Daughter of Smoke and Bone
by Laini Taylor
Cover Artist: Photos: Girl by Lea Bernstein/ Archangel Images;
Mask and Smoke / Shutterstock.
Review by April Disney
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780316134026
Date: 27 September 2011 List Price $18.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
The first book in a new series, Daughter of Smoke and Bone is an urban fantasy about a girl, an age old war, and the consequences of love. It starts with the daily routine of Karou, a strange creature with two lives. On one hand, she is a young art student in Prague, with the normal fears and dreams of a young woman. On the other hand, she is an errand-runner for otherworldly Brimstone and his fellow chimera, the only family she has ever known.
Tossed about between these two worlds, Karou only wants to know who she is, and what her real purpose in life is to be. Beyond the strangeness of her life lies a truth Karou wants and needs to know, but it will cost her dearly to learn it. Learn it she does, over an unusually constructed but effectively told story line that gradually sucks in the reader.
The story starts with Karou's point of view and her current life in Prague. Her friend, Zuzana, is the best character in the story, even if she is a secondary one. She provides perfectly timed comic relief at the moments where it seems Karou starts pulling a bit towards the angsty, self-obsessed teen of those middling paranormal stories that seem a dime a dozen nowadays. As the book continues, Zuzana's genuine and relevant sense of humor sticks with the reader, even when the deep substance of Taylor's artistry starts to reveal itself.
The sudden entrance of the love story, a little less than halfway through the book, was a bit jarring. At first it felt contrived or forced, but as the depth of the author's storytelling came to the fore, it seemed more and more a splendidly done thing. The banter of the characters also stuck out as exceptional, if handled in an unusual fashion.
Overall, Laini Taylor shows herself as an author with an honest sense of humor and a gift for better-than-average storytelling and whimsy. Karou's character busts out of her shell in a way that will delight readers of young adult literature, and also faces enough pain and consequence to satisfy readers of a more mature bent. As an urban fantasy, it has enough true character to put itself ahead of the class, and is well worth the read even for fans of predominantly other speculative subgenres.