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Friday, October 28, 2011

Daughter of Smoke and Bone Review

You know when you’ve been hearing all sorts of good things about a book for, like, ever and you’ve been dying to read it but then when you get it you start thinking, “There’s a very real possibility that this will suck and not live up to my very high expectations,” so you begin with apprehension? Well that happened to me.

When you guys voted for Daughter of Smoke and Bone, I was dying to read it. I was all, bring it on!

But then I realized how much hyped books can be a letdown. And I started to look at the book all suspiciously.

Well, I’m happy to report that all my eye squinting was for nothing. I really loved this book. Actually, halfway through I became such a Lani Taylor fangirl that I’m pretty sure I’d do this if I ever saw her:

Anyhow, the book, right? There were so many things I loved about this book, not the least of which was the beautiful writing. It gave the story a Grimm’s fairytale feel that really worked. Case in point: The book begins with this:
Once upon a time,
an angel fell in love. 
It did not end well.
And that, my friends, isn’t just the opener. It’s the whole book. Yes, Taylor is that brilliant that she can sum up the entire book, surprises and all, without ruining the story or the mystery.

The story is brilliant and unlike any other angel-demon book I’ve ever read. The third person narrative really works well here, and that’s saying something since I’m usually a fan of first since I can better identify with the characters. Plus, Taylor takes everything you think you know about angels and demons and flips it upside down. The line between good and evil is hazy at best, and Taylor excels in creating characters on both sides of the divide that are well-rounded and full of personality.

The most loveable, to me, was the demon Brimstone, who raised the main character, Karou, from infancy. He’s cold and harsh, evil and dangerous, but Taylor slowly peels away the layers and we see a rich, deep character.

Of course, there are other characters you can’t help but love: Karou, the tough girl with blue hair who doesn’t let Akiva, the hot angel love interest, define her. (Instead, she kicks some serious angel butt before she realizes he’s totally swoonworthy and maybe into her.) And when I say swoonworthy…

But she’s also confused and lonely and unsure of who she really is.
“She had been innocent once, a little girl playing with feathers on the floor of a devil’s lair. She wasn’t innocent now, but she didn’t know what to do about it. This was her life: magic and shame and secrets and teeth and a deep, nagging hollow at the center of herself where something was most certainly missing.”
Her identity is a major mystery in the story: Why did the devil Brimstone raise a human girl? Where did she come from? And so on. Slowly her life changes and shifts, but even as becomes involved in the supernatural side of things we’re reminded of her humanity. Which brings me to the next character I absolutely love, Karou’s human friend Zuzana, who grounds Karou’s life in Prague and provides comic relief. The hands-down best? When Karou introduces Zuzana for Akiva for the first time, she takes one look at his angelic face and says to Karou:
“Oh, Hell. Must. Mate. Immediately.”
I can’t complete this review without mentioning two other things. First, the setting. The city of Prague, other cities around the world that Karou travels to, and the demons’ world all spring to life. And the pacing with which we experience these areas is just perfect: We get to know Karou in Prague where she lives as we get small glimpses of her otherworldly family. The further into the story we go, the more of these other worlds are reveals so that we’re neither overwhelmed with details nor underwhelmed with a lack of world building.

Second: love, because this is a love story. And despite the fact that Karou and Akiva start out wanting to kill one another, it’s the kind of epic love story you read about in fairy tales. Don’t believe me? How about this plea from Akiva to Karou:
“Your soul sings to mine. My soul is yours, and it always will be, in any world. No matter what happens. I need you to remember that I love you.”
Through plot twists and turns (which I will not talk about because, HELLO SPOILERS) we see that it’s not just about romantic love, either. There’s familial love and unexpected love and, well, if I talk any more about this you’ll kill me for ruining the ending.  

I think what I meant to say is: Go. Read this. Now.

What did you think of Daughter of Smoke and Bone*? If you blogged about your thoughts on it, add your link below.

*I love this title, by the way. It fits perfectly.

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