"Home. The word might still have air quotes around it, but half of Karou’s life had been chopped off, and the other half — the normal half — was in Prague. Her tiny flat with its rows and rows of sketchbooks; Zuzana and marionettes; school, easels, naked old men with feather boas; Poison Kitchen, statues in gas masks, bowls of goulash steaming on coffin lids; even her jackass of an ex-boyfriend lurking around corners dressed like a vampire."
- Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Laini Taylor
I've heard nothing but good things about Laini Taylor's Silksinger and Blackbringer. I never really picked up the books because I wasn't too keen on the covers - I'm the sort of reader who wouldn't buy a book, however good it is, if I didn't like the cover. I even stopped reading Westerfeld's steampunk books because the Behemoth cover didn't match my Leviathan hardcover. Back to Laini Taylor - by the time I finally decided to get over the cover thing and get the books anyway, one of them had gone out of print. Daughter of Smoke and Bone is one of the books on Kinokuniya (KL)'s Christmas list, and one of the ones I wanted the most. Amanda ended up getting me a copy for Christmas (we exchanged presents early).
I liked this book a lot - in fact for the first part of the book I hated having to put it down, and can't seem to shut up about it. Karou is an interesting protagonist, and I liked her from the get-go. She's definitely a change from the typical Twilighty female characters in a lot of the paranormal YA fiction now. The mystery of her also hooked me - she doesn't reveal anything about herself, letting the reader see bits and pieces, like little flashes from a surreal dream, every now and then. She has an ex-boyfriend who stalks her. She has a best friend who seems like an awesome person to know. She's an art student, who fills up her sketchbooks with what others think are fantasy drawings, except that they're not. Because she was raised by chimaera, human-animal hybrids from another world - creatures that we would probably call monsters.
This novel is dark, and the premise is interesting. The introduction to Karou's life takes up the first 80 pages or so, and it hooked me. I wouldn't have minded if the story was just about her, and Brimstone the wish-monger (who raised her), and the workshop. I wouldn't have minded if the story went deeper into her childhood, and what it was like being raised by the chimaera. But at the heart of it, Daughter of Smoke and Bone is a teen paranormal romance, and that's where it temporarily lost me.
I'm not really a genre snob - at least, I try not to be. I actually like romance novels, and have even read and enjoyed the Twilight saga, despite being seriously disturbed about the whole stalker/pedophilia thing. But I'm oh so tired of stories about "true love" and "soul mates", okay. And this is exactly that kind of romance novel. Enter Akiva, who besides being an Angel and Karou's "one true love", I don't really find at all fascinating. He's a typical dark, broody hero type, and here's the catch - the Angels and the chimaera (demons) are at war. They always had been. Which pretty much makes Karou the enemy. Still, because of reasons unknown, he can't seem to kill her, and then she can't seem to kill him, and... yeah. Maybe it's not exactly Bella/Edward, but I definitely see a Buffy/Angel thing going on here.
Still, I loved this book. I liked Karou that much - that I continued reading through it even after Akiva makes an appearance. And she's still an awesome heroine, to me. And I actually liked the way Laini Taylor dealt with the Angel/Demon mythology, very much. It made me almost forgive the whole "soulmate" thing; almost, because the fact that the love story takes up so much of the plot meant that I can't recommend it to everyone. Just the ones who wouldn't mind. ^^;
It still is one of my favourite reads of the year, probably, because it's an interesting dark fantasy, it's beautifully written, it's got a heroine I absolutely love, it's got excellent world-building, and it's really very hard to put down. BUT I really wish that impossibly beautiful characters would just stop falling in love at first sight (and maybe, uhm, not be impossibly beautiful? I mean I get that Akiva's an angel, but...) and it'd be nice if the ending's not such a cliffhanger, or if the second book is already coming out.
I gave this 4 stars out of 5 on GoodReads (^_^)
NOTE: Cross-posted in my blogspot, and the Kinokuniya KL Blog. Really I wanted to start writing in my blogspot again, which is why I wrote this, but I also didn't want to end up abandoning LJ (as I tend to do once I start on blogspot), so I'm cross-posting. And the Kino blog crosspost is because I haven't been updating it ever since we started the Kino Tumblr, so I figured, why not. ^^;