Title: Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Series: Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy
Author: Laini Taylor
Publisher: Hachette Book Group
I’d never heard of Laini Taylor before I saw Daughter of Smoke and Bone on a Whitcoulls shelf, read the blurb and was sufficiently intrigued enough to purchase it. It would be another year or so before I even read it. I suppose uni and then job-hunting got in the way, but that’s neither here nor there. Arrgh there be spoilers beyond this point, matey, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
I would say I regret ever letting such a book wait, but I don’t. It meant that as soon as I finished reading it (at some ungodly hour, if I check my kindle purchase history I’ll know the exact time) I was able to purchase the sequel, Days of Blood and Starlight, immediately. Unfortunately I now have to wait for Dreams of Gods and Monsters. Sigh. Nevertheless let’s get to what intrigued me the most about Daughter of Smoke and Bone.
The novel contains some excellent ingredients blended well to yield a great read: an intriguing heroine, a world that is fantastical while somehow grounded and linked to our own, a beautiful but flawed romantic interest and some excellently crafted characters, all working to make up for some suspiciously corny tendencies. Taylor has presented us with a strong (if initially naive) and interesting female protagonist, Karou, whose mysterious upbringing is intriguing but doesn’t consume her character. She’s witty, with a fleshed out personality that includes a tendency to err in the most human of fashions. She has electric blue hair, strange birthmarks on her palms and might not have always been human.
*Whispers* Chimaera. Her story is one of woe, to say the least, but she doesn’t know that. I mean, she does question the fact that she’s raised by humanoid type animal creatures, like where are her parents? The large ram-headed (literally) monster Brimstone and the snake-goddess resembling Issa, along with the other Chimaera that live in the cosy cottage in Elsewhere, serve as a surrogate family. However the full extent of her past is pretty depressing- all tied to a wishbone that Brimstone keeps as a necklace which Karou is never allowed to touch. Karou collects teeth, all kinds, for Brimstone for reasons unknown to her. He pays people that give him these teeth with wishes and during one business trip Karou (who’s still in high school it would seem) messes up and everything goes mental. Cue broody angel who tries to kill her and the eventual breakdown of the central plot’s mystery. Or the wolf-like Chimaera she discovers underneath Brimstone’s place in Elsewhere- ugh buff guy who also tries to strangle Karou.
The author managed to strike a balance between a plot complex enough as to not patronise readers while managing not to drown a reader in its scope. The idea of Elsewhere, where Karou’s otherworldly family resides, is something we could grasp but not fully understand due to limitations placed upon us through Karou’s perspective. And setting the story in, but not limiting it to, Prague makes for great one-day-I’ll-travel-there daydreams.
The romance wasn’t sickening and the romantic interest (and villain?) was an angel (well warrior with wings of fire, anyway), Akiva, with a vendetta that we realise contributes to this enormous chip on his shoulder. Akiva’s beauty is matched only by his ruthless search for VEEENGEAAANCE!
Akiva’s backstory, he’s a seraphim bastard, is somewhat intermingled with Karou’s, as we come to learn, and when we do a few things fall into place while still keeping some things in the dark. Only Akiva learns certain aspects much too late and just when you think everything’s going to be okay Taylor turns around and throws you for a loop. Karou discovers something wonderful and yet immensely devastating in one go leaving both our heroine and us in emotional turmoil by the end. It annoyed me so much to discover that this wasn’t a standalone, and where Taylor left us at the end- let’s just say that this was me by the end of it:
– It’s an epic ride, to say the least, however the more contemporary young adult fiction I read, and that’s a lot, the more I realise something. There aren’t a lot of main characters of colour. As a brown person this sort of sticks out for me. Now, I’m not knocking Taylor or any author who writes strong white females, I’m just lamenting the lack of non-white female characters in the mainstream media- yes I’m including my other great love, television. I know the last book I reviewed had a brown female heroine, but it’s one of the few I’ve encountered and it’s definitely not one being made into a feature film.
– Let’s get this straight: Brimstone isn’t just a wishmonger, he’s the Resurectionist of a Chimaera army in a place called Loramendi located in a magical world called Eretz where monsters and seraphim are battling. He uses the teeth he collects to make new bodies (revenants) for chimaera soldiers’ souls. All in order to keep fighting the war against the Seraphim, the angel-types of which Akiva is a part. Thiago’s the warlord’s son and he had a thing for Madrigal who was Karou’s past self, but she had done what no-one else dared do, saved a Seraphim’s life and once he’d healed he came a’lookin’ for her and they fell in love. Scandalous, wait what were we doing?
– I want a spunky friend like Zusana, Karou’s bestie.
– Read on to the next part of this post only if you’ve read the sequel. It’s not my fault if you read on and get spoiled!
Title: Days of Blood and Starlight
Series: Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy
Author: Laini Taylor
Publisher: Hachette Book Group
Days of Blood and Starlight the highly anticipated sequel to Daughter of Smoke and Bone doesn’t immediately begin where we left off. Rather it takes place not too long after Karou discovers the doors (portals) to Elsewhere destroyed along, presumably, with her family. Things certainly took a turn for the worst and in the sequel it doesn’t really get better- if I’m completely honest. Sure Karou’s now got her memory of her past life back, but with it comes so much conflicted feels that I’m sure we should call this Daughter of Why, Feels, Why?
Thiago, the douche of all douches is now the warlord, almost everyone was killed in the attack that supposedly killed all of Karou’s family, and Karou’s the new Resurrectionist (as the only person Brimstone taught the art before he was killed). Karou’s not trusted by the Chimaera, who’ve been poisoned against her by the two-faced Thiago- basically jealous because as Madrigal she’d fallen in love with Akiva, who is somewhere under the impression Karou’s soul is in a thurible he found, thinking she’d been killed. But yay upon discovering that the thurible actually contained Issa! Thiago’s not happy with it but Karou convinces him that Issa would be helpful in performing ressurections. Under Thiago’s instructions Karou is making revenants for the Chimaera, but not just any kind of body, he’s making her create roided out bodies- with wings. Anything for the extra edge.
Akiva’s closest siblings, who we met last book, Hazael and Liraz feature heavily in the sequel as we discover quite a bit about the Seraphim. Hazael was my favourite character and now I can’t function because Taylor’s a terrible human being despite being a good writer. The sequel serves its purpose of answering some questions left by the first book while also, a little frustratingly, whipping up further questions! This time in regards to Akiva’s heritage, for it seems his mother’s family are a badass race of Seraphim. Especially considering the surge of power Akiva mustered up to kill the Emperor after discovering that he’d killed Festival, his mum.
There are even more secondary characters added to the loop. Some we love, Ziri (who was Madriga’s shadow and had the cutest crush on her when she was alive and he was a child) and Hazael (whose death was unecessary and cruel to the reader) and even Liraz whose intentions you come to understand when we’re given some of the story from her perspective. Naja, the Shadows That Live are scary but immensely cool. And of course characters we hate- THIAGO, YA DOUCHE OF EPIC PROPORTIONS AND JAEL- Akiva’s uncle who’s an ugly, ugly character, both inside and out. You’ll find that these two, Thiago and Jael, are one in the same; rapey, power-hungry and utterly evil.
Up until now the war between the Chimaera and the Seraphim have been fought with swords and to a certain extent, magic. Karou’s voiced the concern of what should happen if either side ever discovered human weapons. It’s pretty evident what would occur, and thanks to Razgut (gross fallen angel) Jael’s discovered the human world and is poised to enter it. And we all know how huan love beautiful things, while Jael himself is gross- the Seraphim are beautiful creatures that look a lot like angels- which Judeo Christians LOVE. Unless of course you’re a Supernatural fan and know that some angels are dicks.
Basically we’re left at a point where Akiva’s brethren, the Misbegotten (bastards of the Seraphim Emperor) must team up with the Chimaera to stop it. This is only happening because everyone’s under the impression that Thiago is Thiago, but really it’s Ziri’s soul who was put there by Karou after Thiago tries to rape her and she killed him- YES- and Ziri suggested this in order to save Karou from the backlash of the Chimaeras loyal to Thiago.
Taylor’s writing keeps you enthralled, mostly by her excellent use of mythology to weave a well-structured tale. She doesn’t shy away from the brutal and has created some well-written fleshed out characters that jump out from the page at you, begging to be analysed. While some of the writing does tend toward the banal, Taylor manages to balance it out with a compelling narrative and unabashed violent descriptions of brutality that coincides with the internal and external conflicts that Karou, Akiva and almost any character you come to love, must bear.
I have but one question for Laini Taylor:
– I would never EVER be able to tithe, I have a very very very low pain threshold.
– Yay for Zusana and Mik’s love. They are adorable and the most healthy normal people in this godforsaken series. Even if they do nearly get themselves killed by seeking out Karou and kicking it in the Chimaera camp with them.
Until April 2014, that’s this year! Yaaaaay.