Thursday, December 15, 2011

Daughter of Smoke and Bone - Laini Taylor


About the book

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 hair actually 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 one of the strangers--beautiful, haunted Akiva--fixes his fire-colored 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?

416 pages
Published on: September 27, 2011
Author’s webpage

-----

Daughter of Smoke and Bone is one of those incredibly hyped novels that I read to understand what all the fuss was about. I generally don’t go into young adult books expecting much, and this one was no different. While in some respects Daughter of Smoke and Bone lives up to its hype, in other respects it misses the mark entirely. Regardless, there is enough here that will please most readers willing to venture into these young adult depths.

There are a few things that sets Daughter of Smoke and Bone apart from the crowd instantly. First, the book is set in Prague rather than a more typical setting like suburbia. Second, Karou is in her upper teens (seventeen, to be exact) and has spent much of her life independent so she comes across much more adult than most characters in other young adult books I’ve come across. Third, Karou is an art student and reading about a more college-feeling educational experience rather than high school hallways, lockers and lusty glances across geography classrooms was nothing short of absolutely refreshing.

In fact, Taylor does a wonderful job at not just establishing a different feel for her young adult book through those details, but also through her writing. One of my main complaints with young adult books is, often times, I feel like the author is “dumbing down” their style to reach a younger age group and that just gets on my nerves. Taylor doesn’t do that at all. Her writing is solid, confident, descriptive and flowing and can be read by a teenager as well as an adult without either feeling like they are reading a book that’s been watered down for the masses.

The first half of Daughter of Smoke and Bone is fantastic. Taylor mesmerizes readers with her unique setting, interesting protagonist and unique, imaginative creatures. There are no hunky vampires or hulking werewolves. Instead, Taylor’s chimera match the unique streets of Prague perfectly. It’s a fresh setting, and her chimera match it perfectly. Furthermore, Karou keeps things revitalized with her adventures collecting teeth all over the world. The plot builds quickly and Taylor’s attention to detail really makes this first half shine.

Problems begin somewhere toward the second half of the novel. Once Karou is introduced to Akiva and their oh-so-predictable romance begins, Taylor looses much of what made her so unique and refreshing in the first half. Akiva is, as you’d expect, too perfect and gorgeous to fully comprehend and he, improbably, is attracted to Karou. Taylor lost me here. Daughter of Smoke and Bone was focused, unique and refreshing until Akiva entered the picture and the book took a sharp left turn and started throwing out young adult clichés left and right.

The romance really did it for me. Akiva and Karou are just too cliché. They are gorgeous beyond understanding and can’t fight their overpowering attraction to each other. The detail that goes into their relationship is too much. It’s almost like every time they glance at each other, universes unfold and the world is set right and while that's fine, it makes me feel a little green around the edges. While some readers may enjoy that kind of thing, it’s just so unrealistic and overpowering to an otherwise wonderfully built world and plot that it nearly destroys what the book spent so long building up. Furthermore, this wonderful relationship is doomed from the start (I’m sure that comes as a huge shock to everyone). Once the story of Madrigal enters, the twists, turns and important information are incredibly predictable. There is no shock value. It’s almost like Taylor spent all her energy on a campy relationship and let the rest of the book slide.

There are issues that go beyond the ill-fated relationship. Characters that were believable and enjoyable before loose some of their believability in this section. For example, Karou tells her best friend about her world, which is filled with angels and chimera and magic and whatever else and her friend basically accepts all of this information without so much as batting an eye. I just can’t believe that a level headed character would basically accept a story like Karou’s on face value and so suddenly. Secondly, when the romance takes the driving seat, the plight of Karou’s adopted family seems to take back seat. While her main goals are still to get to them, they play second fiddle to the all-encompassing goal of falling madly in love with gorgeous Akiva.

In the end, Daughter of Smoke and Bone is much better than most of what is being published in the young adult genre these days. If the second half of the book had kept the same quality and tone as the first I would have loved it. However, the sharp left turn Taylor took absolutely derailed this book and caused it to drift away from much of what made it such a unique, shining beacon in the land of YA. The romance is overpowering, and boarders on ridiculous, and the sharp cliff style ending is annoying. However, despite my issues with this book, it’s been a huge hit with readers and despite this review, I feel it largely deserves the fans it has. It has its unfortunate problems, but when it’s stacked up against the rest, it still stands apart from the crowd.

3/5 stars

3 comments:

  1. I actually love this book but it's nice to hear another opinion, too. Great review! :) I'm a new follower. :D Merry Christmas!

    Sarah @ Smitten over Books

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yes the flashback did clear up a few unclear points but it didn't need to take 60 long pages.
    The ending, I literally gasped out loud at the end. I was devastated since i might not have connected with the protagonist but there was a character i connected with, and its Brimstone. I have hope that the second book would be less confusing and more bearable to read so I will pick it up (at least to read the synopsis and see what i'll be getting into).

    ReplyDelete
  3. Personally, I love every bit of the book, even though the romance was clique and predictable, it was described in such originality and vigour that I still loved it. I've never read anything like this book before, and I doubt I ever will. What you say is valid, but that does not stop this from being an utterly epic read.

    ReplyDelete