Saturday, September 24, 2011

Daughter of Smoke and Bone (review)

4.5 out of 5 Stars

Sometimes I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with paranormals with leanings towards the hate side of things. I love different creatures, new interpretations of mythology and the not-quite-our-world-but-almost settings. But paranormals have a tendency to have the mopiest and weakest female heroines. They tend to fall apart at the love story--too much love at first sight, too little relationship building and way too many love triangles.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone is not your typical paranormal. It's beautiful and lyrical, funny yet not a comedy. Karou, the main character, is a delight to read. She's beautiful and strong. She doesn't know who she is but she does know what she believes. Karou is very much relatable, like someone you know, yet somehow she is so much more. She's so many things I admire in a person. She's loyal, loves-deeply, curious and bold. She'd die for her family and do anything to protect her friends. But she's also painfully lonely, confused about her place in the world and just a little bit vindictive (but in a funny way).

The book is set in the very atmospheric city of Prague (where I've always wanted to visit) and the main character is an art student. Lately I've read a few books with art students as the main character and somehow it always seems to work. They see the world differently and so does the reader. Their problems are not my problems but I can still relate to them. They do things like create giant marionettes and draw naked people without blushing. Art-students, written well, are down-to-earth and cool without being pretentious.
"Zuzana arched an eyebrow. She was a master of the eyebrow arch, and Karou envied her for it. Her own eyebrows did not function independently of each other, which handicapped her expressions of suspicion and disdain."
The writing floats between being very poetic and humorously blunt. Karou despite her otherworldly blue-hair, necklace full of wishes and unconventional family of monsters, is still a seventeen year old girl. She worries that her breath smells like goulash when she thinks she's going to be kissed, wants to get revenge on her ex-boyfriend for taking her virginity and also just happens to run errands for a Chimaera who collects human teeth.

I think Laini Taylor does an excellent job of finding the humanity within the paranormal without sacrificing their otherness. You will not mistake the creatures within this novel for normal humans (sometimes I feel like this is where most parnormals fail) but they aren't so different that you can't understand their motivations.

This is a book that is getting a lot of much-deserved gushing around the internet. It's wonderful. Things that I normally hate work in this book because the author spends enough time building the characters and creating the necessary connections. She builds a main character you can trust. By the time it gets to the love story I trusted Karou's judgement. She's got a good head on her shoulders and is not the boy-chasing type. Knowing Karou allows you to withhold judgement while the love story plays out.

It's not fast-paced, but more character driven. Karou is a mystery--to herself, to her friends, to everyone. This book seems to be all about getting to know Karou, discovering her past and finding her place in the greater cosmic struggle. There are all these oddities and clues. What's behind the other door that Karou's not allowed to open? What's with the teeth? Why are these collection of Chimaera raising a human child? Trust me, it's a mystery worth unravelling.

This book is also going around the world. BUT I'm one of the first stops so I'll let someone else post a blog when there are more postcards.


Aleeza said...

this. review. is. so. awesome! seriously. i've only the first 100 or so pages (the netgalley preview thingie--WHY DIDN'T THEY GIVE THE FULL ARC ARGGGG!?) and i totally get what you're talking about--the whole believable, endearing characters and the fantastically 'normal'ish paranormal shizz.

just three more days till its release! i'm SOOO excited!

veela-valoom said...

I can't stand those preview things. It's like torturing yourself. Maureen Johnson posted one of her book that's coming out (or just came out) and I opened it and glanced at it then I was like, "Do I really want to do this to myself." Then I stopped and didn't read any more than a paragraph or two.

I really like Karou. She made me LOL quite a few times.

Sara said...

Sounds brilliant! I tend to get a bit funny about paranormal and supernatural fiction, I tend to expect it to be bad with no justification - often they turn out to be great.

veela-valoom said...

I'm picky when it comes to my paranormal. There's just so much out there ou can afford to be. So I think it's an understandable leeriness, maybe because I can totally relate!