Thursday, June 28, 2012

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Cara, one of my favorite coworkers, tried to read Daughter of Smoke and Bone. After just 20 pages she was annoyed by the characters' fanciful names, and she handed it to me with a frustrated hffff. I wanted to hate it, simply out of loyalty to Cara, but honestly? I loved it!

Twilight comparisons can be off-putting, but bear with me: Imagine if Twilight had a quirky protagonist with a strong personality, a love interest with wings rather than fangs, and an author with a decent vocabulary and strong sense of whimsy. That's Daughter of Smoke and Bone.

As I read the first few pages, I was a little annoyed, just like Cara. The main character, Karou, is a 17 year old girl living on her own in Prague. She attends art school and recently broke up with a man in his early twenties. Who is in charge? Where are the adults?! Stories in which teenagers have complete freedom and act like sophisticated adults are a pet peeve, because they're so unrealistic. But keep reading--when you learn more about Karou, this will all make sense.

I kept reading partly because I liked Karou's sense of humor, but mostly because the narrator kept dropping intriguing breadcrumbs of information, leaving unanswered questions. Karou's hair is naturally peacock blue--why?! Karou receives languages for her birthday--how?! Karou's necklace is made of unused wishes, which is demonstrated in a hilarious revenge scene--what?! Karou's father figure runs a mysterious shop where he buys animal and human teeth but never seems to sell anything--why?! As I followed the breadcrumbs, these questions were answered but followed by more. I was hooked.
The good news is that it's a paranormal YA romance based in a vast, interesting world of the author's own design. Angels and chimeras exist in a world separate from ours, and they're more beautiful, violent, and dangerous than we ever imagined. Their world is connected to our own, but the portals are protected by magic. Magic is real, and pain is its source. Commit a bizarre act of self-mutilation, and you can have anything you want--but even then, it might not be to your liking. Laini Taylor's rich, detailed fantasy world kept me guessing and turning the pages.

The bad news, of course, is that it's a paranormal YA romance! So when the love story begins, there's quite a bit of Oh, his perfect face... and for some reason, a lot of Oh, his perfect widow's peak. His widow's peak, really?! No, thanks. The writing is often melodramatic, but the style reminds me of what it feels like to be a teenager (everything is sooooo important and special!), so it feels right for YA lit. And just when you've had enough of his perfect widow's peak, the story picks up and moves along... to an exciting but inconclusive ending. If you don't like reading the words to be continued, consider yourself warned! But I'm looking forward to the next installment, which will be released on November 6. 




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