I don’t often read straight up fantasy stories but when I do this is exactly how I like them. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor is a perfect blend of urban and high fantasy with humour, magic, monsters, and a hip European setting that eventually morphs into a tragic love story that spans not only several centuries and continents, but also through heaven and hell.
In it we follow tattooed and blue-haired college student, Karou, who lives in Prague and spends most of her free time drawing in her sketchbook and collecting teeth for her chimera mentor and adoptive father, Brimstone. Now, I can’t even begin to tell you all of the weird mysticism and magic surrounding Brimstone; we’d be here all week. Luckily for us, Laini Taylor eases us into said weirdness and actively combats it by keeping the story closely tied to Karou, who doesn’t know the half of what’s actually going on in Brimstone’s shop. Although she is very curious in nature, she is generally happy to accept his magically granted wishes as payment, ignore his tail, and call it a day.
The beginning of this book definitely gave me a City Of Bones vibes in that it’s all about this snarky artistic girl who’s living in this world inside of another world, knowing that there’s something special or different about her, but not really knowing why. That’s what makes it all the more interesting and surprising when the entire crux of the novel ends up relying on backstory involving a grandiose angel vs. chimera (i.e. basically demons) war. I don’t want to give too many details for fear of spoiling anything, but if you generally find high fantasy books hard to get into and are looking for something to ease you into a crazy new world, I would highly recommend this one since it’s basically two stories in one.
Although this is my first Laini Taylor book, but I can definitely tell you it won’t be my last. I am absolutely in love with the way she strings her sentences together. It’s such a uniquely beautiful and dream-like style of writing; somewhat in the same vein as Maggie Steifvater, but so much stranger. It’s something I think every reader deserves to experience at least once. Also, the whole novel is steeped in all kinds of mystery. What’s the deal with the teeth? Who is Karou and where did she come from? Will she get to kiss this handsome new love interest? Will Zuzana ever get to hang out with her best friend without getting interrupted by magical malarkey? These questions, and so many more, are what keep you going throughout the seemingly innocuous world-building going on in the background.
Now, I’ve mentioned how much I love the writing and incredibly inventive plot, but I also absolutely adored the setting. I hate to admit it, but it seems that just about every book I read is set in America. Granted, it’s not my fault that those are the books that tend to get the most publicity, but it’s still something I need to work on. Reading about the old buildings and the quirky hip hangout spots of Prague really lit a fire inside of me to learn about different places and cultures. It made me, a very sedentary person, want to go exploring.
And that’s basically Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I know it probably seems like I still haven’t told you much about the plot, but trust me, it’s better that way. This is a book you want to go into without really knowing much of anything. Just allow the storm of confusion and beautiful writing to wash over you as the epic story unfolds. It’s a top read and I’m looking forward to checking out the other two books in the series.