Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Daughter of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor
Release date: September 27th 2011
Published by: Little Brown & Company
Genre: Young Adult
Rating: 4/5 stars
Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.
In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.
And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.
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 color. 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-colored 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?
Daughter of Smoke and Bone is different, really well-written, but at the same time... cliché. I can't really explain why, but I'll try.
Our main character is Karou, an art student with a creepy ex-boyfriend and an even creepier life. The thing is, she has a strange job -- doing errands for Brimstone, a chimaera, who practically raised her. She has to buy teeth for him -- animal teeth, human teeth - for unknown reasons. Brimstone can request her presence at any minute, and she must go. That said, Karou doesn't have a lot of friends, for she can't really reveal anything about her life.
On a errand, she meets Akiva, this... mysterious seraphim who, you know, tries to kill her. There's a war going on, for centuries now, between the chimaera and the seraphim, and Karou gets caught right in the middle of it when Akiva sees her leaving Brimstone's shop. Who is this girl, who associates with chimaera, and has hamsas in the palm of her hands?
Karou escapes, but it's not like she can take the beautiful and eerie seraphim out of her mind. And months later, after Brimstone's shop is burned, and she's got no way to reach the chimaera altogether, they meet again. Only this time, Akiva's not trying to harm her.
Since their first encounter, something's been pulling Akiva in Karou's direction, but he doesn't know what. He just wants to understand who she is.
The whole we-are-enemies part of their relationship is great. A romance based on hate and a war that has been going on for centuries really is appealing. But only when that hate actually persists for, say, fifty pages or so of constant back-and-fourth between the couple. Not a romance that blossoms in a few hours.
Akiva is a seraphim, that has not been able to feel for a lot of time. And suddenly, Karou tilting her head makes him feel again. This abrupt change of personality in the character does not seem fit to the book. The story is awesome, it really is. But after the romantic part begins to develop, the plot of figuring out what happened to Brimstone and the other characters are just put aside. And all we get to know is how Karou feels about Akiva, how Akiva feels about Karou, and basically everything happens around them.
It's not boring, but I'd like to see more of Karou's independent side, of Akiva's cold and dead aspect. Morbid, you may think, but it's turning to be very common in YA books a co-dependent relationship. And God, I really don't like those. Sure, love is about needing the other with your own soul, but it's also about self-acceptance, growth of personality, and just a general development in the characters. I didn't see much of these in Daughter of Smoke and Bone.
If you've read the book, you'll probably say "But there's a reason, a big reason, for their love to be like this". And I agree with you. After a lot of chapters full of flashbacks, we get to know why Akiva loves Karou, why she loves him, etc. It really did diminish my dislike, seeing all the questions and doubts being wrapped up. And that's why I'm giving 4 stars to this book. Because if there wasn't a very convincing explanation, I'd probably give it two stars.