Title: Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Paperback: 418 pages
Publication Date: 05/07/2012
Being a teenager is tough. Or at least it is for seventeen-year-old Karou, as she struggles to keep her two lives balanced. On the one hand, she’s a bohemian art student in Prague – one with ultramarine hair and a proclivity for tattoos. On the other, she is the errand girl for the enigmatic Brimstone – a chimaera who brought Karou up and is the closest thing that she has to family – and must trade teeth for wishes across the world for reasons that Brimstone refuses to reveal to her.
Raised part in our world and part in Elsewhere, Karou is plagued by questions. Why does Brimstone need the teeth? And what does he do with them? And how did Karou come into his keeping? And why is she plagued by the feeling that she is not whole?
So when the doors to Elsewhere mysteriously start to close Karou must choose between her human life and the demon family who brought her up.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone is a book of rare beauty, and one filled with invention and richly textured landscapes and characters. In it, angels and devils do battle, there’s star-crossed lovers and mystery and humour and pathos and gothically macabre moments. It is a wildly imaginative novel, one that resist cliches and has, at its heart, in the form of Karou, a strong, funny and wilful heroine who keeps the reader caring – but is also vulnerable and, at times, quite a lonely and isolated figure. From the first glitter of her thoughts I found myself drawn to her, and she does dominate the book with her unique brilliance.
Part Pan’s Labyrinth, part Angela Carter, part Hieronymus Bosch painting, and with a dose of Romeo & Juliet to keep the bittersweet romance simmering along, this is the sort of novel that I am naturally drawn to. Gritty and fantastical in equal measures, I have always loved the magical and supernatural, which Daughter of Smoke and Bone delivers in spades. With clever twists and elegant, vivid prose, this novel is a veritable treasure-chest of delights, that elegantly and seamlessly delivers its revelations. Taylor’s prose is exquisite. It is whimsical and delightful, playful and wistful by turn and kept me enthralled from first page to last. I just can’t emphasise enough how beautiful it made this book to read and quite how much it added to the experience.
And it is also, when it needs to be, dark and tragic – especially in terms of the romance between Karou and warrior Seraphim Akiva, which in a lesser novelwould be one of sugarcoated perfection. But this is not a lesser novel. And when conflict does arise between Karou and Akiva, it is not sugarcoated; it is not sanitized. It’s tragic, and it’s real and it breaks your heart.
Indeed, the full extent of this conflict only reveals itself at the very climax of the novel, in a twist that will knock the breath out of you and recast all the book’s previous events in a new light. The most crucial event in the story actually occurs pretty early in the page count, but it’s only later that you learn what actually happened and what it means.