Sunday, December 6, 2015

Daughter of Smoke and Bone » Review

This book, written by one of my favorite authors, did not make a great impression the first time around.  Although you don't know it at first, this first book in Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy [spoiler]truly starts in medias res.[/spoiler] There is a lot going on, as well, and it's difficult to get a grip on during the first read-through.  The first time I read the book, I made a lot of incorrect assumptions, like [spoiler]that we were dealing with insta-love. We're not.[/spoiler] I also disliked our main character, Karou, thinking she was a tiresome, self-impressed hipster chick, which she kind of was (in the first book), but when you know all of her backstory, Karou becomes immeasurably more likable. Unfortunately, it takes a while for that backstory to come into play.

What made me push through Daughter of Smoke and Bone was the wealth of positive reviews for the book and my enjoyment of Taylor's short story collection, Lips Touch: Three Times.  I decided I wasn't giving the series the good ol' college try and made another attempt.

I am so glad I did.  Because, while I'm hesitant to call the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy something like a 'masterpiece,' it is most definitely an 'achievement.'  Laini Taylor's imagination is just insane.  It's a pleasure to dive into and swim through.  She writes well, treating us to surprising little similes and turns of phrase that are so rarely found in YA these days.

About Laini Taylor's style — it's very distinct.  It's distinct to the point where if I read a piece of hers without her name attributed, I'm very certain I could identify it. That's really remarkable, when you think about it. (Remarkable on Taylor's part, not mine :P) So many authors struggle with finding a distinct voice, and Laini Taylor just nails it. Really, the only author I can think of that Taylor shares similarities with is Holly Black, and even then, there are strong differences between the two.

Taylor's style mixes dreamy elements of fantasy with modern settings — romance and humor sprinkled throughout.  There are, of course, Taylor's signature similes and unusual turns of phrase aplenty, although these are much thicker in her short stories than in her novels.  And then, there is always a dark undercurrent of aggression, greed, and sexual violence. I'll get to those issues more in my review of Days of Blood and Starlight, but for now I'll just say that Taylor most definitely has a strong thematic message throughout her body of work.

Anyways, about the actual book.  It opens with a blue haired girl, Karou, being attacked by a vampire.  When I first read the book I was all, "NO! Not another vampire book!" But it's a false alarm — Karou's ex-boyfriend is a street performer/tour guide who dresses like a vampire. Karou, her faux-vampire ex-boyfriend, and her close friend, Zusana, all live in Prague — a nicely exotic setting.  Karou and Zusana are art students and I'd now write that Karou lives a pretty normal life... only she doesn't.  She is replete with mystery.  She knows martial arts, keeps a knife in her boot, speaks tons of languages, never seems to dye her perfectly blue hair, and good luck follows her everywhere.

We find out the answers to all of these mysteries soon enough, but I found it overwhelming to take in at first.  Laini Taylor has created an immense story and it's a lot to take in.  This is unquestionably my main complaint with the book, but I couldn't tell you how to fix it.  I'm not sure that Taylor didn't do the best job possible easing us into her huge concept.  It was confusing as all hell at first.

Another weakness of the story lies in the *first read-through* of the romance.  When reading the romance for the first time, there are so many misconceptions because the backstory is just not there.  [spoiler]You don't even know that there IS a backstory.[/spoiler] So, when I first read the book, I thought, this is intolerable!  It isn't, actually — it's just way more palatable and intriguing once you know more about what's going on in the story.

Overall, Daughter of Smoke and Bone is a very good beginning to a great series.  There are definitely some issues with how the immensity of information is introduced, but don't ask me how Taylor could have done better.  I give this first book in the trilogy four stars.

fantasy CREATIVE refreshing UNIQUE



  1. This book left me absolutely speechless. It was beyond my comprehension at the time, but I can at least recognize how wildly imaginative Ms. Taylor is!

  2. Ooooh, Joy, that sounds euphemistiiiiiiic! I'm going to have to hunt down your review/ratings of this one to get the truth! :D