In general, Karou has managed to keep her two lives in balance. On the one hand, she's a seventeen-year-old art student in Prague; on the other, errand girl to a monstrous creature who is the closest thing she has to family. Raised half in our world, half in 'Elsewhere', she has never understood Brimstone's dark work- buying teeth from hunters and murderers- nor how she came into his keeping. She is a secret even to herself, plagued by the sensation that she isn't whole.
Now the doors to Elsewhere are closing and Karou must choose between the safety of her human life and the dangers of a war-ravaged world that may hold the answers she has always sought.
This book is totally different to anything I've ever read. I first heard about it when I watched a video recording of an editors' convention, where people from different publishing houses talked about books they were editing. Daughter of Smoke and Bone was one of these and I was absolutely ready to jump into it when the presentation had finished. Alas, I had to wait many months, but I have read it now and can tell you all about it.
Karou, the protagonist, is an amazing main character. She has a personality that definitely stands out from the Mary Sues and depressed girls that dominate the romantic young adult fiction scene. She's so independent and strong. She's good with knives and combat but isn't just a fighter girl. She's beautiful, but isn't incredibly shallow or vain. She wished for blue hair and the disappearance of skin afflictions, but we never really hear about her clothes. Her loyalty to Brimstone, the chimaera (more on that later) who raised her, is remarkable, though she still has the natural urge to disobey his orders so that she can satisfy her curiosity. Her background story is interesting and heart-breaking and makes perfect sense.
Akiva is not as good as Karou, character-wise. He's the typical guy-with-wings that you have to fall in love with because he's gorgeous and shows the ideal boyfriend material with his deep, brooding thoughts and amazing love for his girl. However, his story with Karou and his history with a girl called Madrigal are soulful and very non-boring.
Plot-wise, it was incredibly original. Apart from the fact that there were ANGELS, which we know are somewhat overused in young adult fiction these days, the mythology was basic but unique. Pretty much, there are the chimaeras- creatures that are a mixture of animal and sometimes human body parts- and the angels- who are simply winged people with great combat skill and some magic. These two races are at war in their world, Eretz. Humans aren't really essential to the story, except for the fact that Karou lives among them and Brimstone has portals leading from the human world to his magical shop of wishes. The wishes are the main part of the story, along with the fact that Brimstone buys teeth of all sorts from people in exchange for wishes. We don't find out a lot about the trades until the end. It follows Karou's search to discover who she is and to find her loved ones.
This story focuses on the idea that "magic" is dangerous and painful and that the real magic is in human will and hope. This theme is reiterated at regular intervals through the book, the power being demonstrated more and more as it occurs. It's incredible how characters can solve their problems through hope. Romance is explored, particularly the idea of love and fate being intertwined, but the good thing is that the plot doesn't focus on love entirely. It's sort of a secondary theme, in between the foreground and the background where it looks really quite nice. The lovers in the book have a beautiful chemistry and are pleasant to read.
This is an amazing read for teenagers and older. It hasn't got any flaws that I can conjure from the top of my head. There isn't really a lot that happens in this first book, except in some flashbacks, but you don't notice because of how engaged you are. If you like books with magic, romance and mythological creatures, this is a perfect addition to your "To Read" list.
I rate it:
Laini Taylor is epic!