Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Daughter of smoke and bone by Laini Taylor

Karou is not your typical hero, or your typical teenager.  She lives alone in Prague, attending a school for the Arts and produces amazing works of art with her pencils and paints.  The world she draws is all true, but most people believe the monsters she draws are from a vivid imagination, not realising that they come from the secret life she keeps hidden away from her friends.  Her life is a tangle of secrets, dreams, and stretching to inhabit the world as we know it - and the world where her other family would be described as nothing short of monstrous. 

At a moments notice she may be called upon to run an errand for her family - a quick trip to Paris, or Morocco, or America, a quick trip to gather the teeth that her guardian Brimstone seems to find so important.  It is a world of balance, one that leaves her feeling somewhat empty, but otherwise content.  When the balance shifts and Karou finds her secret life spilling into her public life, it could mean disaster, but instead it is the beginning of something unexpected.  Her guardian Brimstone has always seemed to be hiding something from her, but she has never known what IT was, but one day she stumbles across a being that most people would call an angel.  Akiva is full of raw power and controlled rage, a soldier who has come to Earth to mark the portals that Brimstone uses to allow humans to acces his world, the portals that Karou uses to run his errands. 

While she continues to try and find a balance in her life, all around the world Akiva and his kin mark the doors, preparing for the day when they can destroy Brimstone's connection to the world.  In one moment, one act of willfulness, Karou enters through a door that she should not have, and enters a world that she never knew existed. That one act leads to her losing contact with the world she has always hidden away, but that she has also always loved.  But this one act of war brings Karou into contact with Akiva, and that contact leads to a discovery - a discovery of who she really is, the secrets that are hidden within her soul, and the answer to why she has always felt so empty.

It is difficult to review this book in a way that fully does it justice, while also not giving away too much of the plot.  There are some people who will compare this story to Twilight, but they would be doing a disservice to Daughter of smoke and bone as it is so much more than Twilight could ever hope to be (no offence to anyone who really loves Twilight).  Karou and her world are described in a detailed and rich way that flows from the page and swirls together to help you envision their world, a world that sits beside our own, but also has some completely fantastical elements as well.  Karou has her good points and her bad points, and she grows as a person through the course of the novel.  On the other side of the equation is Akiva, a being who is described in the god like reverence of another Edward Cullen, but who has a real history, a real story, a real realness

As the story progresses you are drawn more and more into their worlds, and at the same time our world is drawn more and more into the story.  Again, trying not to spoil the story too much for other readers, the author has used an interesting technique for filling some of the back story of the characters, telling the story from different points of view without relying on the use of startling flashbacks that fit in at convenient times.  It really feels as though this novel was a labour of love from the author, a world that had thought built into it, there are rules and mythology that seem so real, and the characters have believable back stories alongside their flaws and deeds.  I am really looking forward to reading the sequel (due for release at the end of 2012) and hope that Laini Taylor can keep up the momentum and quality of her writing.

It is not often that a book written for teenagers crosses over easily into being read by adults.  Often it is a case of hiding the cover so other adults can't tell that you are reading a book for teens - but there is no need to hide this one as it equally appeals to teens and adults (and the snazzy cover doesn't exactly scream "teen read" either).  This is a genuinely good read that should not be blocked off for one reading age or another, or for one genre or another.  Simply, it is there to enjoy.

If you like this book then try:
  • The black tattoo by Sam Enthoven
  • The scorpio races by Maggie Stiefvater
  • The unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
  • Anna dressed in blood by Kendare Blake
  • The night circus by Erin Morgenstern
  • Legend by Marie Lu

Reviewed by Brilla

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