First book review for the new year! This book is also the first book to be listed as a series I must complete before the end of 2014. Here is my review of Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor.
Check out that cover. Is it not gorgeous?
Our main character is Karou, a young art student living in Prague. Outwardly, she seems to have a normal life: going to her art classes, hanging out with her friends, dealing with her crazy self-obsessed ex-boyfriend. She also has blue hair. Blue hair that grows out as blue hair. She has tons of sketchbooks full of drawings of fantastical creatures, all with names and stories to go with them: Brimstone, massive with great rams horns growing from his head; Issa, beautiful part human, part snake; Yasri, with a beak like a parrot; and Twigga, with the head of a giraffe. She talks about them conversationally, as though they were actually real and not just stories.
Because, of course, they are real.
Karou grew up in Brimstone’s workshop. She doesn’t have a real human family, just a handful of humans who work for Brimstone and who would pose as Karou’s legal guardian as needed. The portal to Brimstone’s shop can open to many different cities – Prague, Paris, Marrakesh – and Karou travels through them often to transport things for Brimstone from the various collectors he works with – namely teeth. Brimstone’s workshop is full of teeth of all kinds, human and animal. Karou doesn’t understand what he does with them, but she gets paid for her tasks in wishes, or rather, scuppies – beads that can be used for wishes.
Slightly off topic, but there’s a very funny scene towards the beginning of the book, where Karou’s ex-boyfriend is trying to get her back. He volunteers to pose for her drawing class – in the nude, of course – in order to flaunt himself in front of her. She uses the scuppies, strung on a necklace, to make him itch. Very. Badly. It gets worse and worse until he has to run from the room. It’s a really funny scene.
Enter Akiva. He’s an angel. No really. An angel. He finds Karou and knows that she is working for Brimstone, who is his enemy. They fight, and Karou is able to get away, but just barely. There is something about Karou that keeps Akiva from killing her. He has killed many people and creatures, but can’t kill her. He feels nothing inside, due to a tragedy that happened back in his past, which makes him an excellent soldier. One by one, he and his comrades burn black hand prints into the doors of Brimstone’s portals, until one day they all go up in flames. Karou now has no way of getting back to Brimstone and the others, cut off from the only family she has ever known.
Karou goes off hunting down Brimstone’s associates to get some of their wish tokens in order to try and wish herself back to Brimstone, using one of them to give herself the ability to fly. Akiva, who can’t stop thinking about her, tracks her down and tries to explain. There is something about Akiva, aside from the fact that he’s beautiful, that draws Karou to him, and the two of them start to fall in love. It’s an almost idyllic time, until Akiva sees the wishbone that Karou has around her neck. It had once belonged to Brimstone, but he had sent it to Karou just before the portals burned. Akiva now knows exactly who Karou is and, if they break the wishbone, she will know too. Which, of course, is what happens.
Throughout the whole first part of the book, you wonder who Karou is and how she happened to be part of this crazy family of strange creatures (or chimaera). Once the wishbone is snapped, there is a whole flashback sequence that explains a lot about Karou’s past and the things she can’t remember. It goes on for several chapters, which would usually annoy me, but it’s really well done here. The story is fascinating and it changes everything.
This book was fantastic. I loved every second of it and could not put it down. I had to get the second book immediately and, in fact, I’ve already finished that one too. Which means that I’ve completed this series! Well, until April when the third book comes out. But more on the second book later. You need to go out and find this book first. It is ah-ma-zing!