I admit to low expectations for Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I actually only ended up reading it because I was bookless in Sheffield and the library had nothing else that I even vaguely wanted to read, so I grudgingly picked it up… yeah, this book is actually pretty great.
WARNING for somewhat inappropriate language.
Plot summary: ‘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 into 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.
It’s obvious to me that what really makes Daughter of Smoke and Bone so great is the world-building. I was hooked before I’d even finished reading two pages just because I was desperate to know what the teeth were used for, how the chimaera came to exist and what those strange handprints were. It’s clear than an awful lot of effort and planning went into creating this level of detail, as it was completely engrossing and somehow real. I actually wished the background story went on for longer before the action started, and that’s something I never thought I’d say!
When the answers were finally revealed though… I was nearly blown away. It’s clever and unique, to the point where I can’t really tell if this book is meant to be an adult book or YA. The prose is quite picturesque and conveys a distinct atmosphere of tattered luxury carpets and dusty portraits – it’s beautiful. There were some fairly dark aspects to this novel and the only thing that made me lean towards the latter was the romance.
It’s not awful, not really. At least, there’s a reason for the relationship and it is essential to the plot. It’s just that there’s a long-ish portion in the middle where they’re not doing much but floating around staring at each other. I don’t like Akiva much – again, he’s not awful as a potential fictional love interest, but I’m not thrilled with one of the choices he made. Self-righteous little prick. *coughs*
All the blurbs of this book talk about angels vs demons, death, etc etc. It’s actually nothing like that at all. There are seraphim, who are usually God’s special assistants, but their only connection to any non-fictional religion is the name. Both the chimaera and the seraphim have their own belief system and rites, so there’s no reference to any God that we would recognise. I do wonder why Laini Taylor made the decision to call them that, but it’s possible that it will become relevant in later books.
Speaking of, after I finished Daughter of Smoke and Bone, I immediately had to get my phone out and Google what happened in the next book, Days of Blood and Starlight. I absolutely needed to know the answer to certain questions before I could even think about reading it. It’s that kind of book.
I really do recommend this book as it far exceeded my expectations. It would make a great movie but in the meantime I’ll have to content myself with the unique plot, dark conclusions and mostly likeable characters.