Author: Laini Taylor
Publication date: 5th August 2012
Read: 8th – 17th March 2017
“This was who she was: not prey, but power.”
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.
Despite hearing rave reviews of this book, I wasn’t expecting to give it 5 stars. And yet, as I closed the final page, I knew I had to. I tend to reserve my 5 star ratings for books that are truly special and this was exactly that.
This richly-developed world is both a treat and a delight in the way it defies genre conventions, hovering somewhere between high fantasy and urban fantasy, mythology and fairy tail, thriller and mystery. The architecture and streets of Prague are depicted in such detail and splendor that by the end of the novel I knew I wanted to visit one day.
The characters, too, are resplendent in their quirks, nuances and vibrant personalities. From the first page, I adored Karou. Her use of wishes was fun, her life so mysterious and unique, and she has blue hair. Karou’s relationship with Zuzana is everything I want in a female friendship: laughter, understanding, feminism, inside jokes, and an ‘I’ve got your back’ mantra. Akiva has perhaps the best character development, and I was captivated by every chapter from his POV. Brimstone frustrated me at first, with his inability to explain his plans to Karou, but the more we discovered about his past the more I warmed to him.
Not only Brimstone, but Issa, Yasri and the rest of the chimaera were brilliantly imagined. The concept of chimaera is not new or original, having existed in Greek mythology for thousands of years, but Laini Taylor made it her own through bountiful characterisation and intricate descriptions. Her descriptions of the kirin in particular had me spellbound (seriously, google them, the art is gorgeous).
I adored the way Taylor wove the two parallel-running storylines of Madrigal and Karou closer and closer together with such grace. The way the two lives of the characters began to coalesce was not only thrilling, but intelligently crafted. And there’s nothing I love more than an intelligent plot. Also Madrigal. What a fantastic name for a fantastic character. Probably one of my favourites. Ever.
But more than anything else, the reason this was a 5 star read for me was the writing style. The author’s narrative is like sunset with flowing colours and fluffy clouds. It’s beautiful, elegant and intense in all the right places. You don’t want to look away or stop reading. In a similar manner to V. E. Schwab, Taylor describes things in new and distinctive ways that leave you feeling awed and inspired. Reading her writing was formative in making me want to work on my own (which I’ve been sadly neglecting recently), and surprisingly few authors have the ability to spur me on with such intensity.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone was so eloquent and earnest in its writing, plot and world-building. The ratio of action to stasis was spot on and the development of Karou and Akiva’s relationship was fascinating and heart-warming. This book was faultless and I can’t wait to begin the sequel.