Title: Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Author: Laini Taylor
Genre: young-adult, fantasy
Series: Daughter of Smoke and Bone #1
Pages: 418 (hardcover edition)
Published: September 2011
Source: from publishers for review
Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.
In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.
And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.
Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages—not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out.
When one of the strangers—beautiful, haunted Akiva—fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?
The first book in a new series, Daughter of Smoke and Bone is an urban fantasy about a girl, an age old war, and the consequences of love. It starts with the daily routine of Karou, a strange creature with two lives. On one hand, she is a young art student in Prague, with the normal fears and dreams of a young woman. On the other hand, she is an errand-runner for otherworldly Brimstone and his fellow chimera, the only family she has ever known.
Tossed about between these two worlds, Karou only wants to know who she is, and what her real purpose in life is to be. Beyond the strangeness of her life lies a truth Karou wants and needs to know, but it will cost her dearly to learn it. Learn it she does, over an unusually constructed but effectively told story line that gradually sucks in the reader.
The story starts with Karou's point of view and her current life in Prague. Her friend, Zuzana, is the best character in the story, even if she is a secondary one. She provides perfectly timed comic relief at the moments where it seems Karou starts pulling a bit towards the angsty, self-obsessed teen of those middling paranormal stories that seem a dime a dozen nowadays. As the book continues, Zuzana's genuine and relevant sense of humor sticks with the reader, even when the deep substance of Taylor's artistry starts to reveal itself.
The sudden entrance of the love story, a little less than halfway through the book, was a bit jarring. At first it felt contrived or forced, but as the depth of the author's storytelling came to the fore, it seemed more and more a splendidly done thing. The banter of the characters also stuck out as exceptional, if handled in an unusual fashion.
Overall, Laini Taylor shows herself as an author with an honest sense of humor and a gift for better-than-average storytelling and whimsy. Karou's character busts out of her shell in a way that will delight readers of young adult literature, and also faces enough pain and consequence to satisfy readers of a more mature bent. As an urban fantasy, it has enough true character to put itself ahead of the class, and is well worth the read even for fans of predominantly other speculative subgenres.
My review for this novel, first published in September of 2011, also gives DoSaB 5/5 stars because I LOVED IT! It was one of my favorite reads for the year, and Laini was my favorite 'new discovery' for an author. Read this book, especially if you feel the PNR/UF genre has gotten a little stale - it's fresh, unique and gorgeously written.