Seleste reviews: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Around the world, black handprints 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 grown 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?

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Price: $9.99
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; Reprint edition (June 5, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031613399X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316133999
  • Buy Daughter of Smoke and Bone at Amazon

This book had been on my radar ever since I first saw the cover art (which I love). But somewhere along the way, it was never read. Then it was recommended to me by a trusted source and I picked it up. So worth it.

I will say from the outset that I have stayed away from the YA romances with angels. They never drew me in at all. This, however, from the very first page, I was hooked by the language. Taylor’s use of description sucked me in. For those of you who know me, you know that’s no mean feat. I prefer minimal description of only the things the reader needs to know. Not in this case. When the language and wording choices are beautiful enough that they make the descriptions truly come to life, they are worth having there and I ate up every, stinking last one of them from Karou’s blue hair to the marketplace in Marrakesh to the otherworldliness of the chimera.

But pretty words aren’t enough to keep me interested. In this case, the author had a truly unique spin on “angels” and “demons” that was less religious and more other-worldly in nature. The mystery behind Brimstone and his teeth was easy enough to sort out (not the details, but the basic idea), but the deeper story of this art-student in Prague who was protected by those in the hidden world until she suddenly wasn’t? That grabbed hold and didn’t let go. Add in a romance angle that kept me guessing for a long time, and I have to say this book, in many ways, is one of the best YA fantasies I’ve read in a long time.

There was only one place where it fell short. Near the end of the book, there is a flashback… that lasts for over 100 pages. I understood the need for it and why the majority of it had to go there (though I’m not sure it all did), but as a reader I wasn’t invested in the characters’ pasts. I was invested in their present. So I found myself fighting the urge to skim as I was coming to the end of the book. That really bothered me. Is it enough to undo the awesomeness of the rest of the book? No, but it was enough to temper my enthusiasm. On a high note, I don’t think book 2 (Days of Blood and Starlight, out now) will suffer from the same problem. Even if it did, I think I’d read it anyway. There was more than enough good to outweigh that singular issue for me.

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