This review does not contain spoilers.
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.
Until a few weeks ago, I knew very little about Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I’d heard good things, had seen many pictures of the beautiful opening that reads, ‘Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love. It did not end well.’
In June, I found a secondhand copy of Daughter of Smoke and Bone at Lifeline Bookfest. I added it to my ever-growing pile with the vague intention of someday reading it and finding out what all the fuss was about. But I wasn’t in any hurry.
Then, a while later, I was looking at the program for Brisbane Writers Festival and kept seeing Laini Taylor’s name on various events. Everything she was involved in looked interesting and I signed up for it all, including a writing masterclass with her, on a whim. I didn’t want to turn up and say, ‘Never read your best-selling book but someone wrote a great blurb for this event.’
So, with a masterclass and panels looming, I had to read Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I realised that it had never occurred to me that I might not like her work. For the first few chapters, I was unsure. It felt slow and hard to get into with only a few largely unexplained references to a supernatural world.
And then, suddenly, I was hooked.
Laini Taylor left breadcrumb trails of otherworldly information and then plunged me headfirst into a fantastic world that I didn’t want to leave. I looked forward to every spare moment when I could lose myself in the book, trying to savour the feeling and, at the same time, get to the end so that I could know everything. I did guess the end of the book partway through but the unfolding of the whole story kept my interest piqued.
Throughout the book, there is a constant question of what it would take for you to believe that something magical is really happening. The interpretation of how ordinary people would react to extraordinary circumstances struck me as completely believable.
Although Daughter of Smoke and Bone is largely marketed as a young adult novel, its roots are darker and more complex than many YA books I’ve read recently. I had to keep reminding myself that the main character, Karou is only 17 years old because her independence and general lifestyle seemed so much more mature.
Laini Taylor has a talent for conjuring beautiful scenery and I was left with more than a little literary wanderlust for Prague, Morocco, and other more mystical places.
Before I had even finished reading Daughter of Smoke and Bone, I knew I needed more. Book Depository happened to have discounts on Day of Blood and Starlight and Dreams of Gods and Monsters (the second and third books in the trilogy) and I snapped them up as soon as I could.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone is well-written and evocative. I thought it would be just another fun YA read but it far surpassed my expectations in terms of depth and plot. Laini Taylor neatly balances the dark and light material in this book and I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the trilogy.