Saturday, May 3, 2014

Book Thoughts: "Daughter of Smoke and Bone" by Laini Taylor

This book has been floating around my periphery for years, but for some reason it wasn't until my last stop at the library that I saw it and thought "now's the time." At first glance the 400+ pages seem like quite an undertaking, but it's YA, so the font is large and the language light. It only took me three days to read.

In terms of plot, Daughter of Smoke and Bone is pretty weak. Basically, a young girl raised by monsters has spent her whole life collecting a wide variety of animal and human teeth for some unknown purpose, and she discovers what's really going on and her true identity. I won't go into too much detail, but there's humans, seraphs, chimera and, of course, a war. There's almost always a war going on in these supernatural epics. You'd think with all that the story would be action packed, but really it's almost entirely exposition and worldbuilding. That being said, the world presented in this book is surprisingly unique and compelling and, as the first in a series, most of the exposition is totally necessary. Mostly I can forgive it because it isn't boring.

Taylor's writing style is deceptively simple, describing settings and characters with immaculate detail, but almost without you even noticing, coaxing you down into her world like a lullaby. One of the best thing she's managed to do here is take very well known and cliche ideas and twist them just enough to keep you guessing. We have angels versus demons, but who's the real transgressor? We have Romeo and Juliet, but with a completely different, still tragic end. There was also an unexpected and worthwhile commentary about colonialism, manifest destiny, and the justifications for unjust actions in war. I was impressed with the flow of ideas in this book, and how the author managed to pack them all in without weighing the prose down.

There was romance in this book, and for the most part I found it pretty lackluster, but the turn at the end got my excited for what's coming next. Overall that's how Daughter of Smoke and Bone my me feel, excited for where the story's going in the following books. It seems this first installment is primarily a platform for the rest of the series to stand on, but it's well built and beautifully rendered, and hopefully a sign of good things to come.

Title: Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Published: 2011, Little, Brown
Pages: 418
Would Recommend: Yes. If you're as burnt out on the young adult genre as I am, allow this book to reinvigorate you. It has new, interesting concepts, and a lot of fascinating creatures to boot. Something for just about everybody.

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