Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor ★★★

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Genre: YA Fantasy
Series: Daughter of Smoke and Bone #1
Publication Date: September 27, 2011
ISBN: 9780316134026
Page Count: 418
Review Copy: Audiobook; own purchase.

Around the world, black hand prints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grows dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages—not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out.

When one of the strangers—beautiful, haunted Akiva—fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

REVIEW

Beautiful writing, beautiful world, disappointing plot.

This is the story of a beautiful, blue-haired girl named Karou, who has one foot in the normal world, and one foot in the world of magical beasts, monsters she calls friend or even family, teeth in exchange wishes, and lots and lots of unanswered questions. The most prevalent of all being, "Who are you, Karou?"

Let's get this set in stone before I get on with the bits I didn't like: Laini Taylor has a real way with words. And that's a very overused phrase, I know, but in this case it just happens to be true. The writing is several grades above that of many of the YAs I've read; it's fanciful, lyrical and often beautiful. She paints with words in the same way Karou fills her sketchbook with the beautiful images of her monstrous friends. The descriptions were sometimes so vivid that I almost felt like I could see the pages of Karou's book, or the streets of Prague. And I particularly enjoyed the description of Zuzana's marionette performance. So, initially I was extremely impressed, intrigued and expecting to be hooked into the story any minute now. Any minute. Aaaaany second now.

But, sadly, as much as I enjoyed the writing style and could appreciate its quality, I'm afraid I didn't care quite as much for the actual story or the plot devices used within it, and that "hook" that I was waiting for, never came.

I spent much of the beginning section of the book confused because we were given so many questions with no answers forthcoming. This I can normally deal with; I don't mind being teased and tantalised if the payoff is worth it. But when I realised what those answers were slowly seeming to add up to, I couldn't contain my groan. I can't give away what it was because it would be highly spoilerific, but let's just say I hate that particular plot device. I think it made the potentially interesting relationship between Karou and Akiva suddenly seem totally inauthentic. It was nothing more than thinly disguised insta-love in both its guises.

Character-wise, I thought Karou showed promise at the beginning of the book. When she was putting her ridiculous ex firmly in his place, I had hope. That hope was dashed the second Akiva stepped onto the pages and the mooning began. Akiva's character, while sounding stunning to gaze upon, left no impression on me whatsoever.

Probably my favourite character was Brimstone, he seemed the most interesting of the bunch but was only in the very beginning and was not given a time to shine.

I ultimately felt no pull towards this book other than to appreciate its quality and beauty from afar. Really, really far afar. I'd compare it to a fine piece of art I can admire the talent behind, but wouldn't want to actually hang in my lounge. I also intensely disliked the ending so probably will not be continuing with the series.

3 Stars ★★★ - given a bonus star for the writing.

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