Thursday, 1 December 2011

Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

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?

Um – wow. Just wow. I’m not really even sure if I can do this book justice in the review so let’s start out by saying that I loved it. No, scrap that I adored it.

Taylor’s writing is divine – it’s absolutely stunning prose that sweeps you up and brings you right into the heart of the story. She is as much a writer as an artist with this brilliant scope of imagination that enthrals throughout ‘Daughter of Smoke and Bone’.

Karou is so instantly likeable, with her blue hair and artists mind and eye, and down to earth attitude that incorporates more than one world. She still has boy troubles, she still worries that her butterflies are dead and she will never find that person to complete her – she also worries about how she’s going to get some giant tusks on the Paris metro without anyone stopping her – you know, usual worries. I loved her. I loved her attitude and her strength, and her determination to not be left in the dark, to be strong and courageous, and fight for those she loves.

And I love Akira. Their connection is something beautiful – and I’m not normally one for insta-love, but in fairness it’s how it’s written that sways me, and this was so convincingly incredible that I was swept up in the rightness of it all.

The writing, as I’ve said, is absolutely breathtaking. I felt like I was there, living, breathing and experiencing it all. Everything from the rain and the cold, to the warm steam of Poison, to the mortification of her idiot ex posing in the class.

And oh my, the dialogue. It was all really well done, but my personal favourites were any time that Zuzana and Karou got together and chatted. It was just so funny, and brilliant, and absolutely spot on. Quick light dialogue of people who banter off each other and have known each other long enough to anticipate the others move – it’s very hard to get right, but fabulous to read when it’s there.

The scope of the novel was incredible. One moment in the winding labyrinths of Prague, the next in a war torn world where two mythical races are locked in eternal combat. But Taylor has the brilliant ability to show you the vast scope, and then take you right down into the tiny moments that make these people ones you care about.

The only minor complaint I had was that once the truth starts spilling out and we start to find out all the backstory, it felt like an awful lot is dumped at once. I don’t mean Madrigal’s story as such, but the backstory of the whole world and the races. I just felt a bit overwhelmed and had to go back and re-read some parts to make sure I’d taken it all in. On a re-read there isn’t really any other way that Taylor could give that information without it seeming a bit of a deluge. It has to come there, so it does. I just found it a bit overwhelming to suddenly after three quarters of a book suddenly be introduced properly to characters that had only previously been mentioned and be swept up in their story. I know it’s all interlinked, but still, minor gripe.

The beautiful thing is that it is all interlinking. It’s a stunning work where you literally have no idea where it’s going, but quite frankly you just don’t care. It’s that good, you’re just along for the ride, wherever that might be.
And having been through all those twists and turns it’s definitely time for a re-read to help it all slot in in those earlier pages and watch the beauty of a well-crafted piece of art play out.

Having finished, with that tantalising ‘to be continued…’  I now cannot wait to find out what happens next. Karou’s story is so breathtaking in its abstract brilliance that I didn’t want the book to end. I just wanted to keep reading.

1 comment:

  1. Fiery handprints, mythical beasts, magical tattoos, wishes and teeth -- all these things have a major part to play in Laini Taylor's otherworldly, bittersweet "Daughter of Smoke and Bone." Her third full-length novel reads like a punky collaboration between Holly Black and Charles De Lint, sprinkling mysterious items and haunted characters across the world.