Daughter of Smoke and Bone is a fantasy novel starring the mysterious Karou, the girl with blue hair. Karou appears to be a fairly normal teenage girl, one who is arty and draws cartoons about monsters and beasts. Luckily for Karou, everyone assumes the cartoons are make believe – nothing more than an imaginative fantasy world. None suspect the truth, which is that these monsters are her family.
Karou doesn’t know where she came from or who she is. She spends her time running errands for Brimstone, her father figure who is a chimera, or part animal and part human. The errands involve magic doors, travelling the world, and collecting teeth of all shapes and sizes. Brimstone is a wish-monger, he trades in wishes. The story takes her on a journey towards answering the mysterious questions of who am I? What is my purpose in life? Why teeth?
This book came to me highly recommended by a number of my wonderful teaching and book-loving friends so I came into it with quite high expectations (which is always dangerous with books!) At first I found it hard to get into. I struggled to reconcile the characters from the magical world with the modern and not so other worldly setting of Prague. The descriptions of Brimstone and Issa were particularly jarring for me. However, the storytelling is fantastic and once the pace picked up I was totally hooked.
Here’s three things I particularly liked about it.
1. From what I’ve read of her (i.e. this series) Laini Taylor is a master of letting you read between the lines and think you have it all figured out – then pulling that rug out from under you as you read further. The best example I can think of that doesn’t spoil too much is Karou’s hair. When you first read that it is blue, you (like her friends) assume it is dyed. It isn’t until a but later when it is revealed that actually it grows that colour from her head and is the result of a wish from Brimstone.
2. Taylor’s use fantasy and religious imagery in the novel is tempered with the addition of realistic media coverage of the supernatural occurrences. I often find in a lot of books there is difficulty buying into the events that are unfolding because you’d never get away with these events happening without mass hysteria of some kind. So the fact that characters and events from the text are reported in the news, and need to hide from paparazzi and experience frustration at people riding on the coattails of the hype makes it all the more plausible as a narrative.
3. The characters are interesting. I really like Akiva as a character, and I found his chapters kept me more engaged with the book. Karou can be quite frustrating for some reason. I also really like Zuzana and Mik but they aren’t as much of a feature in this book as in the sequel (which of course I had to read instantly!)
So, should you read it? Well I think so, but it does depend on your taste in books. If you enjoy fantasy and/or paranormal and/or YA fiction then it is a good bet that you’ll enjoy Daughter of Smoke and Bone.
My rating is 4/5 Stars. It’s awesome but the missing star is because it didn’t grab me right from the start and I felt the world building a bit difficult due to the real/fantasy overlap in setting and Karou isn’t my favourite female protagonist ever.
Buy Daughter of Smoke and Bone from The Book Depository here and tell me what you think!