I’ve been meaning to read this book for a while. When it was first released and the reviews started pouring out on blogs and Goodreads, the overwhelming majority that I read were very positive reviews. Needless to say, this book piqued my interest but I didn’t get around to reading it until now (an excuse I use for almost every book I read — “I didn’t get around to reading it …” Hah). I tried not to have my opinion of the book subconsciously swayed by the hype, though when it feels like EVERYONE loves this book, I feel pressure to love it too. Anyway, I definitely think this book is amazing, fun and creative, and I enjoyed it very much. I can totally understand why everyone loves it. I don’t think I love it quite as much as some other readers too, but I do think it is a very good book.
The story is about a young girl named Karou (pronounced ka-roo), who lives in Prague, alone in her own apartment, and attends an art school. She loves to draw and her friends love seeing the monsters she creates in her sketchbook. Little do her friends know, these monsters aren’t figments of Karou’s imagination; they are real. They are the monsters who raised Karou and Karou loves them as her own family.
Her “father figure” is Brimstone, who appears to be the leader of the four monsters. His life’s work is to collect teeth. All kinds of teeth, from humans to animals and even other fantastical creatures. Karou has no idea what Brimstone does with these bags and bags of teeth, she’s not allowed to ask. However, she runs errands for Brimstone and in return, he gives him small beads that allow her to make minor wishes, such as changing her hair colour to a natural blue, or giving her enemy caterpillar-bushy eyebrows.
When black handprints start appearing on doorways all over the world — the doorways to the world where the monsters reside — Karou’s world starts to change drastically. Suddenly, she loses all contact with Brimstone and the others and worse, she is being hunted by a beautiful but dangerous male angel named Akiva. However, little does Karou know, Akiva knows all about Karou’s true identity and how she is connected to him. Before she knows it, she and Akiva are embroiled in a forbidden love.
Before I say anything else, I want to make it clear that I did, indeed, fall in love with this book. I haven’t read a book this creative or imaginative since … well, it feels like a very long time. The best part of the creativity, for me, was the use of the teeth and wishes. I’m not going to spoil what Brimstone was using the teeth for, for those of you who don’t know, but I really liked that twist. Teeth! So simple, but so genius at the same time.
At its core, it’s still a pretty ‘common’ story. I would say the core of this novel is similar to the basic plot of Romeo & Juliet: two starcrossed lovers who cannot be together due to their affiliations. But in Daughter of Smoke & Bone, I feel Laini Taylor took that common story and re-imagined it on an epic grand scale, with angels and demons and an eternal war. The chronology of the story is also a bit different as well, telling the end first (although as the reader, you do not know it is the end) and then explaining the beginning, with how Karou and Akiva originally met and so on.
I really enjoyed the beginning of the book (or the ‘end’ of the story). I was totally loving being in Karou’s world, her art classes, her secret visits to Brimstone and her monster family, her annoying ex-boyfriend doing stupid stunts to try to win her back and all the little, and sometimes petty, wishes she made. Where the book began to falter, for me, was when the story shifted and began to tell the tale of how Karou and Akiva originally met. It was very removed from the setting I was already used to, and I was really not expecting that at all. I went from being on a slightly magical/paranormal Earth to a completely different world altogether, one where angels and monsters fought a war on a daily basis. New city names, new geography, new culture to know. The problem wasn’t the newness, it was just such a sudden shift for me that it almost felt like a disconnect between the first half of the book to the second half. The more I read, the more far away I felt from everything I read prior. It almost felt like a completely different story I was reading.
I wasn’t too crazy about was Karou and Akiva’s relationship either. It’s very sweet, but as I mentioned earlier, it is at its core, a Romeo & Juliet kind of story. Even though I praise the author for being so imaginative with it, the relationship is still as simplistic as what you think a Romeo & Juliet story would have. Their relationship is powerful, deep and passionate — and also quite instant. Even though Karou and Akiva started off as enemies, they very, very quickly put that all aside and, well, fell in love. I know, I know — you are thinking, “Uh, did you not READ the book? There is a reason!” I’m perfectly aware but I think even when Karou and Akiva met originally in Karou’s past life, it was still a lot of, “Wow, he’s so beautiful” and “Wow, she’s so beautiful”, with some “I saved your life” mixed in. I’m afraid I just didn’t feel the same fiery passion that these two character felt whenever they were with one another.
Now, with all that said, I did love reading this book a lot though. It was very fun and I became victim to the “just one more chapter” syndrome that all good books seem to be able to inflict on its readers. I liked Karou’s character a lot — not so much her “alter ego” (or rather, her original form) because that personality seemed way too Mary Sue for my liking. But I liked Karou and how she interacted with her human friends and her monster family. I loved the idea of a monster hidden in a little shop collecting teeth — don’t ask my why, but I’m very attached to that idea and this book did a very good job driving me crazy with wanting to know what the heck Brimstone was using the teeth for! You do get to find out in the end, no worries. The book also did a good job driving me crazy with who Karou was in her other life, but that one became somewhat predictable and therefore, less mysterious once Akiva entered the story and you see how they’re interacting.
I certainly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys YA novels, I do think this is one of the better YA novels I’ve read in the last little while. I eagerly look forward to book two: Days Of Blood & Starlight!