Absolutely captivating- 5 stars
Source- borrowed from a friend—but will now invest in my own copy!
Hodder and Stoughton- 2012
Paperback- 418 pages
“Once upon a time an angel and a devil fell in love. It did not end well…”
…So begins Daughter of Smoke and Bone, one of the most absorbing books I have picked up in ages. It’s hard to put into words exactly just how much I loved this book, particularly since fantasy isn’t one of my favourite genres and the premise sounded a little bit weird for my tastes. I’m so glad I read this novel though- it has without a doubt catapulted into my top five favourite reads in 2012. Believe the hype: this is amazing.
It’s actually quite difficult to describe this book as so much happens. Set in modern day Prague (one of my favourite cities, so this was instantly a winner with me in regards to its setting) the reader is introduced to art student, Karou. Karou’s sketch books are filled with fantastical drawings of what to her school friends seem like fairytale monsters, monsters she regales them with absurd stories of- only Karou is hiding a secret: the monsters are actually real, and she has been brought up by them since she was a baby. Raised in a dusty back alley shop by Brimstone, a gruff collector who inexplicably turns teeth into wishes, and snake lady Issa, Karou doesn’t have much of a clue as to her past- but with two worlds teetering on the brink of war, she may soon find out more than she bargained for…
This book has a new spin on the concept of forbidden love and it was so nice reading a novel on this theme that wasn’t about vampires. Instead, we have angels and demons- or rather chimaeras. The descriptions of both are superbly intricate and you can envisage some of the creations that came out of this author’s mind very clearly. I would genuinely love to get inside her head and see how she came up with this stuff. The world building is just spellbinding. I would love to see if Hollywood could turn this into a film- without ruining it of course.
Karou is a heroine you find yourself rooting for. She’s so courageous and feisty with one foot set firmly in our world yet also with a strange link to the Elsewhere. She has your everyday problems of being a teenage girl- yet still doesn’t know her own past or how she came to be raised by Brimstone and the other chimaeras- that remains a mystery to her. I found myself feeling so sympathetic towards her as she is expected to keep secrets from those closest to her, including her best friend Zuzanna, another character I found myself really liking and one that provided some much needed comic relief to this novel.
As with a lot of books, the male romantic interest, Akiva, is perfect (of course he is) – spectacularly beautiful, muscly, yadda-yadda-yadda. Only in this case, this perfection is warranted because he is a Seraphim and the descriptions of him don’t seem too over the top. I loved the way the strange connection to Karou was developed within this novel and found myself really believing in their chemistry. There are so many other notions that I enjoyed too- even little things that the author has created- the currency of wishes for example- it just fit so well within this beautiful book.
It’s clearly evident how much I loved this novel from this somewhat gushy review, but I did find my interest waning somewhat in the last few chapters towards the end. I can’t reveal too much here without spoiling the plot, but when action drifted from Prague into Elsewhere and some characters’ back stories were finally revealed, I did find the pace becoming a bit slow at this point. This back story was essential however to explain the main crux of the plot and lead into action for the sequel, but personally I just wanted to get back to Karou and Prague.
Speaking of sequels, I am genuinely waiting with bated breath for the follow up to this one ‘Days of Blood and Starlight’ which is released in the UK in November this year- and I will definitely be checking out some of Taylor’s other books soon- I am hoping they are as addictive as this one.
If you are looking for an original, captivating read with eloquent writing, amazingly well-drawn characters and utterly fantastic world building, then you must read this book. No ifs, no buts- do it now!