Saturday, September 17, 2011

Review: The Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Lani Taylor.

What You Need to Know:  This urban fantasy is is an amazing, trope- twisting read, and one of my Best Books of 2011.

Summary:  Karou, a blue haired art student living in Prague, lives a double life. Most of the time, she lives like any other college kid, hanging with friends, dating and learning.  What her friends don't know is that Karou's family is a race of half-human/half-animal chimera, lead by Brimstone, a powerful wizard.  Brimstone grants wishes to humans who visit him, and receives payment in teeth.    She illustrates her family  in her sketchbook, capturing her strangely beautiful family in near lifelike detail.  Karou mostly keeps her two worlds separate, except when she is called to do errands by Brimstone. However, when strange hand-shaped burn marks appear on the portals to Brimstone's world, and angelic creatures appear all over the globe, Karou's life changes forever.

What Worked:  This book is amazing.  Beautiful descriptions of Prague, descriptions of a reasonably normal teenage life, and fantastic creatures and happenings work together beautifully to create a seamless, engaging narrative.

What amazed me most about this book is that it managed to surprise me.  Using familiar ideas -- a human raised by monsters, angels, star crossed lovers, a mystical war -- Taylor spun an unexpected and engrossing tale.  It's not my first time at the rodeo, so a fantasy book that brings something new, that keeps me guessing, gets high marks.  Also, this is one book where the romance felt organic and necessary.

Karou is a wonderful character:  funny, tough, talented.   However, she is not inhumanly perfect -- she makes mistakes, takes stupid risks, acts selfishly.   She's a refreshing change from the doormats and Mary Sues that populate teen fantasy romances.

What Didn't:  Honestly, not much.  Some of the supporting characters may be a little thin, but this book is about Karou, and that's where the focus stays.

However -- that cover is terrible -- yes, it makes sense in context, but it's generic and bland.

Who Would I Give this Book To?  Everybody.  Seriously.  There's enough rich world building here to keep fantasy fans interested, enough romance to captivate a Twihard, and the writing quality is strong enough to win over the most dedicated literary fiction fan.

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