Howdy darlins! No new developments out here in suburbia. Still toiling away at my “novel” (ugh, why does that word always make me cringe? I feel like I’m breaking both the first and second rules of Fight Club when I mention it). Researching til my eyes bleed. Okay, so much of that researching consists of watching super-cuts on YouTube. I am only human, people.
Enough preamble. I bore myself. This week, it’s Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone.
Karou’s living the dream, if your dream is to study art in Prague and have window-cleaner blue hair that actually grows out of your head that way (and if that’s not your dream, what is WRONG with you?). But there is more to Karou than meets the eye. She lives a double life, working for Brimstone, a creature who collects teeth, both human and and otherwise. When black handprints start appearing on doorways around the world, handprints that appear to have been seared into wood and metal, Karou’s odd but happy existence is thrown into chaos. Karou finds herself in the middle of a war between worlds, desperate to save her adopted family of monsters and discover who – and what – she truly is.
(FYI, my feeble synopsis does not do the plot justice. As usual.)
Ah, Daughter of Smoke and Bone. What a long, strange trip it has been. I am ashamed to admit it now, but I held out. I held out a LONG time. I did not want to read this book. Why? Literally judging a book by its cover. (Lol.) The title annoyed me beyond all description, too catchy, too trendy, too, I dunno, too ‘gothic twee’ (is that a thing?). And that cover. Crikee. I cannot tell you how much I hate that stupid cover. Ultra white girl in blue feather mask. Um, yeah. No.
Turns out the title is actually incredibly fitting, even if it does sound like the title of an Evanescence come-back album. The cover I still hate. I much prefer this one:
So… This book. THIS BOOK. Gah. I loved it. Most of it. Even the parts I didn’t like don’t make me love it any less.
First, the mythology, the – dare I say it – world-building. Laini Taylor, I can only stand by and slow clap because damn, lady, ya did good. I tip my hat to you. She’s taken some familiar creatures (or not so familiar, like chimaera) and completely reinvented them and made them her own. Cough, angels, cough. I want to Pagemaster the shizz out of this book. For you poor souls who have no idea what that reference means, it means I want to crack open this book, crawl inside, and never ever ever come back. Ever. It was so meticulously crafted, so vast, so freaking perfect. The world of Elsewhere has its own history, with bitter wars, rather horrific race relations, and corrupt political systems.
Best of all, I think, was the magic. It’s so difficult to find a system of magic that feels fresh, but Taylor nails it. I will never look at teeth the same way again. And I already have a weird fascination with teeth, so that’s saying something. I mean, I almost became a dentist, until I realized I would have to do more than just pull teeth. I used to rub my hands in gleeful anticipation when one of Idiot Brother’s teeth became loose, lurking in the shadows until I got the chance to pounce, and then I’d pin him to the ground and rip out the tooth before he even knew what was going on. Not for the Tooth Fairy money, either. Just for the sheer joy of yanking a milk tooth out of its soft, fleshy socket. I volunteered to pull all of my friends’ teeth, too (which may explain the curious dearth of birthday party invitations during primary school). Actually, I pulled out eight of my own teeth in two weeks when I was in second grade. It was eminently satisfying, even if I did have the gummy smile of an eighty-year old mountain man for the next month. Woah, I am pretty disturbed, aren’t I? Whatever, this book reminds of teeth. DEAL WITH IT.
Ahem. Back to the review.
The plot is great: fresh, suspenseful, surprising. And the great thing is that it only gets better as you keep reading. So all of those sleepless nights trying to figure out what the devil is going on in Karou’s world actually pay off! It’s well-paced, too. I do hate an adventure that feels rushed. There was just enough… wallowing. You get to appreciate the details, you know? It’s dark and unusual and sometimes unsettling, and always utterly absorbing. It was also quite sexy at times – nothing graphic, of course, but a bit more honest than the YA books that try to pretend there’s no, er, blanket hornpipe happening.
The characters are great, Karou especially. She’s clever, funny and quite the BAMF. Have to say, I didn’t much like (spoiler, kind of) the love interest, Akiva. He was a bit whingy, which I can’t stand, but I suppose he’s allowed to mope and moan after what he’s been through, so I can’t totally hate him. At least it wasn’t a damn love triangle. Love love LOVED the supporting characters: Zuze, Karou’s best friend, her ex Kaz, even Thiago, the bad guy (or one of them, anyway). Actually, I had kind of a book crush on Thiago, which should tell you where I’m at romantically.
And then there’s Brimstone. (BRIMSTONE I LOVE YOU!!!!!) I love Brimstone. That is all I can say right now. You’ll know what I mean when you read it. Sob!
Verdict: Loved it at the beginning, love loved it in the middle, and love love loved it at the end. And then when I closed the book I hesitated for a brief moment and fell to my knees to thank the gods who sometimes spare me a glance, thank them for not only making me bored enough on a Tuesday afternoon that I decided to pick up this book I was so unjustly prejudiced against, but also for a) the existence of e-readers, one of which I happen to possess, and b) the unused Chapters gift-card scammed from my demonic step-father as part of my ongoing campaign of pecuniary revenge. Because I finished this book at 1:32 in the morning, and there was no way I was waiting until the next morning to buy the sequel, Days of Blood and Starlight. Yes, I am an impatient, spoiled, impulsive reader. What can I say, I have no life. Alas, we are not evolved enough (yet) to recognize the need for a 24-hour bookstore. Fortunately, Kobo is always willing to take your money. Even at 1:33 in the morning.
So yeah, you should read it.
Best line(s): “Karou wished she could be the kind of girl who was complete unto herself, comfortable in solitude, serene. But she wasn’t. She was lonely, and she feared the missingness within her as if it might expand and…cancel her. She craved a presence beside her, solid. Fingertips light at the nape of her neck and a voice meeting hers in the dark. Someone who would wait with an umbrella to walk her home in the rain, and smile like sunshine when he saw her coming. Who would dance with her on her balcony, keep his promises and know her secrets, and make a tiny world wherever he was, with just her and his arms and his whisper and her trust.”
“Better to be the cat gazing coolly down from a high wall, its expression inscrutable. The cat that shunned petting, that needed no one. Why couldn’t she be that cat?
Rating: 4.5 out 5 shiny white wisdom teeth, with the roots still attached and bloody. Ew, gross. But also awesome.
Book cat, what are you reading?
Oh, Titus. You mean thing, you.