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Sunday, June 3, 2012

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

I'm a self-admitted book hipster. I like to have read the best and soon-to-be-biggest books before they get big. So after hearing more than once that Daughter of Smoke and Bone was the the next Hunger Games, I'm like fine, whatever, let's give it a try. I'm glad I did.

SUMMARY: Karou is beyond unusual. She's a young art student living in Prague with big secrets. She speaks many languages, not all of them are human. Her hair is a brilliant shade of peacock blue, it grows out of her head that way. She spends her days drawing mythical beasts and creatures, sketches all her friends admire. Little do they know that the creatures Karou draws are real, they are the inhuman family that raised her, the family she runs errands for. Her task is collecting teeth to give to them. But the two worlds Karou inhabits, her life as a teen artist living on her own and her life as the member of an other-worldly family, are about to collide. She will soon have to face the fact that she works and was raised by the devil, and that she's about to be caught up in the ancient war between angels and devils, and forbidden love with the enemy.

So it's a pretty good fantasy/paranormal romance. It started out a little sketchy. Karou is confronted by her ex-boyfriend when he becomes a naked model for her life drawing class. At that point I thought it was going to be one of THOSE books. But it isn't. Over time you start to see the beauty and genius of the fantasy world Laini Taylor created. It skips around quite a bit, and it left me confused at points. The point of view alternates between Karou and Akiva, the angel warrior she grows to love. I didn't really get into either character, I found them both hard to latch onto. So I didn't really get into their romance. It didn't matter though, the story is still good. Taylor's romantic, graceful prose is what really sold me. Her descriptions are so beautifully crafted.

The novel concerns angels and devils, but they are more of a fantasy version instead of the religious figures we know them as. The characters are fallible, and you can't really get to know Karou until the very last page, mostly because the main theme of the story is her finding out who and what she really is. My favorite character was her best friend Zuzanna, a talented puppet-maker who provides the comic relief of the story.

The plot is shaky, but it worked. The end is a shocker, on the final pages things seem wonderful, true love will conquer all, and then boom, an awful secret is revealed and the book stops there. I was about to wail in frustration, but it said "to be continued". So I eagerly wait for book #2 so I can return to Taylor's multi-level fantasy world and gorgeous prose.

THE BOTTOM LINE: A story that's strange and sketchy at first morphs into something beautiful, only to end dreadfully, setting the stage for the sequel. 4/5 stars