Sunday, July 08, 2012

Daughter of Smoke and Bone
by Laini Taylor

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Read by Khristine Hvam
Series: Daughter of Smoke and Bone (trilogy), Book 1
Karou leads two lives. One is in the tangled streets of Prague, as an orphan and art student; the other in a clandestine workshop, overflowing with jars of teeth and wishes, run by the ram-horned magician, Brimstone—the closest thing to family Karou has ever known. She doesn't know where she came from, but she's about to find out. When Karou meets stunning, haunted Akiva, she finds a love whose roots drink deep of a violent past, and an ancient war that is far from over. Master storyteller Laini Taylor imagines a wholly unique fantasy about a forbidden love, an epic battle, and hope for a world remade.
The above is the synopsis that my library system provides for Daughter of Smoke and Bone in its digital media catalog (ie. the site I go to for e-books and e-audiobooks). I was in need of a new audiobook (and I'm endlessly fascinated by Prague) so I decided to check Daughter of Smoke and Bone out even though I wasn't sure I'd enjoy it as I often lose patience with high fantasy.

It did take me a little while to get into Daughter of Smoke and Bone and its story, but I never got overwhelmed by or irritated with the world Taylor created even though it includes seraphim and I usually have no patience with angel novels. Daughter of Smoke and Bone takes place primarily in the world as we know it today, though a series of portals provide access to a shop, manned by a group of chimaera,1 that seems to exist as part of a mysterious parallel world.

The novel's protagonist, Karou, is an usually-skilled, blue-haired teen, who was literally raised by monsters.  Karou's foster-father, the mysterious Brimstone (whose features read as human, lion, and ram, among other things) is the proprietor of the not-of-this-world shop.  Brimstone sells wishes and buys teeth.  Karou's job is to act as his agent in the human world.  In addition to meeting Brimstone's regular suppliers who are unable or unwilling to visit the shop, Karou travels all over the world to procure particularly rare specimens.  When she's not running errands for Brimstone, Karou attends art school in Prague where she leads an only somewhat extraordinary life.

While Karou has a love-interest in Akiva, their relationship is not your typical young adult-novel romance. Karou and Akiva's relationship is exceedingly complicated as a result of complex external factors, not because of a love triangle or teenage angst. Their relationship is a significant part of Daughter of Smoke and Bone (and likely the entire trilogy), but the romance's role is to reveal the larger picture and serve as a catalyst for Karou to discover who she really is.

Even though Daughter of Smoke and Bone is the first in a trilogy, set-up and world-building don't overwhelm the narrative. The world Taylor has imagined is complex and well-constructed. The plot of Daughter of Smoke and Bone and the overarching, series-wide storyarch are well-balanced within the novel, and, while the novel's ending leaves readers wanting more (in the way of a sequel), there is sufficient resolution for them not to feel completely untethered.

In any case, I really enjoyed Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I highly recommend the audio version. Khristine Hvam does a wonderful job narrating it.

Days of Blood and Starlight, the sequel to Daughter of Smoke and Bone, will be released in early November.
  1. chimaera / chimera:   a monstrous creature composed of several different animals.  Also, per OED, an unreal creature of the imagination, a mere fancy; an un-found conception.
    The origins of the word lie in Greek mythology.  The creature chimera--a fire-breathing goat-lion-snake hybrid from Lycia--is referenced in the Iliad among other places.

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