Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor tells the story of Karou, a young woman with a double life. By day she is a student in modern day Prague, but at night she runs errands for her chimaera foster father, usually involving collecting teeth. It also tells of her love for an angel, Akiva, and of the war between angels and chimaera.
What I liked
Romeo and Juliet. Daughter of Smoke and Bone borrows a lot from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. We have the star-crossed lovers on either side of opposing factions, betrayal, discovery, faked death and its fallout. Hey, I don’t mind – there’s a reason why Shakespeare and his themes have lasted so long – the idea of star-crossed lovers torn apart by war and death still resonates.
Multiple threads woven together. We see the story from multiple points of view. At first, I found this confusing – who is Madrigal and why am I hearing from her when I want to hear from Karou? However as the book went on, these multiple points of view came together beautifully to create a wonderful story.
The humour. Karou and her friend Zuzanna are just so funny together and had me snickering to myself on a regular basis. Khristine Hvam’s wonderful narration really brought that out and that was one of the highlights of the book for me. I also really enjoyed Karou’s and Zusanna’s solid friendship. I look forward to reading more of it in Days of Blood and Starlight. I’m very glad Akiva only becomes a more prominent character later in the book – initially he comes across as very cold and unsympathetic and I would have struggled to keep reading the book if he’s been a main protagonist from the beginning. By the time we learn more about him and his backstory – and why he is the way he is – Karou had already drawn me into the story.
The worldbuilding. Often in fantasy, the main character is someone initially unfamiliar with the society (think the Pevensie children, Rand al Thor or Harry Potter) so that the reader can more easily identify and engage with him/her and also so that the reader can learn about the world at the same time as the character. This is not the case with Karou. When we first meet her, she is fully immersed in the world of the chimaera having grown up there. Certainly, she has a lot of secrets to uncover, but the fantastical universe is familiar to her. With Karou’s double life as a student in Prague it’s easy to engage with her, Taylor does an excellent job of familiarising the reader with the world while avoiding info dumping.
Narration. As I mentioned above, I really enjoyed Khristine Hvam’s narration. Her Zuzanna voice is wonderful!
Here’s a sample[audio http://samples.audible.com/bk/hach/000710/bk_hach_000710_sample.mp3]
What I didn’t like
There was nothing I didn’t like about Daughter of Smoke and Bone. It is a great read and I would certainly recommend it. The sequel has been added to my wishlist for after I’ve got through my current TBR pile.
I gave Daughter of Smoke and Bone four and a half stars out of five