Sometimes on these reviews I feel like a broken record, especially lately. I have encountered so many wonderful books from BEA and now that I’m reviewing them, they are living up to the pre-conceived notions. But even in those lovely clusters of books there is one or two that are bound to stand out. This week, I’ve encountered one of those exceptional stories in Daughter of Smoke and bone by Laini Taylor.
When I listened to the editor of this book try to describe it, even she had a hard time putting into words what exactly this book was about. Even the blurb on the back barely begins to describe what this book is about: 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 otherworldly war.
Strange, right? I mean, teeth? But having read Laini Taylor’s Lips Touch, Three Times, which made her a finalist for the National Book Award, I knew I’d be in good hands when I opened this book.
Karou is a wildly talented, interestingly unique teen who is studying art at a school in Prague. Her life, despite some extremely unusual elements, overall is relatively normal, with a fun best friend and a crazy ex who won’t take a hint. Normal, except when Brimstone sends her on missions.
Brimstone is her father, for all intents and purposes. But though she is human, he is not. He is a Chimera, a creature with both human and animal parts, and the missions he sends her on is for teeth. She travels the world, stepping through Brimstone’s magical door that takes her to any destination, and she meets up with the scum of the earth, hunters and killers who are able to offer her what Brimfield needs. Why he needs teeth, he never tells her, but it is his unending life’s work, and she knows better than to question him (this of course learned the hard way over a lifetime).
Having a curious nature and never getting answers gets old for Karou, though, and before she can stop herself she starts looking deeper into the unusual elements of her life, and why things are so secretive. And when she encounters a man unlike any she’s ever known, one who brings her to the brink of death, she has to re-examine what everything really means.
First thing I noticed is that Taylor’s words simply sing. Her writing is so beautiful, so uniquely descriptive and almost haunting, that it is almost worth reading just to experience her wonderfully unique writing style. Lucky for readers, though, the story is as creative as the words that tell it. There was only one moment, one small moment when I panicked, worried that she was jumping on the common bandwagon. However, though there are familiar elements of the fantastical that are being almost over-done in today’s YA, Taylor’s voice and the way she tells the story makes it unique like nothing else I’ve read.
The story as well keeps the pages turning. At the beginning, things were almost confusing, as Taylor starts off as if the reader knows what’s happening. Though a bit hard to follow sometimes, it really made me intrigued more than anything to know what exactly she was talking about, and I had to keep reading. She also killed me with a cliffhanger ending. Book two is going to be even better, I have a feeling.
This book blew my mind, and really truly was unlike anything I’ve read before. The writing alone makes it well-worth the read, but the story is fantastic. I can’t wait to see where Laini Taylor takes the plot next!
Daughter of Smoke and Bone hit stores on September 27th, 2011.