YA Friday: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Friday, November 18, 2011

Title: Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Author: Laini Taylor
Genre: YA, paranormal, fantasy
Series: Daughter of Smoke and Bone #1
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2011
Source: Gift
Read for: FYA Book Club

Karou is a seventeen-year-old art student in Prague, but that is only half of her life. The other half involves some interesting creatures that the more ignorant might call monsters and mysterious errands throughout the more glamorous cities of the world -- San Francisco, Paris, London, Morocco. However, when a mysterious force threatens the only family Karou has ever known, she must search for a way to save them, and the key to why she lives her life the way she does.

I had heard rave reviews of this book before I ever picked it up, so I was very excited to find out that it was the November choice for the FYA book club. However, for the first few pages, I was completely weirded out. I was completely disappointed in the strange characters that I felt no connection to. However, as the story unfolded, I found myself investing more and more, and those strange characters became important to me -- which ends up being an important theme in the book.

I think the first thing that slowly started to win over my affections was the snappy dialogue between Zusana and Karou. Despite the fact that this weird story was taking place in a weird country I knew next to nothing about, these girls were realistic in their friendship. They made up creative insults, bugged each other, had inside jokes ("orifice," anyone?). As I read more and more about them, I wanted to be their friend; I wanted to go to Poison with them and people-watch through the creepy statues. I began to care about them, even though I found it difficult to invest in the story at first.

The second thing that drew me in was the writing. It seems that everything in the book is "aglitter," "sparkling," luminescent. Both worlds that Ms. Taylor illuminated were beautiful, but in a hard, fierce way, and I found myself completely enchanted. Even the contemporary, modern side of the story took place in a location that was so utterly foreign to me that I felt as if I was looking into a fairy tale. If you've ever read His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman, I was slightly reminded of those books -- not so much in the themes and the actual worlds themselves, but in the feeling of something unique, beautiful, and absolutely complete -- I felt as if nothing was left unfinished.

What sealed the deal was the hunting cabin in Idaho. Okay, I'm kind of kidding, but my family has a cabin in Idaho, about an hour outside of Boise (and it is frequently used for hunting, although I'm never the one to put it to that use). When Karou was going back down the mountain to Boise, I knew exactly what that drive looked like, because I went on it every weekend in the summer (and quite a few in the winter as well). When she described the Boise airport, it was like I was there, because I have been, so many times. I know that part of the story probably isn't significant to anyone else, but it is so rare that Boise shows up anywhere unless you are talking about college football, and I love my hometown, so Laini Taylor won my heart when she included it in this story.

But really, all joking aside, by the time I was in the middle of the story, there was no turning back. I was invested. I loved Karou. I loved Akiva -- he was such an alien and yet such a human, warming character. I loved his capacity to feel pain and love. And as the story unravels to reveal the truth about Karou's past, it seemed both inevitable and also a complete surprise.

I also loved that there was more to the story than just telling a thrilling story. The story is about using peace to save the world -- about not judging people based on what they look like or their traditions. I was guilty of this at the beginning of the book -- I thought the chimaera were weird. I didn't like reading about them -- they were different and alien. The luminous, fierce and beautiful angels were only slightly better. I wasn't even sure about reading about Prague -- I knew nothing about the city, and it was completely different from everything that I knew. But as I got to know these characters, I found myself in love with all of them. I'm pretty distressed that I started yet another trilogy that is going to leave me hanging with my heart ripped out until I get my sticky fingers on book two, but I guess that's the price I pay when I choose to read young adult books. At any rate, I loved this one, even though at first I had my doubts. I think that like His Dark Materials, this is a book that can appeal to those who don't necessarily love fantasy or young adult books. If you ask me, I will tell you to read it, no matter what your genre preference.

4.5 stars

Warnings: Allusions to sensuality


  1. Umm, YAY for the inclusion of Boise! That's awesome!

    I wasn't much interested in this one, but I've seen so many people with similar taste to mine who just RAVE about this one so I'm really excited to get to it! I need to read it soon! :D

  2. Oh I'm SO GLAD you ended up liking it!

    There are too many things I love about this book to list them here, but it is well near the top of my best of 2011 list. I just thought it beautiful and lovely and amazing. It is almost painful to have to wait for book two.

    My FAVORITE thing about the book is the chemistry between Akiva and Karou - but the way it developed with barely any touching at all. And don't even get me started on the world-building.

    I just love it SO MUCH.

  3. Ashley - I had my doubts about this one but it was SO worth it in the end. I hope you like it!

    Asheley - I know. I am DYING for book 2. And their chemistry is great -- I love that "meant to be" feeling in books. I think I am definitely going to reread it before the second one comes out - I don't usually do that but I can't wait to revisit it!


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