Author: Laini Taylor
Series: Daughter of Smoke and Bone #1
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Date: September 2011
Source: Review copy from publisher
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“Errand requiring immediate attention. Come.
The note was on vellum, pierced by the talons of the almost-crow that delivered it. Karou read the message. 'He never says please', she sighed, but she gathered up her things.
When Brimstone called, she always came.”
In general, Karou has managed to keep her two lives in balance. On the one hand, she's a seventeen-year-old art student in Prague; on the other, errand-girl to a monstrous creature who is the closest thing she has to family. Raised half in our world, half in 'Elsewhere', she has never understood Brimstone's dark work - buying teeth from hunters and murderers - nor how she came into his keeping. She is a secret even to herself, plagued by the sensation that she isn't whole.
Now the doors to Elsewhere are closing, and Karou must choose between the safety of her human life and the dangers of a war-ravaged world that may hold the answers she has always sought.
Once upon a time a blogger mysteriously received a book in the post. It ended really well.
That is a blanket thank you to the person at Hodder & Stroughton who sent me a copy of this book. I had bought it last autumn to read but in between moving houses it got stuck in a box, so this mysterious second copy gave me the motivation to start reading what I heard was the best YA book of last year. They weren’t wrong.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone is rare feat—a mind-blowingly epic story at the top of the scale of grandness, which also manages to imbue each little moment with as much beauty and detail. Karou is a seemingly normal, blue-haired art student in Prague (and what a gorgeous city the author makes it out to be). She keeps a sketchbook full of drawings of mystical half-human, half-animal beings, who her classmates believe are figments of her imagination. Little do they know the creatures are real, and Karou’s guardians and family.
Raised by Brimstone, the wishmonger, and a group of lovable chimaeras (most notably Issa) Karou gets sent on errands around the world to purchase teeth in exchange for wishes. She travels through Brimstone’s little workshop through doors from around the world, which then open up again anywhere she wants to go. It’s these fantastical touches that make this book so special. From the mystery surrounding what teeth is used for, to wish currency (from throwaway scuppies to once in a lifetime, pull your own teeth out bruxis), to Karou receiving languages as gifts. Everything is so well-realised and wonderfully detailed that it feels so normal yet extraordinary at the same time. The way Karou’s worlds intertwine is simply flawless.
I previously mentioned the scale of this book and what starts off as a lovely insight into Karou’s double life becomes an epic otherworldly adventure on the arrival of Akiva and the mysterious black hand-prints that appear on all of the doorways into Brimstone’s workshop. I don’t want to ruin it for anyone that hasn’t yet had the pleasure of reading it but you can look forward to a human marionette, a city domed by bars, warrior angels, diamond and teeth necklaces and a masked celebration.
The story was brought to life by Taylor’s simple but evocative writing, like a haunting fairy tale that one day you realised was reality. My heart was tugged in a million different directions because despite all the fantasy, at the core of the story were love and war and all the emotions they evoke. I urge you, if you haven’t read this wonderful book, please do.