Title: Daughter of Smoke & Bone (Book One)
Author: Laini Taylor
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company, 2011
Genre: YA Celestial Fantasy, YA Paranormal
It’s easy to say you enjoyed or didn’t enjoy a book. I’ve been fortunate enough to be on a good book streak…and it’s probably because I’m reading books I’ve been dying to read for a long time, and are still popular enough to be checked out of the library and hard to obtain. I received this one by pure fate; I had abandoned the idea of ever reading this because it was impossible to find the first book in the series available. But one day, I walked in and it was there. And it was incredibly lucky that I found it, because I was starting to think it wasn’t meant to be.
I’m so glad I did find it, too. The book has elements of traditional YA fantasy in that there are “angels” and “demons,” good vs evil. But what Taylor does to make it wholly original is blur the lines between good and evil: are demons bad because they are demons? Are angels good because we believe they are G-d’s soldiers? The book makes you think: and it definitely has more twists and turns than many of the genre.
Karou, a 17 year old Prague art student, has a strange family. She sketches their pictures and classmates think she is just imaginative. Her hair is blue, but they believe it’s dyed that way. And the palm of her hands bear the eyes of hamsas, but they think they are simply interesting tattoos. Karou doesn’t lie, but the students and even her best friend think that she’s just whimsical and silly. But the truth is stranger than fiction: her family are chimeræ, monsters that are half man-half animal. Her hair is blue because she wished it to be. And her hamsas…well, she doesn’t know where they came from because she’s always had them.
On occasion Karou must run errands for Brimstone, the eccentric goat man that is a member of her foster family. He dispenses wishes to the desperate in exchange for teeth. There’s also three others that live in Brimstone’s shop, and only Karou is allowed in…because she was raised by them. One day, though, scorched handprints appear at the doorways to all the portals that open to Brimstone’s shop. Karou thinks nothing of it (mainly because she knows very little about Brimstone and the chimeræ), but when an angel starts following her and attacks her, she starts to wonder what is really going on with her foster monsters. And her biggest question that has haunted her all her life begins to beg an answer: who is Karou? Why is an angel following her? And what does Brimstone do with the teeth she brings him?
It’s a pretty trippy ride. And Karou’s life is a big blank for most of the book, but we get to go on the journey of self-discovery with her…and the answers we get are nothing we could possibly fathom. It definitely takes you by surprise.
Is is Classroom-Appropriate?
I’m having a hard time finding books that are usable in the classroom lately. This, sadly, is still not one of them. Though brilliant in its execution and plot, there are words right off the bat that are adult in their use; Brimstone tells Karou that she should keep her life free of “inessential penises” after she breaks up with her boyfriend. So right off the bat, there’s no way that the sexuality in the book is appropriate for a high school class setting. However, it’s filled with funny situations and wordplay, and it would definitely make a good read for recreational purposes.
This is a tough one. The conservative in me thinks 15 minimum. But the more relaxed part of me thinks that because it’s not explicit sex and just more allusions to the act, that the reader could be as young as 13 and still not get warped by the book. I have yet to read the next books in ten series, but they are en route from the library so it won’t be long. But to err on the side of caution, I would just average the age to 14 and say that’s the minimum (just to be safe).
I can’t believe I’m giving another book five stars. ★★★★★! I must be just lucky, and I’ll get a horrible book next…Ugh. Taylor surprised me, and I look forward to seeing what happens to Karou and the chimeræ and Akiva. It has a cliffhanger ending. I won’t be satisfied until I know what is to become of my blue-haired heroine.