Jean-Paul’s Rating: 3/5 stars
“Daughter of Smoke and Bone” belongs firmly in the glutted young adult “teen doesn’t know who she is but discovers she is so much more” genre, but does a good job of distinguishing itself from the pack. Taylor does this by giving the main character a pretty weird life right from the get go. Taylor does a good job of giving her characters, both human and other, an exotic flavor while keeping them relatable at the same time.
The main character is Karou, a 17 year old with blue hair and tattoos living in Prague and going to art school by day and owning one of the coolest names of bookdom. By night, Karou is a messenger/gofer for an individual named Brimstone who lives in some sort of trans-dimensional space and collects teeth in exchange for wishes. Karou was raised from birth by Brimstone and his assistants who are all chimaera, animal/human hybrids of varying sorts. Karou keeps this portion of her life secret from her human friends, including her best friend Zuzana, a spunky, wisecracky, ball of energy who goes to school with her. Obviously, since this is a book they want you to read, Karou doesn’t keep her secret for long after it is revealed to Karou that seraphim have invaded Earth and that the seraphim and chimaera have been at war for thousands of years.
Taylor has built a very interesting world here and there is a lot of material that I wish she had covered, but was sadly left unexplored. This is especially true of the chimaera, of whom very little is explored. I would have loved to see some anthropological (chimaerapological?) diggings into their society. Perhaps this will be done in the next book. Yes, this is the first of a series. The whole chimaera vs seraphim war is intriguing and the bleeding of it into the human world and its impact therein is well thought out. The whole system of wishes is well thought out, having varying denominations like currency (scuppy, shing, lucknow, gavriel, and bruxis, from weakest to strongest). Imagine what you would have done as a teenager with almost unlimited scuppies, which can’t do much more than cause jock itch, and you have an idea of what happens to them in Karou’s hands.
My biggest problem with the book is that there are chapters and chapters dedicated to describing a relationship between the teenager Karou and a hundreds of years old angel named Akiva. First off, eww. Second, it’s not that the relationship was there which bothered me, but the superficiality of it. Everyone is just so beautiful. Karou, her ex Kazimir, Akiva, all the seraphim. And if that weren’t bad enough, much of the evil/betrayal portrayed in the novel is done by ugly people or people jealous of beauty. And before you simply accuse me of not liking romance, there is another romance story in this book that worked well and that I enjoyed. There is also a lot of heavy-handed foreshadowing which I rolled my eyes at, but in Taylor’s defense, delivers quite effectively even if it is the very end of the book. That the book just ended there was annoying as there was much left hanging and there was really no sense of accomplishment felt plot-wise.
Quibbles aside, this was a very enjoyable book to read and I’ve already started reading the next in the series. Given that Taylor most likely started right in on the second book, I don’t have hope that she received much feedback about the first and thus will continue to populate the second book with my quibbles, but that’s ok. I just have to remind myself that this is young adult fiction and not meant for masterpiece theater, though they are working on a film adaptation of the first book as we speak.