About the book
The Daughter of Smoke and Bone is the first book in a series by Laini Taylor. It was published by Hodder and Stoughton on 29th September 2011. The book is 432 pages long.
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 colour. 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-coloured 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?
What I thought
It took me a long time to get around to reading this book, even though others raved about how good it was. There were other books I wanted to buy before this one and I just kind of forgot about it for a while. Once I did finally start reading it though, I couldn't put it down.
The Daughter of Smoke and Bone tells the story of Karou, an orphan who is the ward of Brimstone, a chimera who makes wishes from bones in the world of Elsewhere. From the very beginning, I could tell that this book would be magical and not only because of the setting and characters. Karou is a teenager who tries to go to school, has blue hair and runs errands for Brimstone whenever he needs her to. Her life is crazily busy and often has to run off without a moment's notice which is obviously not a normal way for a teenage girl to live. Karou in herself though was extremely special. Her character has a great personality and is really interesting to read about. She has never felt as though she belongs in the human world but she doesn't feel as though she really belongs in Brimstone's world either.
This story is set in Prague during the winter. Having been there myself in March when the snow falls quite heavily, I could picture some of the scenes exactly and especially those on the Charles Bridge. The setting itself was very magical and mystical and with the descriptions of the strange streets and shops, it made it even more so. The majority of YA books are set in America with a few set here in the UK but there aren't many that are set elsewhere. This book being set in Prague made a huge and welcome change and I was so glad to see that another setting could be done so well - if not better.
Other characters are just as well written as Karou. Her best friend Zuzana has an infectious personality and I really wanted her to have a bigger part in the story. As Karou spends a lot of time between worlds, doing all kinds of crazy things, I thought that it was good for her to have a human friend even if their friendship was strained at times. This also gave Karou the chance to slow things down and have a somewhat normal life for a little while. Brimstone was by far the most interesting for me though as you never really get to find out too much about him. He is surrounded in mystery and very much keeps himself to himself. I wanted to know so much more about this character so was thankful when a few small details were given about him.
Angels and The Fallen are a big thing in YA books but The Daughter of Smoke and Bone does this in a new and fresh way. Avika is a wonderful character and although he and Karou should be sworn enemies, they cannot stay away from each other. Avika has a past and one that Karou doesn't know a lot about. I loved finding out more about Avika and what he had done previously but also what he was doing now. Due to Avika's past, just over half way through this book, the plot begins to flit between past and present so that we can fully understand his actions, which was something that I really liked. The romance between Avika and Karou was extremely believable unlike in other YA books where the two characters seem to fall in love instantly. There is worry and indecisiveness on both sides and each character is wary of the other to begin with. The build-up of this relationship is slow but that's what makes it so real in comparison to other YA relationships.
The plot is a little disjointed at times due to the changes in time but this doesn't mean that it is hard to follow. There are large chunks of the book that are set in the past so when it goes back to the present, it is easily recognisable. The Daughter of Smoke and Bone is exciting and holds many secrets that are yet to be revealed. Laini Taylor doesn't reveal everything in this book but she does give enough to make the reader want more. I desperately want the sequel to this book but the release date seems to keep getting pushed back for one reason or another. However, once it is released though I will be buying it immediately.
Although this is a YA book, it can be enjoyed by adults and I think that it sits happily in the middle of both genres. I loved this one so would highly recommend it.