Friday, November 30, 2012

Book Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor {Book # 1}

Title: Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Author: Laini Taylor
Series: Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Audio: Hachette Audio
Date of Publication: Sept. 27, 2011
Format: audiobook, hardcover, paperback

Source:  free download from Sync
Get Your Own Copy: Amazon | The Book Depository |         

Goodreads Blurb: 
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 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?                              
My Thoughts:
As I sit here, deciding how to start this review, I find myself having a hard time getting my feelings out.
Why? (I am sure you are asking..)
Most people would think it is because I couldn't relate to the book or the characters, right?  But I am here to tell you that is completely the opposite here.


The reason I am having such a hard time is because I feel like there isn't really words to describe this wonderful piece of literature.  I wish I could pluck millions of shiny stars from the sky to bestow upon this book, instead of just a few five.  So forgive me if I sound like a fangirl swooning over some hot number, but I have to say this is has made my list of one of my favorite books of all times.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone takes this doomed love situation and puts a heart wrenching unexpected twist upon it, creating an amazing fairy tale for young and old to enjoy.  It really has the most basic and simple plot line: a "Romeo and Juliet" type scenario of forbidden love, but then Ms. Taylor tells it from such a unique perspective that you find yourself immersed in a rich and complex story that is anything but simple.

The characters are strong proud beings, some having to work through their faults and broken past, while others are so evil you can just feel the darkness lurking inside of them.  No matter what you will have some very strong emotions towards all the characters in this book.
Karou is such an interesting female heroine.  I adore her so much!  Not once does she irritate me and I feel like we learn so much with her (and from her) as she learns more about her history.  She is a strong persona, even though she feels like there is something missing from inside her life, and accepts the strangeness of her family with a wholeness that is something to admire.  I love that one of her passions is sketching; I feel like this adds even more to her already artistic surroundings.  She seems like she would be  a wonderful friend, loyal and true, fun yet serious, and did I mention she has blue hair?  Yeah she is that great!
Akiva is our male counterpart to Karou and has many of the same strong traits as she does.  He is brave, loyal, and yet has this terrible grief that keeps him a broken mess of a man. Or angel.  Just as the reader is drawn to Karou's mesmerizing personality, Akiva finds he cannot stop thinking about the strange girl with blue hair.  It is an obvious tear jerker to see how Akiva tries to cope with these emotions he has toward Karou and seeing the turmoil in him because he doesn't want to feel anything anymore.
Besides watching the dynamics between these two powerful lead characters, Taylor gives us some very unusual and personable supporting characters, like Brimstone and Zuzana, that add even more heart to this already heartfelt story.

Then we move on to the world building in Daughter of Smoke and Bone that helps create this magically exceptional place where humans coincide with supernatural beings without even realizing it.  Prague, in itself, sounds mysterious just by the name, but then we get to explore some of the maze like streets there with Karou and we find ourselves being swept away to a dreamland place.  A place where people feel comfortable searching for ghosts, where the architectural designs are based off ancient civilizations beautifully restored, and where people are content to appreciate the beauty that surrounds such a magical place.
The descriptions of the real and unreal areas are so well maintained, even now I can close my eyes and bring each and every detail to mind, like I am being transported there right now.  It is like a world within a world within a forth and so on.
Taylor uses such descriptive and powerful imagery it feels like the Chimera and the Seraphim could just jump right off the page (or in my case through the headphones) into my living room.  When she describes Brimstone's dusty old shop, it isn't hard to picture him at his desk, counting teeth, the silence hanging in the air like an old friend, as Karou sits with him enthralled at his detailed work.
I also love how every little detail and plot thread comes back to the bigger idea or main plot. Basically everything ties in and you don't have any nonsense threads leading to nowhere.  There are no fillers but everything is there that should be there.
There is a lot of flashbacks in this story, which normally gets on my nerves, but for Daughter of Smoke and Bone , it seems like the flashbacks help us learn just what we need to instead of overloading us with too much information too soon.  We also get the story told from Akiva and Karou's perspectives so that helps us see it from two different sides: angel and Chimera / human.
It is a metaphorical fairy tale that forces us to take a long hard look at what we consider good and evil and then realize that there is always exceptions to this rule.  Especially when true love is involved.  Speaking of the love aspect, I found it not to be the "insta-love" sensation but instead we get to see the relationship build along with the nerves, and the butterflies that new lovebirds experience.

Audiobook Review:
The narrator, Kristine Hvam, is the most amazing storyteller I have ever heard! The feeling she puts behind the different character voices makes an already thrilling story that more creative.  The way Hvam disguises her voice, from an angel solider to a young woman, to a Czech art student to a hulking beast of a Chimera, she has this quality to make you get lost in her voice and disappear into the prose.    I honestly felt like an old friend, listening in to Karou's conversations, laughing with her, grieving with her, and more importantly, falling in love too.

All in all.....this was the most amazingly crafted work of art I have ever read.  It was magical, entertaining, and had me spellbound from the minute I heard Hvam's interpretation of Karou's voice.  I highly recommend listening the audiobook version of it.  Even if you are not a fan of audiobooks (I wasn't at first either) Daughter of Smoke and Bone is the one audio book that will make you a fan of them.  It literally took my breath away!

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