Even Stevens’s CBR-III review #43: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Sometimes I find it harder to articulate my thoughts about a book I really enjoy versus one I don’t. I have a feeling this is going to be one of those times. Daughter of Smoke and Bone follows Karou, a 17-year-old art student in Prague. At first glance she seems normal; a best friend, boy trouble in the form of her cocky ex-boyfriend, school pressures. But beyond all that, Karou has a secret life. She knows 20 different languages, her vibrant blue hair grows from her head that way, and oh, she also keeps the company of chimaera (human-animal hybrids) that she can only see in a magical shop adjacent to the world we live in. All of a sudden, burned black hand prints start appearing on doors all over the world, including the one that Karou uses to access the shop. As Karou learns more about herself and the situation her chimaera friends are facing, she finds herself torn between two worlds.

Now, reading that description, it could be assumed that this is another run-of-the-mill YA fantasy. I actually would have probably passed over this book if I hadn’t read such glowing reviews. I’m so glad I didn’t pass it over, because it was an utterly fantastic book. Taylor’s strength is in her characters; even the tangential characters feel real and natural. Karou is a great protagonist; spunky and sometimes rash, but still sensitive, sometimes irrational, and always wanting answers. Basically your typical 17-year-old, but in the best way possible.

Taylor’s writing is very strong as well. The story is creative and completely engrossing. She provides a rich and detailed world for Karou and those around her, and no detail is meaningless. I was a little worried as the inevitable love story popped up (between Karou and an angel named Akiva), but I was pleasantly surprised by the direction that story took. It was a route I was not expecting, but that flowed completely naturally with the story, while totally dodging the standard love story pitfalls that sometimes riddle YA books.

I know there is a sequel planned for this book, and to the best of my knowledge it is not a trilogy. This is one of the rare instances where I’m happy for added installments, and I don’t feel like the author pulled any punches or created any purposeful loose ends to try and get you to read the next one. She seems confident enough that Karou’s tale stands well enough on its own to lead into the next volume, and I am completely on board with that. I feel like I still haven’t done this book justice, so I’ll just say this: read it. It’s excellent. I cannot wait for the next chapter, and in the meantime will immediately be seeking out Taylor’s other books.

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