Friday, January 27, 2012

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor [Book Inspection]

Plot Sketch:  Karou is an art student.  She lives alone in a flat in Prague, and has lived in many different cities, speaking many different languages over her short seventeen-year life.  The story starts after she's broken up with Kazimir, a few years older than Karou, he is beautiful, but practically soulless and he scares her all the time.  Karou works for Brimstone, the only father she's only known, in tooth trade.  Brimstone is not a man, but a chimaera, as are his shop employees, Issa (half-snake), Kazir, and Kishmish.  These are the only family she has ever known.  She grew up in the shop and when she was old enough, she got her own flat, but returned daily to the shop to run errands (or pick up teeth) for Brimstone.  As far as she can remember, she's always had the eye tattoos on her hands - Issa has them too. Not for lack of asking, she has never discovered what the teeth were for, or who her parents were or where she came from or why she can't touch the wishbone around Brimstone's neck.  She's learned the art of tooth trade, listening to their hums, and how to sort them.  One day, Brimstone sends her to Izil, a tooth trader in Marrakesh, a week earlier than usual.  Izil has not much for Karou to take back to Brimstone, but she does manage to catch the eye of a seraph.  She does battle with him, is gravely wounded, but makes it back through the door with a handprint blazoned on it that was not there when she exited to the shop in Elsewhere before the seraph can finish her off.  This is the story of what happens between the seraph and Karou.

Verdict:  Stunningly beautiful writing.  I was in awe of the way Taylor crafted her sentences and the way she wove her story together.  Okay, let's be real.  I wasn't in awe, I was hard core jealous!  Told in third person omniscient, a rare point of view for YA, the characters are amazing, unique, interesting, and you get into a lot of their heads, not just the main character Karou's.

This was one of those books where I couldn't stop reading, and when I had to stop reading, I couldn't stop thinking about the characters and the story and wondering what would happen next.  With twenty pages to go, sleep forced me to put it down, but the story still haunted me in my dreams.  Partly because the only place I'd ever want to visit in Europe is Prague, and the descriptions and romance of that city grabbed me into the story at the very beginning.  Partly because the other main spot, Marrakesh, is a place I've also always wanted to visit.  She's skilled at setting the book.  While the descriptions were thorough and beautiful, they also didn't make me scream with agony over their length.

I connected with many of the characters and having read this in November, I still remember them well at the end of January.  I care what happens to them and want to know what happens next.  Yeti of Smoke and Bone (the next in the series) can NOT come fast enough.  But even though it's out this fall, I can't imagine having to reread any part of Daughter because it's so unique and so different from anything else that I've ever laid eyes on.

The timeline of the book is somewhat distracting.  There are flips forward and backward between exposition and what's happening now. But after finishing the book, I can't imagine a more powerful way to tell the story.  She holds on to important tidbits and releases them just as you need them to complete part of the puzzle, which lends itself to a better understanding of the motivations behind the choices the characters have made.  It's like aha! moment after aha! moment.  And for the record, I think this is the first time Monster and I have ever agreed on the quality of a book since Harry Potter.

For parents, the content is not completely clean, but the language is for the most part.  There are some scenes with nudes in drawing class at the beginning, but nothing overtly graphic is described.  Karou has lost her virginity, but it's not described in a scene, just a regret.  I'd let sixteen and up read it for sure... but that's me.  You figure out what's appropriate for your teen.

Fans of Fringe will heart this book!

Laini Taylor is also the author of the Dreamdark series and Lips Touch: Three Times.  You can find her on Twitter.