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Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor

August 16, 2011

For six glorious months I worked at a local independent bookstore, Eagle Eye Books, here in my adopted home of Decatur, Georgia.  While I was there I had access to Advance Reading copies of upcoming books that would soon be published.  Being in college at the time, though, I really didn’t have time to read them, no less write about them!  It was with surprise and pleasure then, that I recently was handed another Advance Reading copy at another local independent bookstore, the fabulous Little Shop of Stories, where I was browsing and moping about not having enough money to purchase a book.  Now I finally have the chance to write a review of a book that has not yet reached the general public, before zillions of others can chime in with their input.  We’ll see how my analysis and predictions pan out.  Well, without further ado, I present  my thoughts on a fantastic new book, coming out in October 2011, Daughter of Smoke & Bone by National Book Award Finalist Laini Taylor.  It is an AMAZING read.

The Blurbology:

Seventeen-year-old Karou’s life is split between two worlds: her life as an art student in the winding, enchanted streets of Prague, and her secret life through a magic portal in a shop run by monsters who have raised her since she was a baby. As Karou navigates her two worlds, running dangerous errands in foreign lands, dealing with obnoxious ex-boyfriends, collecting languages, making wishes, and wondering about her mysterious past, she is haunted by a feeling that there is something missing inside of her, an emptiness that cannot be filled. It will take an encounter with a beautiful winged stranger and the discovery of an ancient and terrible war to turn her world upside down and to take Karou places even she never expected. An intense, magical, and riveting read, Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor, will draw you in and make you question everything you’ve ever thought about the nature of good and evil.

The Analysis:

Ok, so after I read it I hesitated to write about this book because I feel the need to gush about it, and I want to be taken seriously as a critic, not mistaken for an overenthusiastic reader with no eye for the subtleties of the written word; however, this book is excellently written, with an intricate plot and well-developed characters.  It’s hard not to gush!  My adoration of this book is particularly strange as  I would firmly place Daughter of Smoke & Bone in the teen category due to the age of the main character and some of the darker aspects of the storyline.  Teen books do not usually impress me.  Let’s just say I’m not a fan of vampires and werewolves and teen romance.  My feminist side positively quivers with anger at the thought of young girls turning to romance novels at such a young age, with weak-willed heroines whose only purpose is to mold themselves into the image of what they think men will desire…but I digress. Daughter of Smoke & Bone is not a romance novel and Karou is an impressive antagonist, and while there is romance in the book, it does not define her character.

Karou plays many roles as friend, artist, keeper of paranomal secrets, and adopted daughter of beings whom she does not truly understand.  Taylor does a good job of reminding the reader that while Karou is a complex character with a mysterious past and familial connections to a paranormal world, she is still just a teenager.  Whether its dealing with her annoyingly persistent ex-boyfriend Kaz or dealing with art school friends who cannot understand why Karou is always disappearing to run errands for an unexplained “job,”  Karou reveals both her age and her faults.  From petty wishes made with a magical string of beads called scuppies (which she earns running errands for her demon father) to resentment at her parental figures, Karou is thoroughly human, which grounds both her character and the reader in the context of the bizarre dual world she inhabits.  And what a world that is!  Taylor’s descriptions of Prague make my heart long to visit that enchanted place, and her vivid imagery brings the characters and places to life.  Whether it is the heat of fiery invisible wings, a dusty shop where a demon makes strings of teeth, or a giant puppet show in the heart of Prague, Taylor’s words put you right where she wants you to be.

While I enjoy the characters and the imagery, the best part of the book is the plot.  I am always delighted to find something that  I find is lacking in most young adult books, and what is overdone and cheesy in most teen books, and that that thing is:  suspense!  At the conclusion of almost every chapter I learned something new about Karou or the worlds which her character inhabits.  I was always surprised!  When a character in a book feels that there is something missing in their life, it is too easy to let the reader know halfway through the book what the mystery is and then spend the next half of the novel watching the character figure it out.  I dislike this plot device.  I much prefer to be surprised; its more entertaining!  Daughter of Smoke & Bone does not disappoint.  When the reader and Karou discover the mystery of her past it is unexpected and shocking (unless you’re a much smarter cookie than I am!) but completely entertaining and it allows the plot to continue into more colorful and magical territory…but here is where I stop because I have vowed this will be a spoiler-alert-free blog.   I hope that I have been informative without either giving away too much or being completely boring.  My prediction is that Daughter of Smoke & Bone will be a smash hit and hopefully (I’m crossing my fingers) it will distract some teenagers from vampires and werewolves.  We can only hope.

Pick up your copy of Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor in October at your nearest independent bookstore.  You won’t regret it!

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 16, 2011 1:40 pm

    Great review. After reading the synopsis I thought this definitely wasn’t my type of book, but the rest of your post convinced me to read it. Keep up the good work!

  2. August 17, 2011 12:06 am

    I SO want to read this book. I want to write like her when I grow up. Oh, wait. I’m older than she is–never mind. Great review!

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