DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE and DAYS OF BLOOD AND STARLIGHT
RATING: The first two books of the trilogy rate 5 stars.
This new series is one of my current favourites and I can’t believe I hadn’t ripped into it immediately as I got my hands on the first book. (It took me a few months to turn the first page; then again I had no idea what I was missing.) Once I started reading I swallowed both books in about 2 days and a half. Now I’m eagerly awaiting the third instalment that is scheduled to be released in spring 2014.
As soon as we read the opening line, we know we’re in for a treat:
The story starts in modern day Prague with a mysterious art student named Karou. She is something special, something unique – she’s got blue hair (not coloured!), interesting tattoos, an ability to speak several languages fluently, and she feels very much alone. She spends her time drawing into sketchbooks, capturing the likeness of her mysterious and fantastical ‘family’. Everyone believes these creatures to be a product of her imagination, but these beings are real and she does errands for them from time to time. She travels around the world through mysterious doors, collecting packages containing teeth – all kinds of teeth from human to animal ones. In return she gets wishes, hence her unusual hair. Sounds intriguing? You bet, and that is only the tip of the iceberg.
The images Laini Taylor conjures, the characters, the landscapes and buildings, cities, the conflicts and the thin veil obscuring them form the world of the people, the tone of her writing; all this will lure you into a magical tale you’ll probably never find a substitute for. There are layers upon layers, strands carefully woven into a tapestry so rich and mesmerising you’ll have a hard time not wishing to return to it time and time again. I guess that is why it’s one of my favourites. And while the second book is far darker than the first one, there’s still enough of the magic of the first one to have you hoping for a happy ending. Her humour is quite entertaining and witty, so even though everyone is having a hard time, you can bet someone would say something to crack you up.
You’ll love the characters, really. I’ll name just a few.
We have the protagonists: angel soldier Akiva with fiery wings and dark hair, the mysterious girl Karou, and graceful chimaera Madrigal. They are intertwined together by both love and hate.
I don’t wish to spoil the story for you, so I’ll refrain from a more in-depth description of their histories and fates. Let’s just say that you’ve never seen more damaged and un-angel like angels by the time you’ve read the two books, and more interesting, warm, and humane monsters. This twist really makes you feel for them – both the angel soldiers (even though they are kind of bastards in this story) and the demon like chimaera.
“Do monsters make war, or does war make monsters?”
My favourite is Brimstone – a horned giant of a chimaera and Karou’s father figure, who gives us some of the best lines of the first book. His monstrous body couldn’t have been a greater contrast to his gentle nature. He’s got the biggest influence on Karou and I think she’s a better person for it. There’s always a deep sense of sadness and pain around him, and we learn why soon enough. Even the deals he makes with people in exchange for their teeth don’t appear to be worth the sacrifices.
Let his work no fool you – he’s got a wicked sense of humour. I still snicker at the advice he gave Karou once:
“I don’t know many rules to live by,” he’d said. “But here’s one. It’s simple. Don’t put anything unnecessary into yourself. No poisons or chemicals, no fumes or smoke or alcohol, no sharp objects, no inessential needles–drug or tattoo–and…no inessential penises either.”
“Inessential penises?” Karou had repeated, delighted with the phrase in spite of her grief. “Is there any such thing as an essential one?”
“When an essential one comes along, you’ll know,” he’d replied.
Another member of the mysterious Brimstone’s workshop is Issa. She is a snake woman and the protector of the threshold – a force to be reckoned with what with her snakes and fangs – but with Karou she is infinitely gentle and motherly. I really like her and I hope to see more of her in the future, the same goes for the chimaera Zigi of the second book.
The next character I like is angel Hazael – a half-brother of Akiva and his friend. He’s the one who keeps Akiva together after he’s been dealt one too many blows. I really like him and the close bond he has with his sister Liraz. He’s also the one to keep up the morale with some choice words.
“As long as you’re alive, there’s always a chance things will get better.”
“Or worse,” said Liraz.
“Yes,” he conceded. “Usually worse.”
Hazael cut in. “My sister, Sunshine, and my brother, Light. You two should rally the ranks. You’ll have us killing ourselves by morning.”
The angels have some of the meanest and cruel villains in the series. I can assure you you’ll be feeling quite bloodthirsty by the time you get to know them better, but the lower ranks and servants in the cities will have your deepest sympathy. All I can say is – you don’t want to be on the side of the angels here.
What about humans, you’ll ask. Although the story starts in our world, the majority of the conflicts takes place in Eretz – a separate dimension. The war is slowly bleeding through to our side. I guess the third book will have the highest level of interconnectedness.
There are two human friends of Karou’s who manage to get involved with the dangerous world of chimaera; Zuzana and Mark. They are quite competent, but unfortunately that is not enough for them to be safe. Chimaera and angels don’t particularly care for humans. Their love story is almost nauseatingly sweet and such a contrast to the mess of Karou and Akiva. They are a nice addition, but their tale has less of an impact than the war in Eretz.
The love story between the angel and chimaera is beautiful, and heartbreaking, and fantastic, and even surprisingly grounded. Their love ultimately makes them grow into better people and makes them strive for a better world, but the world does not agree. That is why it is so heartbreaking:
“It was brave,” countered Issa. “It was rare. It was love, and it was beautiful.”
Akiva respects the boundaries Karou places between them when they begin to fall in love so quickly (and isn’t this kind of surprising in usual romance novels where the hero would stalk, abuse or intimidate the heroine?). They don’t lose themselves in the other person, as some couples tend to do, which is something I really liked. They click and appear to be a force of nature; you really root for them only for the past to come bite you in the backside…
I love the series – The Daughter of Smoke and Bone is a trilogy about lies and truth, love and duty, heartbreak, prejudices, hardships… a tale about hope when all is lost and pain is the only constant. I really urge you to read the book.
There’s already a movie in production – more info about it can be found at Laini Taylor’s blog.
Untagged images found on tumblr.