Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Laini Taylor has really put me in my place this time.
I was very eager to read Daughter of Smoke and Bone, so much so that I ordered it as soon as it came out. To say that reviews for this book are gushing is a real understatement; they are, in fact, stellar.
Truth be told though, I was more than a bit biased. Lips Touch: Three Times, her short stories collection had collected the same kind of reviews. Not from me.
I'm not crazy about that book. I suspect it has a lot to do with the short story format but I just wasn't convinced by it.
My lukewarm feelings were actually confirmed when I started Daughter of Smoke and Bone and I met Karou and Akiva.
On a merely thematic level, at first I thought it was highly unoriginal.
Angels/fallen angels? Where had I read that before?
A girl who doesn't fit in, has a secret, feels she's meant for something else and falls in love with the worst possible candidate? Where have I read that before?
Star-crossed lovers? Duh.
Your average paranormal YA romance story, in a pretty package (the package being Taylor's writing.)
Ever since Lips Touch, my impression has been that Taylor takes tropes of YA which many, many authors have developed before her, and just makes them better. Because she certainly does.
BUT. I take it all back.
While the impression I had lasted for the first half of the book, as soon as the story started to unravel and to make sense, EVERYTHING changed.
First, I was shocked at how she smoothly, impeccably passed from said paranormal, average YA story to a more traditional fantasy novel. I didn't even notice it, if not after. I was reading about Prague and then, all of a sudden, I was wondering: how did I get here?
Furthermore, this is a book that goes beyond the normal scope of a fantasy novel, transcending its genre and making us readers think: it's a book about discrimination, be it religious or ethnic, about racial superiority and it's a book about acceptance with a message of hope, that things can really change if we really, really want it.
It made me think: How is beauty always good and ugliness always evil?
I love books with a message and this certainly has a deep, profound one. In this sense, I couldn't help but comparing it to Finnikin of the Rock and associate its fantasy setting with a deeper message.
Also, Taylor's worldbuilding is spectacular. I had already glimpsed as much in the third short story of Lips Touch, Hatchling, but here, yet again, its complexity and detail are taken to a whole different level. Very dark, gothic, innovative, Laini takes elements of mythology and makes them hers, constructing a world that is not only fascinating and scary at the same time, but enriches it with new elements making the imagery so sophisticated I was awed.
As her imagery is sophisticated, so is her writing style. I don't think there are many the likes of her out there at the moment. Her usage if language is so confident, so stately smooth, she is so much in her element that she uses it as a medium to plunge us into elsewhere, manipulating it to her needs.
Ultimately, this is a book about hope. It says so repeatedly during the course of the story and I felt this feeling was beautifully conveyed.
In Brimstone's words:
"Hope is the real magic."
I'll be eagerly waiting to read the continuation to this story and I can't recommend it enough. For lovers of fantasy and all its sub-genres this is a must-read.
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