Title: Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Author: Laini Taylor
Publisher: Hodder Paperbacks
Publication Date: 5 August 2012 (First published 27 September 2011)
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal Fantasy
Laini Taylor is an author who is known for her strange and enigmatic stories. Her books have always intrigued me with their unique synopses, but also intimidate me immensely with just how vague they are. I’ve been unsure about giving Taylor’s books a try for years because of these contradictory feelings but I decided to finally take the plunge and read Daughter of Smoke and Bone. All I knew going into this novel was that the main character is a talented, blue-haired artist living in Prague, leaving me absolutely clueless about what the story is. However, I’m quite happy that this was the case! Daughter of Smoke and Bone is a mystical, spellbinding novel that takes your imagination for the ride of its life! Taylor’s writing is absolutely exquisite, the perfect fit for this transcendent story. Whilst I enjoyed the novel overall, I did have an issue with the way other storylines were incorporated into the main plot arc, making the reading experience feel quite disjointed. Otherwise, I gave Daughter of Smoke and Bone a well-deserved rating of 4 stars!
Karou lives two lives every day. On the one hand, she is an art student in Prague; on the other, she runs errands for a monstrous creature who is the only family she has ever known. Despite how close Karou feels to Brimstone, she also does not fully understand his dark work nor exactly how she came to be a part of his world – Elsewhere. But these are not the only mysteries to Karou. She feels like a secret to herself and is filled with many questions about who she truly is. Now, the doors to Elsewhere are closing and Karou’s connection to Brimstone put on the line, forcing her to choose between the safety of ordinary humanity and the dangers of a world that may have all the answers she seeks.
It’s incredibly difficult for me to explain exactly what I loved about this book without indulging in some of the details that should remain a mystery to you before you give it a read. There is so much happening beneath the surface of what the synopsis suggests. This is not merely a story about choosing between two worlds. This is a story about identity, curiosity, and the lengths we go to discover exactly who we are. Karou’s character perfectly displays these. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about her and love how she is not afraid to ask questions, despite almost never receiving the answers to them. She goes through a lot of inner turmoil over her origins and her jumping between Elsewhere and the real world only makes this a greater struggle for her. It also paints her as an “in-between” character, playing as a type of Robin Hood, taking from the “rich” and giving to the “poor”. Karou is a vibrant and inquisitive character yet also has her solemn moments. She is strong in the face of danger and faces much brutality yet never seems to falter. This all makes Karou such an interesting character to read and following her journey is incredibly exciting.
The world of Elsewhere itself is also quite dynamic. It is the complete opposite of reality with its nonsensical nature and eccentric characters. However, do not let it be confused with Wonderland. This world is nowhere near as quirky as the one Alice explores. Rather, imagine it as a darker and more serious alternative. Elsewhere is filled to the brim with dark magic, strange creatures, and hostility. Karou remains interested in this world regardless which only peaks the reader’s enthusiasm and curiosity even more. Laini Taylor’s lyrical writing is also the perfect fit for this peculiar setting. Juxtaposing the real world and Elsewhere next to one another calls for a poetic and almost mystical style of writing and Taylor has exactly that. On the one hand, there are the colourful, artistic, and culture-infused backdrops of Prague and Marrakesh, yet, on the other hand, there is the dark and ominous, but intriguing, space of Elsewhere. Taylor’s writing transports you between these two worlds with grace and her style is the perfect fit for them both. I thoroughly enjoy her writing and how it brought this story to life so well!
As much as I loved this book, there was one aspect of it that I felt disrupted the overall plot arc a bit too much for my liking. I, unfortunately, cannot say too much about this without spoiling the story and ending but I think its still important to mention since its the reason why I did not give the novel a full 5-star rating. Put simply, the plot runs it’s course until about two-thirds of the way in. Then, as if out of nowhere, the last third of the novel shifts to the past and tells a new story. Whilst I understood why this way necessary to the overall plot, I do think that Taylor could have woven this second story in a bit earlier and more effectively. Reading this shift was a bit too jarring and made the novel feel like it was broken into two. I definitely enjoyed the second story, I just wish reading it did not feel as though I picked up an almost entirely different book.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone is a mystifying story from beginning to end and never ceases to rein its characters or world in. Taylor has your imagination running wild in order to fully explore the strange yet ethereal quality of this novel. Karou’s character, the juxtaposition of two worlds, and the writing are perhaps the most compelling aspects of this novel and I would highly recommend this to anyone who is interested in more unusual stories. The only downside is how disjointed the last third of the novel feels in relation to the first two. Otherwise, a wonderful story and a great start to what I expect is a unique series!
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