Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Laini Taylor)

I took this book everywhere until I was done with the last page.

Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone takes place in a richly-imagined, layered, and lyrical universe -- an Elsewhere that exists along with ours -- that makes it difficult to put down. Karou, an art student in Prague, runs strange errands for her family, errands that take her to Paris, Saigon, San Francisco, Marrakesh in the blink of an eye, though there is much she doesn't know about her existence. I understand that that might sound like a tired cliche from the paranormal romance genre, but Daughter of Smoke and Bone was more than I expected. Here, I'll let the blurb do the talking:
Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love.
It did not end well.

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 grows dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherworldly war.
There are many things to recommend about Daughter of Smoke and Bone, foremost of which is the gradual unfolding of the plot. Though there were twists and elements that are revealed towards the end of the book, I never felt that Ms Taylor had tacked them on superfluously. The novel is well-layered, ambitious, and successful as it takes the reader from one world and one thread of the story to another. The pace allows the narrative to gain much ground. What's also striking about the story is that it carries with it a commentary on war, prejudice, and tolerance. It does not allow the romance aspect to overpower the important themes that the novel contains.

The setting also plays a significant role in perpetuating the fantasy. Most of the earthly activities take place in Prague, with its art schools and historic corners and grand cathedrals -- already a grand playground for the imagination -- so that when the tale moves to a different plane, the change is gradual and not shattering. Ms Taylor's other world comes with a colorful and diverse group of characters that evoke religious imagery without offending my Catholic sensibilities. I think the author was effective enough to use the angelic-demonic archetypes as a jump-off point to create her own characters of myth and legend to populate her world.

Karou herself is a great character: an admirably balanced mix of a heroine who is physically strong and more than capable of taking care of herself and one who has a great capacity for love. When I encounter characters such as this, I notice that one trait often precedes the other: as if love is a 'gentle' feeling that the female-warrior/tough-girl is required to shun at the beginning of the novel. In Karou, however, they exist at the same time, but I don't feel that this diminishes her strength as a character.

And the language! Some of my favorite lines:
'... clock towers across Prague started arguing midnight... (p56)'

'In her belly: a flutter of winged things shaking themselves fervently to life (p195).'

'It is bright within her, like a swallowed star (p311).'

I've used that 'arguing midnight' line on friends who have taken this book from me -- as I mentioned, I brought it everywhere -- and raised an eyebrow at the cover. Like I tell them, it is not every day that you come across a YA fantasy/romance like this. Daughter of Smoke and Bone appeals to readers who would want to be swept off their feet by an epic love story, as well as those eager for a secondary world with a rich mythos and history to accompany it.

My Advance Review Copy is courtesy of Hachette Book Group Philippines, through the kindness of Honey and Chachic. Much thanks!


Celina said...

I just finished reading the Chapter Sampler of this on NetGalley, and I really enjoyed it. Can't wait to get a copy so that I can finish reading it.:)

dementedchris said...

I hope you get it, Cel! Aside from the story, I was a big fan of Laini Taylor's descriptions. I found it very engaging.

Tina said...

And this is what, the fourth? raving review I've read about this. Want now, want. :))

dementedchris said...

I was really surprised -- I was expecting a run-of-the-mill YA paranormal romance. I should get my hands on her Lips Touch!

Chachic said...

YAY! Isn't Laini Taylor's writing exquisite? And it's just as lovely in Lips Touch so I hope you get to read that soon. Beautiful review for a beautiful book. So glad you loved this one as well. I really can't wait to read the sequel and I have to make do with the Dreamdark books while waiting.

Celina and Tina, you guys can borrow my copy the next time we meet up. :)

dementedchris said...

This is also one of those times when I didn't resent a sequel haha. Super eager to read Lips Touch. National Book Award-nominated, right? (Ayan na naman, I just crossed a book from my TBR and already I'm looking for a replacement! Nooooo!)

Anonymous said...

Loved the review! will read this after i finish reading my other books :)

dementedchris said...

Thanks! I hope you like it as much as I did! :)

Chachic said...

Lips Touch was a National Book Award nominee? I had no idea! I'm glad Laini Taylor's getting the recognition that she deserves. I just heard from Meann that NBS, Powerbooks and Fully Booked all ordered copies of this book from Hachette Philippines so YAY!

Anonymous said...

Yay, another rave review! I'm going to collate all the local reviews to send to Hachette Philippines for their documentation. The rep. is excited to show them to the folks at their head office. :)

I am trying to pimp this book to all the people I know who appreciate good fantasy and YA.

And the local stores should have copies soon. :)

dementedchris said...

When I saw she had been nominated for a National Book Award, I wondered which book that was! Really impressed. :P

I'm sure Hachette Phils will be happy with all the good reviews. :D Fantasy fans who would like to delve into YA would definitely like this.

Anonymous said...

yay! nice review. This book is in my wishlist since the first time I read the book blurb online. I'm still trying to find a copy locally if I still can't get one here I'll order it via book depo.

dementedchris said...

I think it will be released in October but according to one of Chachic's replies, the local bookstores have already ordered it from Hachette Books! It looks like we'll be getting them soon!

blackplume said...

yay! that's good news. Better to get it locally than wait for book depo's shipping. Local book stores are improving =)

Leki said...

Thanks for the review! This is definitely going on my buy list.

Naaaliw talaga ako sa book reviews mo, I can never do what you do. You delve deep, pero you never give away spoilers. (You know, I skimmed through your A Dance of Dragons for fear of tripping into something I didn't want to know about yet xD though I know di mo naman gawain yun, hehe!)


dementedchris said...

Yup, definitely good news! :D You know, I even got some decent recommendations from the old Bibliarch staff at Glorietta!

Yes, you should get this! Hindi lame ang bida. Haha.