Daughter of Smoke & Bone (Daughter of Smoke & Bone #1) by Laini Taylor
Published Year: 2011
Genre: YA Fantasy
Subtitle: Good, but not Great
Daughter of Smoke & Bone Series
"Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.
In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grows dangerously low.
And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.
Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real, she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands", she speaks many languages - not all of them human - and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.
When beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?"
I was intrigued by the first chapter of this book - hook, line and sinker. LT paints a gorgeous picture of modern day (but freezing) Prague, where blue-haired Karou (I pronounce this kuh-ROO in my head though I don't know if that's the correct way) attends art school with her friend Zuzana.
But Karou has a very mysterious past, and shares it piece by piece when forced by the situation. I actually felt the world building to be a little slow, the reader basically discovers a new piece of information per chapter in the first part of the book. Which was just not hear enough for me, I was so intrigued by Brimstone and his shop that I wanted way more information about that then about Karou's ex-boyfriend.
The most mysterious about Karou is that she feels empty, as if vast parts of herself are missing. She has the consistent feeling that she should be doing something else, be someone else. She has very disconcerting moments where she's mentally thrown outside of herself to wonder what's wrong. Eventually, we discover why this is (and it's pretty good, I'll admit). LT has beautiful descriptions, not just of the city of Prague, but more particularly of feelings. She uses such seemingly innocuous experiences to perfectly describe a feeling that I found myself fully identifying with Karou throughout her strange life.
I do wish there had been more to Karou's relationship with Zuzanna. Not just more of it, but more to it. I thought they had a great dynamic when together, but do to Karou darting off constantly to complete mysterious errands for Brimstone, Zuzanna was wary and an arms length away for a large portion of the book. Their banter in the first chapter illustrates one of my favorite types of friendships: sarcastic banter with a lighthearted competitive edge.
I can't go much further in the plot without getting spoilery, but as Karou gets deeper into her past, the stranger it seems. She meets Akiva, what we would perceive as an angel, and seems to have a strange connection (and reaction) to him. He begins a spiral of knowledge and understanding that spins us into part 3.
Part 3 is where it gets a little weird for me. If you're hesitant on fantasy books, I would recommend not reading this. LT does a great job explaining everything logically, but it's just weird. Not dark or creepy or uncomfortable, just weird, and it changes the feel and integrity of the story. It's very different after this. Anyway, it ends on a bit of cliffhanger, which definitely has me downloading book two as soon as possible, because not knowing how this ends is not an option.
Overall, I really liked Karou and discovering her story. I will definitely be continuing with this series -- it's also really refreshing for this to be set in an unpopular (fictional setting wise, in real life I'm sure it's perfectly popular) city like Prague!
3.5 out of 5 stars.