Book review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Daughter of Smoke and Bone: Liani Taylor

There was a great deal of excited whispering and hyperbole attending this book as well as comparisons to Harry Potter and Twilight. The latter weren’t due to content, which is only similar in that DoSaB is fantasy, but because it’s anticipated that this new series by Laini Taylor will attract the same level of devotion that the others have. Now that I have finished this first book, and had time to draw breath and slow my pounding heart,  I think the pundits are right.

Daughter is a simply stunning read. From its opening pages in a snow-sprinkled Prague to its final, dramatic revelation with the heart-sinking ‘to be continued…’ (I want to know now! *stamps foot*), the story of beautiful, lithe, intelligent blue-haired Karou, the child of a monstrous (literally) wish-monger, Brimstone, who has peculiar friends and an arrogant ex-lover and basically leads a double-life as an art student on the one hand and a procurer of grisly totems on the other, is at once poetic, mysterious, page-turning and heart-wringing. Each and every scene is beautifully set and the mystique surrounding Karou, the girl with the palm-tattoos (and others), who is able to make wishes, speaks dozens of languages, travels the world in the blink of an eye and consorts with other-wordly figures, is gradually revealed. The first half of the book is a tour de force in that regard: like a curtain slowly being raised on a Shakespearean play, the reader is gradually drawn into this world at once recognizable but also just out of reach. Identifying strongly with Karou (the scenes with her and her irrepressible girlfriend are lovely), who knows she is different, but not specifically how or why, we too want the answers she seeks but, up until she is almost killed by a gorgeous but dangerous angel, who’s eyes blaze fire at the same time as they do longing, she’s been content to wait to be told. But when her life is plunged into despair and those she love are engulfed by darkness and horror, she can no longer afford patience.

When Karou (and the reader) gets the answers she’s been searching for her entire life, no-one, least of all Karou, can guess where they’ll take her – physically, psychologically and, above all, emotionally.

I don’t want to give too much away or set up expectations that may be dashed. Needless to say, I couldn’t tear myself away from this read. Well, to be blunt, I couldn’t tear myself away from the first half of the book. Once the love story kicks in earnestly, I was not as captivated. It was here I did feel echoes of Bella and Edward, only (thank goodness) Taylor’s rendering of this relationship was far more mature and the writing and metaphors used to express the first pangs of love and lust were exquisite. Even so, I found the energy that made the first half of the book sing, dampened and I didn’t turn the pages quite as quickly or pick up the book with the eagerness that attended the first half. As Karou’s and Akiva’s backstory unfolds, I also found the to and frying a little clumsy for my taste. But this is being very picky and others won’t agree and may even, if they enjoy long, lingering looks, heaving chests and electric touches, find the love story delightful. Fortunately, as the book reaches its final stages, it redeems itself completely. So, despite my reservations,  this book is indeed magical. Original, fabulously written, wonderfully brought together at the end (which, and I love this, you see coming and can’t do anything to prevent), it is mostly utterly engaging, enthralling and counts as one of the best books of 2011 for me.

Bring on book 2, please!

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