Sunday, October 16, 2011

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

From Goodreads:
Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages--not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out.

When one of the strangers--beautiful, haunted Akiva--fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?
Since fantasy is not normally my genre of choice, the premise really has to draw me in for me to sit up and take notice and want to read it. In the case of Daughter of Smoke and Bone, I was intrigued by the fantasy aspect of the story that took place in a real-life setting - in this case, the enchanting city of Prague, Czech Republic. 
Since so often I see things through the lens of travel (that is part of my blog after all), settings can make or break a story for me. Since so many people have already reviewed this book I've decided that I'm going to mainly discuss how the setting impacted my enjoyment of the book. 

Having been to Prague before, I can say that it is the perfect setting for this off-kilter sort of tome Laini Taylor created. Just read this passage and tell me there would be a better city for the novel to take place:

The streets of Prague were a fantasia scarcely touched by the twenty-first century - or the twentieth or nineteenth, for that matter. It was a city of alchemists and dreamers, its medieval cobbles once trod by golems, mystics, and invading armies. Tall houses glowed goldenrod and carmine and eggshell blue, embellished with Rococo plasterwork and capped in roofs of uniform red. Baroque cupolas were the soft green of antique copper, and Gothic steeples stood ready to impale fallen angels. The wind carried the memory of magic, revolution, violins and cobbled lanes meandered like creeks. Thugs wore Mozart wigs and pushed chamber music on street corners, and marionettes hung in windows, making the whole city seem like a theater with unseen puppeteers crouched behind velvet.

Above it all loomed the castle on this hill, its silhouette as sharp as thorns. By night, it was floodlit, bathed in eerie light, and this evening the sky hung low, full-bellied with snow, making gauzy halos around the street lamps. (25)

I mean, c'mon! How enchanting does that sound?

Which is why I found myself disappointed when two-thirds of the way through the novel, the setting changed from the magical backdrop of the capital of the Czech Republic to the fantasized world of Seraphim and Chimaera. Prague was so vivid to me, and as a result, Taylor's imagined world kind of made the story fade a little bit from my mind.

This, I recognize, is nit-picking since my life and travels have caused my readerly bias to prefer stories that take place in the real-world. However, if it hadn't been for that real-world setting, I'm not convinced I would have read this book. So while the book kept me engrossed enough to want to read the sequel, I do so with trepidation and hope that it returns to Prague, but given how the story ends, I'm thinking it probably won't.

This is still an amazing story and Laini Taylor deserves a huge amount of praise for her talent at being able to seek out and find just the right words. Her sentence structure and word placement is artful to say the least, masterful to say the most.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Published: September 27, 2011 by Little, Brown & Company
Pages: 420
Genre: Fantasy/Paranormal
Audience: Young Adult

Also check out my recap of Laini Taylor's visit to Nicola's Books in Ann Arbor, Michigan


  1. I bookmarked that same passage as well! I was nowhere near as enchanted with the real Prague as the Prague setting in this book. I loved how Taylor used the puppet theme too - very fitting.

  2. Oh Stephanie, I totally found Prague as enchanting as Taylor described it. Of course, I went in November so I think the cold helped to add to the spooky/magical air.