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Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Review

Daughter of Smoke and Bone

"In general," writes Laini Taylor near the beginning of DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE, "Karou managed to keep her two lives in balance. On the one hand, she was a seventeen-year-old art student in Prague; on the other, errand girl to an inhuman creature who was the closest thing she had to family." As Karou's story progresses in Taylor's robust fantasy, the girl has an increasingly difficult time divorcing these two parts of her complicated, unpredictable life.

When Karou draws fanciful, detailed pictures of fantastical creatures, chimeras like Issa, "serpent from the waist down and woman from the waist up, with the bare, globe breasts of Kama Sutra carvings, the hood and fangs of a cobra, and the face of an angel," her classmates, even her best friend Zuzana, assume that these creatures are the products of Karou's fertile imagination. Only Karou knows the truth --- that Issa, and a small group of other chimeras, raised Karou as a young girl. Karou visits them from time to time in a mysterious Elsewhere accessed through portals all over the world, including in Prague. Lately, though, Karou has grown increasingly impatient with her guardian, Brimstone, who summons her for urgent errands all over the world.

Brimstone traffics in teeth --- teeth of all kinds, but preferably healthy adult human teeth --- that, it turns out, serve as the basis for all human wishes. He often sends Karou to locations as diverse as Paris, Hong Kong, or Boise to collect Brimstone's gruesome currency, often at her own peril. Something is happening to the portals that allow Karou to move freely and instantly back and forth between Brimstone's Elsewhere and these global destinations. A beautiful, mysterious stranger is leaving charring handprints on the doors --- doors that will soon be destroyed in a global conflagration that mystifies most humans but horrifies Karou, who feels cut off from the only family she's ever known.

When Karou first meets this beautiful man, Akiva (unaware of his role in the closure of the portals and the global war it signifies), it's in a fight. The two of them prove fierce competitors, and soon their admiration of each other's strength and beauty leads them to fall in love. But when Karou discovers more about her own origins --- and about Akiva's past and future goals --- their positions on opposite sides of a cosmic battlefield would seem to doom their love forever.

Laini Taylor, whose LIPS TOUCH was a finalist for the National Book Award, does a masterful job of creating a rich and colorful fantasy environment, grounded in the beautiful landscape of contemporary Prague. The cosmology here is a complicated one, but also compellingly original. Loyalties and allegiances are constantly tested and shifted, not to mention Karou's very concepts of friendship, family and identity. Once readers have been immersed in Karou's singular world, they won't willingly leave. But the good news is that the book's last three words are "to be continued..."

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on September 27, 2011

Daughter of Smoke and Bone
by Laini Taylor

  • Publication Date: September 27, 2011
  • Genres: Urban Fantasy
  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 0316134023
  • ISBN-13: 9780316134026