Book Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Thursday 14 August 2014 by

Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Laini Taylor, Hodder, BookDaughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Published by Hodder

ERRAND REQUIRING IMMEDIATE ATTENTION. COME.

The note was on vellum pierced by the talons of the almost-crow that delivered it. Karou read the message. ‘He never says please,’ she sighed, but she gathered up her things.

When Brimstone called, she always came.

In general, Karou has managed to keep her two lives in balance. On the one hand, she’s a seventeen-year-old art student in Prague; on the other, errand-girl to a monstrous creature who is the closest thing she has to family. Raised half in our world, half in Elsewhere, she has never understood Brimstone’s dark work- buying teeth from hunters and murderers- nor how she came in to his keeping. She is a secret even to herself, plagued by the sensation that she isn’t whole.

Now the doors to Elsewhere are closing, and Karou must choose between the safety of her human life and the dangers of a war-ravaged world that may hold the answers she has always sought.

~*~

I’ve been desperate to read Daughter of Smoke and Bone for a good while now, and when I finally got my hands on it, I wasn’t disappointed. In fantastically lyrical prose, Taylor introduces us to a haunting and mystical Prague (a Prague I now desperately need to visit), with gothic cafés serving goulash and minarets topped with other-worldly creatures.

Karou is a blue-haired teen with tattoos and a slightly unusual lifestyle – she’s an errand girl for a ram-headed chimaera called Brimstone and travels the world through magical doors to collect teeth.

This is a really gorgeous read – silky prose and perfect rhythm between build-up and dramatic conclusion. Karou is an arresting protagonist, and although there are moments of teen drama, you feel that she is beyond it all. The chimaera are cleverly done, but I wish there had been more time with Brimstone and the others in the shop to really explore them. Altogether, there is too little time spent in the shop in Elsewhere, with most of the action in Prague and our world. Although this does alter slightly later down the line (I promise no spoilers, as this is a fairly epic one), it still feels separate.

The extra characters feel like background to Karou – all the better for her to shine – and there’s a part of me that would have liked to follow them for a while and flesh them out a bit. But in actual fact, Karou is the perfect lead, a blend of flawed and heroic and stubborn and quick-witted. She carries the sprawling immensity of the plot with ease, and you never feel like she strays from making the natural decisions she would normally make.

I devoured the book in two days – unable to look away as the plot is pacy and addictive, everything driving towards the finale without feeling like it’s just filler before the “good stuff” happens. The “good stuff”, when it does appear, is brilliant. I actually couldn’t guess it, even with all the clues. And Taylor isn’t coy about making the hard choices – there are some George R.R Martin-esque character deaths to keep you really breathless.

There are a couple more books in the series, and this finishes perfectly to make you feel fully satisfied by the novel itself but with the taste for more – a delicate balance in series. In fact, it makes you feel like there could be spin-offs and prequels and sequels and every kind of extra there is, in order to explore the worlds that Taylor has created. They are rich and diverse, and I’m sure the next few books will only serve to prove this.

If you haven’t discovered Daughter of Smoke and Bone yet, you really must. There’s something magical about it.

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1 Comment

  1. Carole Holland

    I finished the third book in the series and it all ends in a similar way – I am satisfied but there could easily be more without it feeling forced.

    And I so want there to be more because I have a proper series hangover – nothing else is quite good enough or rich enough after that.

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