This is one of those reviews that I really don’t want to write. My words will never communicate, nor justify just how good Daughter of Smoke and Bone, is. I thought about comparing it to Twilight in terms of breaking a mould and setting a new standard, but then I remembered how much emo vampires have gone on to monopolise young adult fiction. I considered calling the novel refreshing and original, but really Laini Taylor is telling a story as old as time.
I find myself in a quandary, wanting to tell you – the reader – that you must drop everything and read it, but how do I tell you why? How about a summary of the archetypes that Taylor uses to create her work? We have angels with fiery wings, demons that are an amalgamation of different animals, magic, wishes, suspense, love and above all, an amazingly fleshed out cast.
Let’s step back to the “story as old as time” quip, for a moment. This is a novel with the traditional battles of good Vs evil (although it’s not that clear cut), but with a stark twist akin to Shakespeare’s star crossed lovers. We have essentially a good old romance between opposing forces with the backdrop of an ongoing war between Chimaera and Seraph. Ultimately it is a love story, but don’t let that put you off. It isn’t all sappy nonsense ala Twilight, every movement and moment between the lovers has weight and consequence.
You see… I’m just stumbling over my inane words. Let’s break down the story, instead. We start by meeting Karou. Young and spritely, Karou is an art student in Prague but she lives a secret life. She was brought up by a Chimaera called Brimstone, a creature who is made up of several animal parts but ultimately looks like a demon. He collects teeth that Karou travels around the world to pick up from traders for him, often putting her life in danger. As a reward for these teeth (be they animal of human), Brimstone gives out wishes of varying power, the better the teeth, the more powerful the wish.
It takes some time to discover what the teeth are used for and when it arrives it adds yet one more intricate but absorbing layer to the book. Brimstones “shop” moves around magically using portals, one day these portal doors begin to be marked with smouldering black handprints and very soon, all will be taken away from Karou.
On paper, the plot sounds maniacal and leads me to wonder how Taylor sold the story to the publisher, but I’m incredibly thankful that this madcap story made it out into the world. It’s a plot that pushes the reader to put in one more chapter as there’s always a question left unanswered. The suspense that is created is palpable at times.
What makes the book quite so suspenseful is the cast. Taylor has created a cast that is just like you and I, down to Earth and brimming with humour and emotion. Karou is the ultimate outcast, something that reflects all of us at one moment in our lives. She is passionate, carefree and appealing. With her shocking blue hair and alluring dialogue it is easy to fall for Karou and subsequently be affected by her story.
Karou came to Brimstone an orphan, she knows nothing about her past, her parents or how she came to be raised by Chimaera. All she knows is that the creatures that inhabit Brimstone’s shop are her family and she loves them deeply.
The same can be said for Akiva, the angel that soon steps into Karou’s life and flips it on its head. He’s mysterious, brooding and holds a history that inspires compassion from the reader. It’s the romance that these characters create that then pushes this mythical tale from plot twist to plot twist, finally finishing on a frankly punishing (to the reader) cliffhanger.
I want to say more, to divulge more points in the story, but they would spoil the act of reading it.
Up to this point I have written around 700 words and not one of them feels as if I have made you want to run out and buy the book. Perhaps that should be the point? If I can’t do it justice then just buy it, devour it and tell someone else. Find out for yourself.
What Laini Taylor has managed to create with Daughter of Smoke and Bone is something that feels wholly original, despite calling on foundations that built literature to what it is today. We live in a literary world that is full of emo vampires and dark dusky covers that show a teenage girl with a tease of the supernatural, as much as I am a fan of Twilight (as a film series) it all gets a bit much. Taylor has injected the genre with a much needed vial of adrenaline. Roll on part two; just don’t make me wait too long.
Available now from Hodder and Stoughton. Hardback – 422 pages, Fiction, Kindly sent by the publisher.