Laini Taylor’s “Daughter of Smoke and Bone” feels like a fulfilled wish in and of itself: an exciting romantic fantasy that combines a European love affair with a complex war between two otherworlds, throws in some well-timed humor in all the right places, and takes readers on a whirlwind tour from the Czech Republic to Marrakesh to Idaho and back…with a layover in the devil’s foyer.
The book follows a 16-year-old girl named Karou, an art student in present-day Prague whose origins are a mystery even to her. She speaks 20 languages. She has naturally cerulean hair. She has numerous bullet scars and even more numerous tattoos. She was raised by a trio of monsters, spending her childhood in a secret den with hundreds of doors, and she still reluctantly runs international errands for the one who traffics in human teeth. Oh, and an angel is trying to kill her.
Confused? That’s okay. Intrigued? You should be.
“Daughter of Smoke and Bone” follows Karou as she uncovers the truth about who she is and why she matters, interweaving the romance of present-day Prague with the dangerous, closely guarded world of Elsewhere. The world of the book is beautiful, multi-layered and rife with its own fascinating mythology; among other things, it’s a place where wishes are not only real, but currency—ranging in value from inconsequential scuppies (the pennies of the wishing world) to the invaluable bruxis, which is achievable only through an unfathomable act of self-inflicted pain. The story is paced perfectly, paying out the otherworldly truth about Karou’s origins in delicious, tantalizing glimpses until a gobsmacker of a giant reveal that ties all the loose ends together. And Karou herself, despite her blue hair and, er, unconventional upbringing, is a fresh, funny, utterly relatable heroine. Fantasy fiction can easily fall prey to self-important cheesiness, but author Laini Taylor is a masterful, poetic writer who never strays into cliche. Whether she’s bantering with her BFF or battling her would-be seraphim assassin in mid-air, Karous always feels undeniably real.
The only bad thing about “Daughter of Smoke and Bone”? It’s the first of an eventual trilogy, meaning that we’ll have to wait another two books to find out who wins, how it all ends and whether the story’s star-crossed lovers find peace. (This first one, no surprise, is a cliffhanger.) But on the other hand, it’s nice to have something to look forward to.
Are you a Laini Taylor fan? Have you read “Daughter of Smoke and Bone”?