Friday, April 25, 2014

Book Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor (Re-Read)

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Pub Date: September 2011
Source/Format: Bought/Hardcover

From Goodreads:

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 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?
(I've changed up the format a bit this time, so let me know what you think!)

The Story and the World
I first read Daughter of Smoke and Bone a couple of summers ago and was utterly crushed by the ending, but fell completely in love with the story. By the time Days of Blood and Starlight came out, though, I had forgotten a lot of the finer points of the plot of DoSaB and, being swamped with senior year schoolwork, had practically no time to reread it, let alone start the next one in the series. So here we are two years later and I have to say I'm kind of glad I waited until after the series was finished to pick it up again. Now I get to read the whole series back-to-back, which is good because I'm not sure my heart could handle another soul-crushing cliffhanger.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone has easily made its way onto my favorite books list, and one of the main reasons for that is Laini Taylor's beautiful writing. I think I could read it forever and never get tired of it. Her descriptions of Prague and Marrakesh and Eretz are just so lush. She makes the real world settings seem just as mysterious and fantastical as her fantasy world, and so many times while reading I just wanted to jump through the page and be there!
"There was a deceptive tangling of alleys that gave the impression of a map that shifted behind you, gargoyles tiptoeing away, stones like puzzle pieces rearranging themselves into new configurations while you weren't looking. Prague entranced you, lured you in, like the mythic fey who trick travelers deep into forests until they're lost beyond hope. But being lost here was a gentle adventure of marionette shops and absinthe..."
Then there's the world-building, which is amazing and so well thought out. From the caged city of Loramendi, to Brimstone's macabre yet somehow comforting shop, everything felt so real. I was fascinated by the mythological stories of Ellai and Nitid, the Gibborim and the godstars, wanting read about them almost as much as I wanted to read about Karou and Akiva. I found it fascinating how Laini Taylor took a concept familiar to so many--angels versus devils--and turned it into a mythology completely her own. One of the biggest questions I found myself asking while I read was, what defines an "angel" and a "devil" in this world? Brimstone calls human religion "a quilt a fairy tales, which humans had patched together out of glimpses." In this world, the magical beings are divided not as angels and devils ruled by God and Satan, but as seraphim and chimaera, neither of whom can be definitively labeled good or evil.
"There were angels on the Charles Bridge, and she was their foe. She: enemy of angels, in her black coat and evil tattoos, with her lashing blue hair and black eyes. They: so golden, the very image of church frescoes come to life. She was the demon in this scene, and she half expected, glancing at her shadow sharp before her, to see that it had horns."
What also made the fantasy world in DoSaB so unique was how it crossed over into the real world. In a lot of YA, knowledge of the paranormal is contained to a small group of people who are in the know, but in DoSaB people all over the world have sightings of the angels. Media outlets and the police become involved, which leaves me wondering what repercussions this will have later in the series.

The Characters
Karou's chimaera family is one of my favorite things about DoSaB, and Brimstone and Issa (and Kishmish--poor Kishmish!) captured my heart. I loved Issa, who could be so kind one moment, calling Karou "sweet girl" and delighting in dressing her up as a chimaera, but completely fierce and terrifying the next, wrapping her venomous snakes around the necks of Brimstone's unsavory traders. And then there's Brimstone himself, whose tragic past and fatherly nature toward Karou made me want to hug him (even though he could be a little...well, terrifying).

Even the human characters in this book are awesome. Zuzana is seriously the best "best friend" character I've read in a YA book in a long time. She wasn't just a side character thrown in for the purpose of showing the reader that the main charcter has friends; I really came to care for Zuzana and love her for her quirk and attitude. Not to mention the banter between her and Karou had me laughing out loud constantly. I really hope she shows up more in the next books.

Finally, of course, there's the star-crossed lovers themselves, Karou and Akiva. Let's just say I haven't been this crazy over a fictional pairing since Edward and Bella. Goodness, I love these two!  Karou is witty, hilarious, and a total bad-ass, but at the same time she's still vulnerable and achingly lonely. It made her more relatable, more human, and best of all, it showed that a heroine can have flaws and experience real emotions and still be considered a "strong female character" (I have a bit of a beef with that label, but I'll save that rant for another post).

The Ending
~ IF YOU HAVEN'T FINISHED THE BOOK, BEWARE OF SPOILERS IN THIS SECTION ~

Out of all that happens, my favorite part of the book has to be the breaking of the wishbone and all that ensues afterward. It was the part of the book that stuck with me the most after the first read, and going into this rereading I was partly excited to read it again and partly dreading the heartbreak I knew was coming. Because that ending. So heartwrenching. It was just so unbearably cruel of Laini to put Akiva and Karou/Madrigal through the agony of betrayal and death and rebirth and reunion...only to have them torn apart again by yet another (albeit unwitting) betrayal by Akiva.  My heart twists at the thought of what lies ahead in Days of Blood and Starlight.

Favorite Quote
"Karou wished she could be the kind of girl who was complete unto herself, comfortable in solitude, serene. But she wasn't. She was lonely, and she feared the missingness within her as if it might expand and...cancel her. She craved a presence beside her, solid. Fingertips light at the nape of her neck and a voice meeting hers in the dark. Someone who would wait with an umbrella to walk her home in the rain, and smile like sunshine when he saw her coming. Who would dance with her on her balcony, keep his promises and know her secrets, and make a tiny world wherever he was, with just her and his arms and his whisper and her trust." 
Final Thoughts and Rating
Daughter of Smoke and Bone is a thrilling, beautifully written story of star-crossed love, good versus evil, and the power of hope. I cannot wait to see where the rest of the series will take Karou and Akiva.


4 comments

  1. I read this book for the first time last year and even though I really liked it I held off on reading the sequel until the release of the final book. Now that its out I can't wait to read both books close together so I don't have to wait and see what happens next. I love the world-building, it's so brilliant! Usually when I'm reading a fantasy book I can't wait to get past the chapters set in the ordinary world but that definitely didn't happen with DoSaB as I loved the Prague setting and could have stayed there!

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    1. Yes! I think I loved the Prague setting more than the fantasy setting.

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  2. I've been thinking of starting this series now that the final book is out. I'll have to be sure to have the second book handy though after I finish this first one haha. I really love the non-mask covers for this series

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    1. Oh, my gosh, you absolutely HAVE to read it!

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