Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Daughter of Smoke and Bone # 1
Number of pages: 420
My copy: hardbound, bought from Fully Booked
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?
* * *
It’s hard to turn your back on a book when people everywhere seem to be raving about it. I’ve been hearing lots of really good stuff about Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor from practically all the blogs I’ve been following, so I put the book on my radar with full intention of just borrowing and not buying. But the lure of books is stronger when more people rave about it, so when I saw a lone hardcover copy in Fully Booked, I knew I had to leave the store with it. And start it immediately as soon as I finished my last read.
Karou is an eccentric girl by normal people’s standards, but in a city like Prague, they don’t really mind. Her art student friends dismiss her blue hair, her random disappearances to run errands and her knowledge of many language to see her sketchbooks and stories of monsters that are supposedly real. No one knows who Karou really is, even herself. All she knows is that her only family are the chimaera who lives in Brimstone’s shop, who collect teeth in exchange for wishes. Karou cannot escape the emptiness she feels, until she meets Akiva, a stranger with fire-colored eyes, who almost just about killed her…until he didn’t. What follows is a gradual unveiling of Karou’s hidden past, one that that bears repercussions and choices that could result to her losing everything she has ever known.
I’ve read lots of praises for Laini Taylor’s writing, and I saw just what they meant in this book. What beautiful writing. I remember reading the first page of the book the day I bought it and not wanting to stop (but I had to, because if I don’t, I would never have finished Breathe). I lost count at how many times I wanted to dive into her prose and wish to write the way she does — lyrical and flowery but never veering towards purple. Very vivid, too, because I never had a hard time imagining the things she was describing. Passages like this broke a bit of my heart:
With the infinite patience of one who has learned to live broken, he awaited her return.
But there were also parts like these that made me chuckle:
“Hey! My body may be small, but my soul is large. It’s why I wear platforms. So I can reach the top of my soul.”
“I don’t know many rules to live by,’ he’d said. ‘But here’s one. It’s simple. Don’t put anything unnecessary into yourself. No poisons or chemicals, no fumes or smoke or alcohol, no sharp objects, no inessential needles–drug or tattoo–and…no inessential penises either.’
‘Inessential penises?’ Karou had repeated, delighted with the phrase in spite of her grief. ‘Is there any such thing as an essential one?’
‘When an essential one comes along, you’ll know,’ he’d replied.”
And there were some that just made me sigh:
Happiness. It was the place where passion, with all its dazzle and drumbeat, met something softer: homecoming and safety and pure sunbeam comfort. It was all those things, intertwined with the heat and the thrill, and it was as bright within her as a swallowed star.
It was because of this writing that I forgave and even liked the paranormal romance aspect. I’m not a fan of anything insta-love, so I was kind of wary, but the writing! It’s just too beautiful for me to pass up. It’s not that the romance was the typical ones that have been ravaging the bookstore shelves lately — in fact, it actually has a very good story to it. It may be a bit dramatic for some, but it’s still a very good read, and it’s not the I-would-die-without-you-my-life-is-incomplete-without-you romance.
And again, the writing. I mean, more, read this:
…and for that moment, her hand in his, Karou felt as powerless as starlight tugged toward the sun in the huge, strange warp of space.
I can’t remember the last time I read the word “starlight” used as a figure of speech without making it sound cheesy. Can you?
One of the other things I really, really liked about this book was the setting. Days after I was back from my Europe trip, I was talking to one of my friends who was still there and she was up to ears with excitement about their trip to Prague. I have heard of Prague before, but just like Geneva, it wasn’t really up high in my bucket list. Their pictures, however, made me want to bump it up my bucket list — what a beautiful place it seemed to be! Reading Daughter of Smoke and Bone made me want to go there even more. The other places that Karou visited were also described vividly (I felt a little thrill when she started talking about the metro in Paris), but I think Prague was the perfect stage for the first part of the story (the second part was in an entirely another world, described just as vividly as the one in the real world). As it was described:
The streets of Prague were a fantasia scarcely touched by the twenty-first century—or the twentieth or nineteenth, for that matter. It was a city of alchemists and dreamers, its medieval cobbles once trod by golems, mystics, invading armies. Tall houses glowed goldenrod and carmine and eggshell blue, embellished with Rococo plasterwork and capped in roofs of uniform red. Baroque cupolas were the soft green of antique copper, and Gothic steeples stood ready to impale fallen angels. The wind carried the memory of magic, revolution, violins, and the cobbled lanes meandered like creeks. Thugs wore Mozart wigs and pushed chamber music on street corners, and marionettes hung in windows, making the whole city seem like a theater with unseen puppeteers crouched behind velvet.
Match that description with these photos like these and who would not want to go to Prague?1
Yep. I’m making sure to go to Prague next time I get to go to Europe.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor is a must-read book for this year, whether you like paranormal romance or not. :) I’d read every book Laini Taylor writes if only to soak in her gorgeous, gorgeous writing. Sigh.
- Photos from my friend, Ate Sheh, taken last September :) [↩]