Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor: Review

Reading Daughter of Smoke and Bone was like scaling high peaks and scrambling down deep valleys. It started on a total high as we’re introduced to Karou and her double life. 

She spends part of her time as a normal seventeen-year-old girl attending art school in Prague. The rest is devoted to the thankless task of collecting teeth for Brimstone, the chimaera who has raised her from birth. Karou has no idea what he does with the teeth, or why his secret shop is as a portal to just about anywhere in the world where teeth are traded for wishes. But she’s getting mighty curious, partly because she has never felt complete. Something has always been missing from her life. She hopes that understanding what Brimstone does will answer deeper questions.

The action in this part of the book threads through the streets of Prague, to the Paris metro, then onto the souks of Marrakesh – cities I’ve always longed to visit. Laini Taylor’s descriptions brought them alive, adding to the wonder of the book. As I was reading, I kept thinking five stars, oh yes, definitely five stars. 

Then we met Akiva, a seraph fighting to destroy Karou’s secret world. The seraphs and the chimaera – who live in a hidden, but parallel world to Earth - have been at war for a thousand years. Akiva is a soldier, come to destroy Brimstone’s shop and all his chimaera assistants – Karou’s only family.

Sorry to say, but his arrival crashed my wings. I plummeted – along with the story  - into the  doldrums. The valley I was talking about. Don’t get me wrong, Akiva is a fully fleshed out angel, beautiful to boot, with an interesting character and mysterious mission. I liked him a lot. So the doldrums weren’t his fault. 

It was the insta-love – or, should I rather say, lust - between him and Karou that I found so disappointing. Although sworn enemies, all they could think about was how hot the other one was and how much they were attracted to each other – for no obvious reason other than the aforementioned hotness. That was not my only gripe. Occasionally I struggled with the POV. It's written from both their POVs, although occasionally it slips into omniscient, and it was not always obvious whose head I was in. That spoilt the flow. The book also contains quite a bit of blasphemy and that also began to bug me. At this point, I was thinking three stars. If it’s lucky.

The turning came when Akiva took the brave step of opening the door to Karou’s past. The story took off again, carrying me straight back up that mountain. I still think their love is a classic case of the insta variety, but I could not turn the pages fast enough. All the mysteries that had kept me hanging in during the boring bit started making sense. I was stunned by the scope and imagination behind Taylor’s world. It is truly unique. 

Karou finds out more than she could ever want to know, seriously endangering their love. If ever there were starcrossed lovers, it's these two. But it is for Akiva that my heart aches. He did not deserve the ending of book one. Not even close. I’m so worried about him that I’m about to dive into book two  - Days of Blood and Starlight - to see how he fares. Thankfully I have it waiting on my bookshelf.

So, did I enjoy Daughter of Smoke and Bone? Definitely. Would I recommend it? Yes.  Number of stars: after much thought I’ve settled on four. A good compromise, I think for a book both amazing and disappointing at the same time.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.



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