of it, are devastated when it ends.
So it’s a good thing Dreams of Gods & Monsters, the third (and final?) installment of this series will be released in only a few short weeks. Are you ready?