Daughter of Smoke and Bone (by Laini Taylor)

8 08 2012

The allure of Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone is beyond measure… it was actually so big that the cat was drawn into reading her very first “angel” book (not counting David Almond’s Skellig, but that is a whole different ballgame). We all know that in the wake of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight bubble, not only whole series of vampire-inspired books unfortunately reappeared in BookLand (Anne Rice anyone?), but after vampires got a bit old, the publishing companies thought it would be a good thing to milk the supernatural cow just a little bit more and decided angels were the next best thing, so enter a whole string of angel-series…that the cat deftly managed to avoid… until Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone.

Now, taking into consideration that I have *nothing* to compare this to, the cat thought Taylor didn’t actually do a half-assed job, not in the first half of the book anyway. Don’t get me wrong, it is not entirely a successful book, but it is especially written well enough to keep the cat interested in what came next…well at least until about half-way through the book when even lushly written sentences wear off a little bit, if the only thing they’re there for is to gush about the perfect physical beauty of the love interest and the obvious attraction between our two star-crossed protagonists, and (towards the end) why their love just can’t be. Yes, that was a slight exaggeration.

Anyway, the book starts off very enticingly and with an opulent splendor that is absolutely mesmerizing. Taylor introduces us to her protagonist, the bright blue-haired and heavily tattooed 17-year-old art student Karou, who is tough as nails, can hold her own against annoying ex-boyfriends, but who is above all a stranger to herself. Though she splits her time between studying art at the Lyceum of Bohemia in Prague and running errands (mostly collecting all sorts of teeth) for the weirdest of father-figures – Brimstone, a horned golden-eyed monster –  she doesn’t really know anything about his fantastical business, about how she ended up with him, who her parents are/were or whether there are other chimeras besides the ones she’s grown up with, like Issa, a chimera female who’s a serpent from the waist down. When her friends from this world start asking questions, she always tells them the truth, either through her drawings, or in mock humor way so that they don’t know what to believe about her mysterious other life in Elsewhere. So far, Taylor is well on the way for a 4-star book…

Taylor is such a skilful word artist (she had me after 2 pages!) who has an abundance of lush language at her disposal with which she introduces us also to the perfect setting for this story. It really  is not very hard on the eye to read about Karou and Prague and mysterious black handprints on doors… I mean, it is Prague, with its many street artists, mysterious alleys, gothic looking buildings and… a great minor character, Zuzana, Karou’s friend at the art academy. Unfortunately, Zuzana, Prague, the exquisite world-building and the mystery, all that is soon forgotten once our protagonist Karou has her first meeting with her enemy, the seraph (angel) Akiva, who is earth-shattering beautiful and who will of course have some sort of inexplicable connection with Karou… and that is exactly what the other half of the story is about. The connection between Karou and Akiva, and the back story of the two. It’s still a mystery but all in service of the ‘romance’ rather than in service of furthering the actual plot (many many flashbacks!). Well,… I can’t help but feel a bit cheated here, because I just wanted more of the Prague world and more interaction between Karou, Zuzana and Akiva, and the clash between the two worlds (Here and Elsewhere) than I got. Instead, what I got was…  romance, of the astral kind for sure, yes, the type of romance that wars start over even, but still romance.

And because this book is so beautifully written, you will go on and on to see what else there is for our protagonists and then Taylor will introduce another character – Madrigal – and I have to say, this is where she lost me completely. I had enough with the Seraphs and the Chimeras in Brimstone and his assistants and Akiva and I wanted more interaction there before I got the whole back story of the star-crossed lovers thing, which is, admit it, just not that original… At that is exactly what the whole first part of the book really was: inventive and lush and fresh and promising so much more than we actually got in the end. Definitely minus one whole star…

Laini Taylor is a flamboyant word mistress and as a writer, she definitely stands out in the YA crowd – and I’m fairly sure she also stands out in the ‘paranormal’ YA crowd in this respect. She has an eye for detail and can build a world with flair, a mythical and mystical world that is mysterious, lush and all her own. Her protagonist Karou shows so much strength and promise, but like in so many paranormal romances she gets weak in the knees once that all uber-perfect love interest shows up. And I wanted more Zuzana, who provided the story with an earthiness, she grounded not just Karou, but the entire Here-Elsewhere dichotomy. Or maybe it is just me – cats are solitary creatures after all – but I guess cats and angels just don’t mesh well…

PS. After writing my review, I reread the review of Wendy Darling of the midnight garden over at Goodreads and she seems to agree with a lot of what the cat had to say about this book, but she manages to say it so much better, so here is the link to that!

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21 01 2013
Days of Blood and Starlight (by Laini Taylor) « Ringo the Cat's Blog

[…] for that matter. Cat’s had enough, no more mixing it up with the supernatural. Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone succeeded in enticing the cat, even more, for like half a book there, it looked like […]

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