Today, Hartford Books Examiner reviews Daughter of Smoke & Bone (Little, Brown, $18.99) by Laini Taylor.
Released on Tuesday, this book marks the first installment in what is likely become an ongoing young adult series. Taylor, who is a National Book Award Finalist (for Lips Touch: Three Times), will be in Connecticut tomorrow to discuss & sign her new novel. (See event details below.)
Daughter’s enigmatic protagonist, Karou, is a seventeen-year-old art student living in Prague who attends classes by day and runs “errands” for her non-human family (called “chimeras”) by night. These odd jobs take her across the globe in search of teeth to bring home to Brimstone, the ram-horned magician who has served as a father-figure to her. Brimstone makes his home in a shop that exists neither here nor there, but “Elsewhere.” Karou has hair that sprouts blue and inexplicable tattoos on her hands, speaks multiple languages, and receives messages from a courier bat named Kishmish. She’s as much a mystery to herself as she is to others.
Though Karou’s worlds had existed separately from one another, the two collide when the doorways to Brimstone’s workshop are set aflame by winged strangers in the night, cutting off her access to “Elsewhere” (and its inhabitants) without explanation. Though left with only uncertainty and the desire to be reunited with her family, the arrival of the exceptionally handsome Akiva brings with it the promise of the answers to all of Karou’s burning questions. But is Akiva friend or foe? And can Karou handle the truths he has to offer?
What ensues is the tale of an ancient war between two disparate groups (“angels” & “demons”)—a conflict that rages on to this day. As Karou is forced to reconcile her present with the past, she must also come to terms with a history that may best be left unspoken. As the battle lines are drawn, alliances are forged, tested, and broken. And if Karou has even the slightest hope of seeing her family again, she must learn who, and how, to trust.
Taylor melds elements of fantasy, romance & mystery beautifully, which allows for this story to live outside the confines of any one genre. And though many of the happenings are otherworldly, readers—especially young ones—will feel an instant affinity for Karou, who is, at heart, simply a girl trying to discover who she is and where she comes from. It’s this universal longing for self-identity that gives Karou her sense of humanity, not to mention a keen vulnerability that offsets her extraordinary qualities.
Daughter of Smoke & Bone has already elicited the inevitable comparisons to Harry Potter, and understandably so, but the book succeeds entirely on its own merits. Laini Taylor has envisioned a world of intrigue and romance that begs to be revisited, and she has populated it with complex and confounded characters that are utterly human in their desires and deeds, even if they do possess supernatural abilities. This is the start of something truly special—or magic on the page, if you will…
With thanks to Ames O’Neill of Little, Brown for providing a review copy of Daughter of Smoke & Bone.
Laini Taylor will appear at R.J. Julia Booksellers on Saturday, October 1, at 6 PM to discuss/sign Daughter of Smoke & Bone. This event is free and open to the public, though reservations are required. Those wishing to attend can reserve seats online or by calling the store at 203-245-3959. R.J. Julia is located at 768 Boston Post Rd. in Madison, CT.