Daughter of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor, has been sitting on my bedside table for weeks now. I’ve been carrying it with me when I traveled, as back up for when my iPad ran out of juice. Did you know books can guilt trip you if you ignore them long enough? Library books are especially good at guilt because there’s a chance someone else is waiting to read the book after you. I didn’t actually start reading it until midnight last night. Daughter of Smoke and Bone is another one of the many young adult/new adult books that I’ve been hearing about so much that I put it on my mental “read this just to find out what the fuss was about” shelf. Unlike many of the other books that have been on this shelf (*cough* Twilight *cough*), this one did not disappoint. In fact, as soon as I finished the book, I hopped on to Amazon to buy the full trilogy for my kindle. So, now I know what I’m going to do with my weekend. How about you?
Karou lives a double life. In Prague, she’s an eccentric art student who periodically disappears on mysterious errands that she refuses to talk about. Elsewhere, she runs errands for her chimaera foster family. Their magic takes her around the world, collecting teeth from hunters and traders. Her family would be described by almost anyone else as monsters. They have animal heads or limbs. They refuse to tell her what all the teeth are for, and they won’t let her use the other door in the shop she grew up in. They won’t answer any of her questions. Karou is seventeen years old and growing frustrated at their distance. She doesn’t realize that her foster family have been keeping her safe from a war that’s been raging on their world for a thousand years.
As Daughter of Smoke and Bone opens, a new front is opening in the war between the seraphim and the chimaera. Seraphs are closing the portals between our world and their world. Karou is stranded on our side by a seraph named Akiva. They fight in Marrakech and nearly kill one another. Strangely, they feel a connection that doesn’t have anything to do with being foes.
It’s clear that this book is meant to set the stage for the other two books in the trilogy. Unlike many other trilogy writers, however, Taylor has a gift for not drowning the narrative and plot with exposition. Characters don’t just suddenly spill their guts to Karou. She has to fight for most of her knowledge about magic and wishes and the war.
As I read Daughter of Smoke and Bone, I was strongly reminded of Brian Vaughn’s Saga—down to the wings and the horns some of the characters sport. They both have a grit to them. They don’t pretty things up or skirt the edges of violence or sex. They both revolve around a seemingly endless war that the combatants don’t remember the beginning of. And both series feature two lovers who are determined to stop the fighting. I haven’t read the other two books in the series, so I don’t know if they grow more or less similar. I don’t care all that much, because I’m enjoying the hell out of both series.