Daughter of Smoke and Bone #1. Author: Laini Taylor.
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 otherworldly 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. (Published summary – it’s just so perfect, I couldn’t write you anything better.)
On my second read-through, I’m not quite as sure what captured and pulled me in so hard. After all, on the surface this story has a number of elements that I disdain in general. The main character and love-interest are both literally inhumanly beautiful. They feel an instant connection, and love follows on its heels. And the love that takes over the story is the three-paragraph kiss type. Not my style.
I loved it the first time, and I still love it. I think the wonderful foundations must outweigh these downfalls in my subconscious. Karou is fiercely independent and intelligent. After she’s attacked by an angel, she doesn’t go into hiding; she acquires a pair of knives. She won’t be unarmed again. After being cut off from the only family she ever knew, within weeks she’s travelling the world on her own, working towards a plan to find them again. Zuzana too is wonderful. She’s quite possibly my favorite character, and didn’t diminish at all on this read. Cute, savage, and loyal – who else would accept her friend’s wild story of monsters as truth, then come to face down an angel for her?
I feel this is a good moment to note another important distinction: despite the fact we’re talking about demons and angels, these are treated as SPECIES NAMES. I would never have finished this book if it delt with an actual mythos, involving heaven, hell, and God. Instead, the demons turned out to be Chimerae, and the ‘angels’ nothing more than winged humanoids with no religious connection.
Finally, Laini Taylor’s writing style is delectable. Her descriptions slow down the action not one whit, but they leave a rich, clear picture no matter what she deals with. Prague, the human world, characters; every subject is vivid. More, she has the knack of the fairy-tale prose without making the story feel old, stiff, or unreal. Instead, it gives the story a haunting quality that lifts it to a new level.
Sexual content: Young man poses nude for an art class. Girl, in thoughts, regrets giving her virginity to an ex-lover. Character referring to his girl friend in costume, “Is it weird that I’m turned on by a marionette?” Character referring to another handsome character she just saw, “Must. Mate. Immediately.” Some graphic kissing. Other women talk a young woman into wearing a low-cut revealing dress. Mythos involves the sun raping the moon. Sexual congress between young man and woman clearly happens, but off-screen and undescribed. (Aftermath seen; lovers dressing.)
Language: 19 God, 8 d***, 7 hell, 6 derogatory terms, 3 ***h*le, 2 scatological terms
Violence: Character remembers being shot, and lashing out with a knife in self-defense. Man attacks with a sword and causes minor flesh-wounds. Man jumps off roof to his death. Monster backhands girl. Character flips man over her shoulders and through a glass door, through a misunderstanding.