I would like to start off this review by saying that I really didn't want to read this book. The people who decided on the back of the book description did a crappy job explaining this story in an interesting way. Now that I have read it, the back looks good, but from a fresh perspective, it fell flat. If it weren't a Vine book, given to me for free, I would have never picked it out among the thousands of books out there. I am so glad I gave it a try.
This complex story is about a girl who has no idea of who she really is. Her life has been filled with creatures that would cause terror to most but have been family to her. Karou is a strong, talented seventeen year old who helps her "family" of demon like characters collect teeth. The teeth have a use, but Karou has never found out what exactly. She just goes to designated sights through portal doors to collect the teeth and then goes back to her private art school and her one friend. Her lonely life is interrupted by the sight of an angel who is trying to put a stop to the teeth trade and the creatures who traffic them. Even though he should destroy Karou ,he can not bring himself to kill her due to her similarities to his long lost love. What follows is an intriguing tale of forbidden love in a lush, imaginative world.
I know, I know, collecting teeth sounds so...weird. I promise that the author pulls this off and then some. I struggled with what to say without giving too much away, but I wanted to tell more than the back cover. Karou is an interesting heroine who is beautiful, exotic, and real all at the same time. The world building is really the star of this novel. Everything is different than anything I have read. Yes, it has angels in it, but the author still makes everything fresh.
On a different note, I would not recommend this book to younger teens. Not only is it a little more complex, there is sex and sexual situations. I would say sixteen and up as an absolute minimum in age requirement. As an adult, this is one of those YA books that transfers just fine.
Overall, I really liked this book, and I will be looking for the sequel to help ease the cliffhanger ending.
on August 25, 2011
Karou is a 17-year old art student. She lives in Prague, paints and goes to school. She is trying to get over her good-for-nothing ex-boyfriend. But there is an air of mystery about Karou. She knows magic. She has a secret life. Karou is an orphan who was raised lovingly by a foursome of demonic creatures. She occasionally runs strange errands for them; and on one of the trips she is confronted by an angelic-looking Akiva who attempts to kill her.
What happens next is best described by the book's own first lines:
Once upon a time,
an angel and a devil fell in love.
It did not end well.
There is nothing cliche about this story, trust me. Laini Taylor is a writer with talent and extraordinary imagination. What I loved the most about "Daughter of Smoke and Bone" was the world behind it. We all have read our measure of angel books and you will probably agree with me that the portrayal of angels in them rarely goes beyond wings, sexiness and some dark secret behind the "fall." But what if angels and demons are not what is traditionally/biblically accepted? What if you could get into the midst of their world, learn about their cultures, gain knowledge about their centuries-long war? What if the love between an angel and demon is forbidden and a taboo (maybe even by human standards)? Would you like to read about that? I bet you would.
"Lips Touch: Three Times" is one of my most favorite books ever. If you liked those stories, I doubt "Daughter of Smoke and Bone" will disappoint you. This novel is equally dark, sensual, unsettling and a little twisted. The imagery is stunning. The language is beautiful, every word matters (there were a couple of slips into overwritten, I must say, but only a couple). And the love... well, it pushes boundaries, it transcends time and space.
Too bad the cover doesn't do this fantastic book justice...
on October 15, 2011
This is a Gothic urban fantasy, dark and stunningly written. Laini Taylor weaves words together beautifully and she crafts narratives so that you are completely pulled into her world, hopelessly captivated. You simply devour her words. She is gifted and has given us ample proof that stories labeled as Young Adult can easily appeal to adults. Due to very mature themes, this story is not for children and I would recommend that only teens 16 and older read it.
This is a story about a girl named Karou living two vastly different lives in two vastly different worlds. The joy of this story is discovering Karou and her role in the other-world known simply as "Elsewhere." I was mesmerized by Elsewhere and the fascinating descriptions of its inhabitants and I was completely smitten with the black market concept of trading teeth in exchange for wishes of varying degrees of potency. The teeth are a source of great intrigue and the author does not disappoint when their purpose is revealed. That's where the real story begins. Overall, I was satisfied with her characterizations, though I think the male protagonist, Akiva, needs further development. Since the author utilized a dual perspective, she could have easily developed Akiva more fully. But she didn't and I'm really not sure why. That is the power of that perspective. However, she does a fantastic job bringing secondary characters to life. I was also very pleased with the complexity of motivations. The opposing forces are not solely good or evil, but a fine shade of gray, multifaceted. The premise is imaginative and the possibilities are endless.
But then a superficial romance is thrown into the mix, confusing my impression of this seemingly carefully crafted tale. Don't get me wrong, I love a good romance, but this one - putting it kindly - falls flat. In fact, it felt careless, something I wouldn't have expected of this author who seems so deliberate. Simply put, this was yet another example of lust equated with love, a misguided element for fiction aimed at young adults. Though the quick attachment between Karou and Akiva is explained, the prerequisite still falls short and does the disservice of disconnecting the reader from the protagonist. The plot twist introduced (the aforementioned prerequisite) made it difficult to relate to Karou from that point forward. I felt like I didn't know her anymore. Needless to say, sexual attractiveness does not necessitate love and this is where the romance (which takes up a good portion of the latter half of the book) sidelined me. I needed more to buy it.
It is overall a good story and I hope the sequel will focus on the conflict between the opposing forces, which is the most compelling part of the plot. 3-3.5 stars
on December 28, 2011
Pow. Pow. Pow. That's me shooting holes in this book in frustration and disappointment. There is nothing worse than an entertaining, well-written, interesting story that goes SPLAT half-way through.
And that's what happened here. The first 50% is wonderful. It's the tale of Karou - a seventeen-year-old art student in Prague who moonlights traveling the world though magic portals to collect teeth (human/animal/reptile/etc.). Karou and her friends (in Prague and inside the magic portals) are unique and fun. I really liked her and them. I loved the central mystery of the story - who is Karou (she doesn't know herself) and what happens to the teeth after she collects them (she doesn't know this either).
Add to that an arch-enemy who is marking all the magic portals for unknown reasons and trying to kill her. She comes up with a plan (an interesting, scary, fun plan) that I assumed was going to drive the rest of the plot.
That's the first 50%. Like I said, it's great. 4.5 stars great (I was evening thinking I might round up to 5 stars). And it's well written. The author has a great way with words. Her metaphors are beautiful and more than once I stopped to reread something because it was just so well said (How often do I say that about a novel? Almost never!)
Second half of the book. Spoiler Alert: I won't talk about plot details, but I am going to discuss the story structure.
The immediate action completely stops. The second half of the book is backstory as Karou and her new-found love interest discuss (shown in lots and lots and lots and lots of flashbacks) the answers to the story questions and kiss each other. Occasionally they change locations and there's one battle, but that's maybe 5% of the pages. Really... It's all backstory (and backstory and backstory and backstory - 200 some odd pages of it) and lovey-dovey moments and more lovey-dovey moments.
(The problem with backstory is that I already know the outcome. Thus the backstory is all immensely boring with no tension or suspense. I would have preferred it all to have been summed up in ONE flashback so that the plot could move forward in the present time.)
It was awful (but still well-written awful). I never liked her love interest. His personality never seemed to mesh with his history and their `romance' was based more on magic than any real connection between them (or at least I never felt it). I was also annoyed that EVERY single character was stunningly beautiful (well almost, there were a few old people and a few envious young people). Karou and her love interest became Mary Sues of the worst kind - too, too perfect in every aspect of themselves, including their lack of awareness of their own beauty.
Still, I held on thinking that eventually we'd get back to Karou's plan and the more interesting stuff. At the 80% mark, I was down to 3.5 stars but still hopeful of a good ending.
There was no good ending. The flashbacks and kissing continued until I turned the page and the next chapter said, `Epilogue.'
No black moment. No climax. No fulfillment of the promises (aka the plan) made earlier in the book. And the last line of the entire tale? (This would be where I went hunting for bullets) `To Be Continued...'
Now don't get me wrong. I'm all for series (I LOVE series!). But each book needs to have a complete story of its own - A Three-Act Play (stealing the format for movies) of its own. This book does not. If anything it feels like set-up for a story that's going to take place in books down the road (books I will not bother to read, thank you very much).
One more thing... There are places in the book (and not the entire thing, just certain chapters, it seemed) where the author goes hog-wild with colons: She overuses them. There are paragraphs that have three, four colons: It's distracting, annoying, and pretentious. What makes it even worse is that the author isn't even using this form of punctuation correctly. How this ever made it past an editor, I have no idea.
on December 19, 2011
I have to say that this book vastly intruiged me. The synopsis drew me in as did the cover. Lots of hype. I couldn't resist the pull of an unfamiliar new book. I also had high expectations which were and weren't all fulfilled.
Let me get out all the highpoints first (there are a lot):
Premise: COMPLETLEY ORIGINAL. I had never even heard of the mythology the book was based on. The teeth collecting bit was weird, but it worked.
Location: Incredible, setting this book Europe gave it that unfamiliar and exotic edge it wouldn't have otherwise, not to mention that she travels to many other countries throughout the book.
Characters: I loved Karou's best friend Zuzanna. She was a savvy, smart chick with just as much SPUNK as I've ever seen (she made marionettes). I also fell in love with Karou, though it took me some time, her blue hair and tattoos were unique. Being an artist myself made her a more interesting person for me to read about. She and I also share the same dream of being able to fly. I have to say that my favorite character might have been Kaz, Karou's ex-boyfriend. His I'm-so-sexy-don't-you-want-me-back attitude made me laugh, as did his rash problems (don't ask if you haven't read it).
The monsters of course: Her gaurdians all had their own personal touch on the story that made it even more familiar (I escpecially loved Brimstone).
Writing: Gorgeous writing style; her descriptions are fantastic, dreamy and poetic. I was sad this book couldn't run on that alone.
I also have a favorite scene, the one where Zuzanna puts on a giant pupppet show for her school project. From the descrpiption of her doll makeup and dress, to her clumsy then graceful performance, this scene made me want to curl up under the covers with a mug of tea.
Enter practicaly perfect in every way, reserved, gorgeous, emotionally scarred, and not to mention forbidden lover, "Akiva". I took one long look at his description and new that it was going to be a LONG rest of the book. They really do have an outside connection, but I didn't appreciate the whole "I just met you but I know we're destined to be together" attitude they had going on. The least the author could've done was make him a little less beautiful. He was so sad all the time that I really just got annoyed instead of being sympathetic about his losses.
I might tune in for the next one. Don't get me wrong, I REALLY wanted to like this book, it just didn't work for me the way I thougt it would.
Read it if you don't mind insta-romance. You may find you like it more than I did.
on February 5, 2012
The first half of the book is fast paced, creative, and extremely exciting. All of a sudden it turns into a sappy, slow paced annoying love story. Then it just ends. Just because an author plans on writing a sequel does not excuse only telling half of the story.
on November 1, 2011
Everything started out perfect, the gorgeous cover, beautiful writing that captured the imagination, a unique world with quirky and fascinating characters, an incredible background setting, and a story that I was able to sink comfortably into and lose myself for a while. Unfortunately, this only lasted about halfway through the book.
The story takes place mostly in Prague and we follow Karou as she travels through otherworldly portals to run errands throughout the world for Brimstone, the chimera, who despite his monstrous appearance had raised Karou from infancy and he, along with Issa and her serpents, are the only family she knows. Brimstone is a collector of teeth, both human and beast, and the traders that bring him these teeth are paid with wishes. The strength of the wishes are dependent on the value of the teeth. I found this to be such an intriguing concept and I couldn't wait to learn the details of what the teeth were used for and how he acquired the wishes. I was quickly swept up in this unusual world that the author created with such vividly expressive writing.
On one of her errands for Brimstone, Karou finds herself directly in the path of the angel, Akiva. These angels are the sworn enemies of the chimera and have been at war with them for hundreds of years. Akiva is torn by his urge to attack Karou and at the same time protect her. It turns out, Akiva is haunted by the memory of Madrigal, who at one point had almost made him believe things could be different and Karou reminds him of this lost love.
While I was so deeply engrossed in the first half of this book, by the time Akiva was introduced and the story began discussing his history with Madrigal, I had slowly begun to lose interest. The writing was still wonderful, but for some reason, the author took the plot in a direction that didn't at all work for me. I'm not sure why, but it seemed as if by introducing the plot twist, it took something significant from the story, and I was no longer engaged in it. I didn't hate it, it was actually worse than hating it, by the end, I no longer even cared about what happened. I ended up just feeling kind of bleh about the whole thing. I wondered at one point if the author sacrificed a more interesting plot direction to focus on the "tragic romance" aspect.
I know that I am one of the very few that did not absolutely love Daughter of Smoke and Bone, I will say that I WANTED to love it, I started out loving it, but something happened on the way to Heaven, so to speak. I am still rating it a three for the quality of the writing and some of the wonderful characters and the amazing first half.
on May 1, 2013
Thank goodness, I got this from the library as an audiobook. Unfortunately, I was stuck in the car for 9 hours with only this book.
The description should read: Karou is a young human with almost superman types of abilities thanks to her chimaera friends. You will learn who Karou really is through an extremely long flashback which comprises half the book. The story will come back to present day briefly only to end with the words "to be continued".
This was written as a serial novel. Kindle has serial novels. You pay ONE price ONE time for the kindle serial novel. You are not required to pay 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6 times to get your complete story. A series is several complete stories. The keyword is complete. The description does not explain this is a series or even a serial novel, because who would buy a book that says "this story is not complete"? NO ONE. Please buy book 2 in one year, and maybe I will finish the story then.
When a story is incomplete, it is very difficult to review. Many books suffer from premature bookalation. They start out great, but they end in a way that leaves me unsatisfied and disappointed. Two stars are automatically removed for the incomplete story, since I have no idea whether it will be a good book or not.
The story started out really well. Karou, who is obviously more than human, has a family of monsters. It is her secret life that no one knows about. She lives the life of a normal girl, but secretly, she collects teeth to make into magical wishes for her monster family.
Karou notices handprints being burned onto the portals that she uses to reach her monster family. And soon her life changes because of the handprints. About this time she meets an angel, who does evil things, but she is oddly attracted to him.
And this is where the story falls apart for me. The angel does bad things, but I am attracted to him. What? The angel's people enslaved and tortured my people, but I have the hots for him. I am always flabbergasted by these types of storylines. He murdered my family, burned my home, enslaved my people...I gotta get into that boy's pants, because he looked so HOT while he did these things. The excuse is...we tortured and were going to kill him. Let us keep in mind that the chimaera had been enslaved and tortured for years, and when they escaped their bonds, the angels continued to pursue and kill them. Obviously, this angel is different now that he is in love, but when Karou was killed for her betrayal of her people (her people just did not understand the love that changed everything), the angel came back nastier and meaner than any angel before him to slaughter her people. The writing is on the wall that he will eventually be excused for this behavior.
Truly, I also do not understand the new popularity in making the angels of the Bible into evil entities. (ALL OF THEM ARE EVIL.) I just don't get it. I'm just grateful that God wasn't turned into an evil overseer.
Ooh and the long, boring flashback into Karou's previous life really should have been condensed. The flashback could have been done in 5 pages, which would have been more than sufficient. Half the book was way too much. It was a second story completely contained in another story. The action was limited to the beginning and the end. The good story was contained in the beginning and the end. Another two stars is removed for the horrible, long flashback.
While this story was well written and parts were interesting, the filler was horrible and boring. It made it a tedious story to read.
on December 20, 2011
I had been waiting for what seemed like forever to read this book. The reviews were, for the most part, raving. Overall, my final impression was that there was a lot lacking in this book in terms of depth.
What I did like about the book:
-Taylor writes beautifully. It's very flowing and elegant. This is something that does appear to be lacking in a lot of young adult books, especially the paranormal romances. Great story, but very elementary mastery of the English language. Now, I wouldn't nominate DOSAB for a Pulitzer, but it's a step-up.
-Karou. She's strong, courageous, imaginative. Totally different from anyone I've encountered yet. She has blue hair. She travels the world on these mysterious jobs. She's an amazing artist. She's incredibly witty. She is loyal to her family, even when her foster father has been kind of cold and cruel.
-Zuzana, Karou's best friend. She had me laughing so hard when she started talking about improving the gene pool/mating with Akiva. Zuzana and Karou are a great, great team.
-The world that Taylor's built with seraphim and chimaera, all against the backdrop of modern Prague and Marrakech. It kind of reminded me of His Dark Materials in a way. Admittedly, it made me very curious as to where she's going with this whole series.
What I didn't like (SPOILERS):
-The Akiva/Karou romance. I guess I prefer a slow build-up, but the first 100 or so pages, there's barely any interaction between the two, except the token "protagonist male nearly kills protagonist female" that you find in most of these books. Then, over the course of the next few months, everything just softens into this big, huge, majorly rushed romance. There was no tension. It was like going from point A to point Z with no alphabet in between and as another reviewer said, then you get this other romance thrown in too.
-Again, there's a great epic story underneath all of this. I think that the romance could have worked. Going back to His Dark Materials. The romance wasn't the focal point of that book. In fact, it was barely there, but while this huge story was unfolding, the characters really got to know one another, learn about who they were, and how their individual roles meant something in the grand scheme. It was almost like Taylor wanted to throw in enough cliched bait (i.e. the paranormal romance, the girl who doesn't know who she is and needs a majorly hot, otherworldly guy to help her) to hook her readers, so they'd buy the second book. Ugh...It's just unfortunate because there's a lot of great stuff in here, but a lot of design flaws.
-Finally, Akiva. The only thing that came to mind when encountering him LATER in the book (as in after his anger, bad boy stunt), was that he was kind of dim-witted and hot. Like a male model from "Zoolander." And that got boring...fast.
Will I read the second book? Absolutely. I want to know if it gets better and if some of "the great" is salvaged by a truly wonderful writer. I still have hope. Lots of books have started off rocky and done well as the series progresses! I give this 3.5 stars.
on September 29, 2012
Disclaimer: This review is based solely on my personal opinion and limited knowledge. As a human being, I am far from perfect, so please feel free to make comments and suggestions. I tried to keep this review as spoiler-free as possible, but certain plot details can't be avoided in a detailed book discussion. But don't worry, I'm not giving away the ending.
The story begins in Prague, where we are introduced to Karou, a 17-year-old art student and part-time hunter. She doesn't hunt for animals or treasures, however. She hunts for teeth. More precisely, the teeth of all living things that dwell on this earth. This includes dealing with criminals, grave robbers and poachers, much to her dismay. Karou delivers the teeth to Brimstone, a Chimaera living in a shop inbetween our world and an unknown supernatural world. Brimstone and his employees like Issa, the snake-lady and Kishmish, the bat-raven, are the only family Karou has ever known.
Brimstone's shop can be accessed through secret doors in all major cities of the world. Normal people would just see a regular room behind these doors, but when Karou knocks on them, Issa opens the door from within and leads her to Brimstone's shop. All teeth Karou delivers are strung on necklaces and stored in countless jars. Her reward isn't money, but wishes, sometimes smaller, sometimes stronger ones. But no matter how often she asks Brimstone about his work, he simply refuses to tell her what the teeth are for and how he gets all these wishes. Karou doesn't even know where she comes from, who her real parents are and why she has grown up in Brimstone's shop. But in the course of the story, she finds bits and pieces of information that help her solve the mystery of her existence.
Until this point, I really liked the innovative plot and setting, as well as Laini Taylor's creative vocabulary and fluent writing style. In brief, I was hooked and expecting a great adventure. However, as soon as an irresistible male lead was introduced, everything went downhill. I felt like I was reading an original work written by a passionate Twilight fan. Although, to be fair, the reincarnation theme of "The Vampire Diaries" was also included. We even have an equivalent to "So the lion fell in love with a lamb.", which is "Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love. It did not end well." This quote, unfortunately, is placed at the very beginning of the book and basically gives away the whole plot. Don't expect any surprises and prepare to get annoyed, because you will have figured out the backstory about 200 pages before it is finally revealed to the protagonist.
The protagonist Karou ("hope" in Chimaera) is portrayed as a strong and independent young woman in the beginning. But unfortunately, this positive image is quickly replaced by descriptions of her exceptional beauty, likability and talents, thanks to which she attracts friends and admirers wherever she goes. But as soon as she falls in love with the male lead, she turns into a sad caricature of a damsel in distress, no matter how much she stresses she doesn't want to be. Ah well, at least she didn't lose her virginity to a real vampire. She lost it to a fake one.
Akiva, Karou's love interest, is first portrayed as a cold, emotionless Seraphim soldier who tries to kill Karou. But he suddenly realizes that there is something special and familiar about her. His character quickly changes to that of a love-struck Edward, who resists the temptation to spill the female protagonist's blood. However, he can't resist "the pull", just like Karou, who can't keep herself from touching this beautiful being. And the author wants us to know that he's beautiful, because she devotes as many pages to the description of his angelic features as Stephenie Meyer devotes to the comparison of Edward and a Roman statue.
Brimstone, Issa, Kishmish and the other members of Karou's Chimaera family were the only characters that I actually liked, although they played a comparatively small role. Later in the book, the short flashback scenes with these characters were the only thing that kept me reading. I don't think it's a good sign when a female reader can identify more with a group of monsters than with the female lead. (No, I am not referring to my mental state.)
THE CULTURAL AND HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
What disappointed me even more than the actual plot were the cultural and geographical references. People who have actually spent some time in Prague, Marrakesh or Paris will notice that Laini Taylor's beautiful descriptions are nothing but the typical clichés found in tourist guides and far from reality. I'm sorry to use such harsh words, but people like Laini Taylor are the reason why the stereotype about self-centered, close-minded and uneducated Americans even exists. Not just because she didn't research the locations of her novel properly, but because she is clearly misinformed about other cultures and relies on stereotypes and prejudices instead. A few examples:
- Karou was trained in martial arts in Hongkong. By a SENSEI. I'm not sure if Laini Taylor just thinks that all people in East Asia speak the same language or if she actually believes that Hongkong is part of Japan.
- The name of the supernatural world is "Eretz", which according to the author means "earth" (in the sense of "world") in Hebrew. She probably used one of those crappy online dictionaries for that. Unfortunately, this term has a much deeper meaning and is used in a different context in (Biblical) Hebrew.
- The language of the Chimaera is described as guttural, with lots of fricatives (e.g. s, f, th, etc.). But Laini Taylor feels the need to add that even German and Hebrew sound melodious in comparison. Apparently, the author didn't bother to count the fricatives in English, German and Hebrew, or she would have come to another conclusion. But apart from that, it is simply outrageous to make such a statement about other languages, because melody (like beauty) is in the eye of the beholder. How other languages sound to you depends on your mother tongue and the amount of time you were exposed to foreign languages. Karou's native language is Chimaera, plus about 20 other languages she acquired by magic. Which means that she would never judge German or Hebrew as not melodious. This is clearly the author speaking here.
- The author constantly mentions the war crimes committed by the Nazis in Prague during WW II. And her poor heroine is annoyed by "a horde of German tourists" with "sensible shoes". In combination with her pejorative statement about the German language I can't help but wonder if Laini Taylor has issues with German(s) in general. I have to admit that it's certainly valid to compare the events in Eretz to WW I+II and the crimes committed by the Nazis are among the most atrocious in human history. But it is the only comparison the author draws and she even goes as far as stating that the invaders are always the bad guys. Funnily, she never mentions certain events in recent American history...
I can't recommend this book to anyone who expects an original plot based on proper research. This book is clearly aimed at young girls who can identify with the female protagonist and dream of an angel/vampire/knight in shining armor who comes to rescue them from the harsh reality of highschool and puberty. So if you enjoyed this book, that's perfectly fine, because everyone needs an escape from reality sometimes. But don't forget to put your books away occasionally, because they can't replace real friends and real love. Unfortunately, you will have to work for those.