DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE
Paranormal Young Adult
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Received from publisher for review
Most people think Karou is just the funky girl with blue hair and the crazy imagination. They gather around her sketchbook in their art class in Prague, fawning over her realistic drawings of monstrous creatures and listen riveted as she tells them stories of those creatures' lives. They all think she's just being Karou, but what they don't know is that every word she tells them, and every drawing she shows them, is very true and very real.
Karou knows her life working for Brimstone–the horned creature who raised her and loved her as his own–is unusual, one that has her collecting teeth on his behalf from all over the world for reasons he will never tell her. Her strange world begins to become even more interesting when black hand prints begin to appear on Brimstone's portals all over the world, seared into the metal and wood as a brand.
Accompanying the hand prints are rumors of beautiful and terrifying winged beings seen leaving the scene of each marking. When Karou finds herself face to face with one such being, she feels something she never knew she was missing click into place despite the stunning young man's determination to see her dead. Soon, the reason for the markings on the doors becomes apparent, and Karou finds herself alone with no one to help her figure out what's happened save for the angel Akiva, the young man and possible enemy with the key to her past, her future, and her heart.
Dark and dazzling, The Daughter of Smoke and Bone reaches out and yanks us into its world from page one as we glory in the refreshing beauty of such an unique tale. Ms. Taylor has a way of writing that resonates on a soul-deep level, so that even should the feeling being described be foreign to us it still seeps beneath our skin with the comforting familiarity of an old friend recently returned and sorely missed. Her descriptions are vivid but never is she overly verbose or flowery, instead reading her words is like having lived our entire lives as a blind person only to suddenly find an individual capable of describing color to us in such lush detail that they at long last grant us the ability to truly see beyond mere imaginings. Her world is incandescent light and smoldering dark, reality and fantasy, and epic love and tragic loss all wrapped up in a story not soon forgotten.
Karou is a quirky protagonist who instantly earns our loyalty and solidarity as she humorously deals with her cheating ex-boyfriend, Ms. Taylor beautifully introducing us to her world with very human emotions before whisking us into its more whimsically sinister side. Like Karou, we don’t fully understand her relationship to surrogate father Brimstone and his team of unique misfits, and so we slowly get to learn and question the realities of her existence along with her, thus making our investment in her life all the deeper. She and best friend Zuzana have us in stitches with their antics, but the bitter tang of all we don’t know is a prominent taste we can’t swallow away–nor do we wish to–as bits and pieces of past, present, and future begin to fall around us in a torrent of possibility, just waiting for us to pluck them from the ferocious downpour and fit them together in our minds.
The way events unfold is truly brilliant, Ms. Taylor baiting us with little clues that allow us to unravel minor mysteries ourselves before expertly weaving the individual threads together to create a pattern so stunningly complex and yet gloriously simple that we sit in shocked silence at the end. To a star-crossed romance so much more is added, elevating Karou and Akiva’s story to one that cannot be accurately categorized, the richness of it too great to dilute with easily understood definitions. Their love is theirs alone, comparable to no other and haunting in its unusualness, and we are left at the last page with a gaping hole in our hearts we wish a happy ending would fill. We take comfort in the knowledge that this story is just beginning though, and while the existing hole is sure to get wider before it's repaired, we still hold out hope for the love that rivals many of the most famous fictional romances to come before it.