Daughter of Smoke and Bone was a critically acclaimed Young Adult hit for 2011 and I can completely understand why. Author Laini Taylor drops the reader into this wonderful mystery and does not stop. The story, a unique supernatural story, is one of a girl who lives between two Earths. In one Earth there are the humans – the world we know, and the other, made up of Chimera and Angels. Karou is a 17-year-old art student who moves between the two worlds. She was raised by a Chimera named Brimstone and now runs errands for him collecting teeth.
In an teeth-collection-meeting gone wrong, Karou encounters Akiva, an Angel, and thus their story begins. The two have a strange attraction to each other that they cannot understand. Karou is fearful of Akiva, understandable since he tried to kill her, and Akiva wants to understand why he, one so used to killing, stayed his hand in his fight with her. The two create a tentative peace in order to solve their mutual mystery, which leads up to a magnificent twist.
Though the twist is telegraphed and the smart reader figures it out before the main character does, the reveal and what Taylor does with the information, is crafted wonderfully. This is what made me fall in love with the book. I’m one of those readers who, if I figure out the mystery or the twist early, I tend to stop reading the book. Not with Daughter of Smoke and Bone. When I understood the twist before the characters, I kept reading because I wanted to know how Karou and Akiva would react to learning why they are so drawn to each other.
When Akiva learns the truth, I felt his pain and his joy. It’s at this point that Taylor further shakes up the story by going into their past. It is a special talent indeed when a writer can leave the main narrative and give flashback for a significant amount of time without slowing down the plot.
It is during this second half of the novel that the deeper, complex world that Karou inhabits with Chimera is revealed. The reader has the same questions Karou has about Brimstone and the rest of her Chimera family, but Taylor purposefully leaves the reader in the dark. The truth, so much more complex and unique than I expected, exhibits the realness of this other world and Taylor’s talent. She creates a detailed world with it’s own rules, cultures, and landscapes that it truly seems as if it is a “parallel” world to our own. The detail that Taylor put into making her world, even her detail in the human setting of Prague, shows her skill as a creator of great imagination.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone stands out as a YA supernatural fantasy in a genre over-populated with teen girl/supernatural being stories because of the unique twists and turns Taylor takes the reader on. It is an extremely original story that has true depth and meaning. The themes of identity, family and war are laced within a complex story that moves the reader – and evokes deep consideration of really questioning reality and what we believe to be true. It is a book that will last long after the YA fantasy trend fades and will have readers returning to again and again.