Thursday, July 5, 2012

Daughter of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor: A blue ribbon for this blue-haired book

Daughter of Smoke and Bone
by Laini Taylor
Little Brown and Company: New York, 2011.
ISBN: 978-0-316-13402-6

     Karou knows she is no simple art school student.  With blue hair, fluency in more than a dozen human and non-human languages, and an unusual adoptive family whose business dealings include sending her abroad through portals to collect teeth, she knows her life is unique.  What she little does know far outweighs that which she doesn’t know – like how she is the only human in her family, who her family is, and more importantly, who she is – and this soon comes to matter when doors into her family’s workshop around the world are sealed with a handprint burned onto the door.  Karou finds herself cut-off from the only individuals who know who she is, unsure if they are even safe, being pursued by what appears to be a vengeful and violent angel.   Good and evil are thrown into contrast as Karou finds herself caught in the middle of a centuries old war in this gorgeously descriptive novel.   This fantasy novel is recommended for all high-school and public libraries, and for grades 10 and up. 

I’m not sure this review does Daughter of Smoke and Bone justice.  Does it really make you want to read it?  Probably not.  I’m sorry.  I wrote this with a migraine, mostly so the lady on the cover would stop staring me down from my desk, judging me for not writing reviews of things I read more quickly.  Her laser-eyed judgment hurts my brain! This National Book award finalist has been on my to-read list since I insisted we needed it at work in nigh-on-March or something.  I’m not going to lie, the cover made me think it would be incredibly girly, and made me question the whole national book award finalist thing.  I was wrong, friends. 

This book, while at times very steamy, is not super girly, though I suspect girls will embrace it more than boyz.  Yes, Akiva sounds like a babe.  And yes, if you happen to think centaurs are hawt, this book may rev your engine (AHEM: middle school Xena/Hercules club meeting on the back porch, XB!).  And after you finish, the cover makes more sense.  And last and, while it is a fantastically, beautifully written novel with rich descriptive language, I found myself straight up not caring.  Why?  It’s because the story is super addictive and super awesome.  The story is so much more interesting than the words that tell it.  I wanted to rip right through it; I almost didn’t care what the characters looked like, etc.  I wanted the deets!  That, to me, is the sign of a double edged sword of greatness: great writing you kind of don’t care about because you are so otherwise engaged.  This is what I want always want out of in YA lit! 

A few other deeps thoughts with the PaperblogPrincess:
  • If you read this blog on the reg, you know that the trend towards ridiculous names in YA makes my eyes roll involuntarily.  Since most of the characters from this story are not, ahem, of our world, I accept their weird names; I checked my eye-roll at the door.  This is of the fantasy genre, after all.  But my question is, are the names for the humans here Czech, or are they just weird?  Deep thoughts.
  • This book made me want to whip out Blue, and make goulash.  But then I remembered that it is not winter, but summer.  And 90 degree weather makes me not want to cook goulash, or much else that will make my kitchen feel like the inside of a sauna in hell.  But I want to eat it!  Similarly, I want to eat honey lavender bread.  Get at me, food in this book. 
  • New YA quibble: the omnipresent use of the word irrevocable.  I find it irrevocably associated with Twilight, and therefore ruined for me.  When I see it in a YA novel, I pause, sigh, sigh again, roll my eyes, and move on.  Maybe it is just me.  Maybe it will be you too now.  You’re welcome.  But can we take a time out from it, irrevocably? 
  • Additionally, I realized while pondering what to say that I have found another tell-tale sign that I will love a book: apparently I am a sucker for the struggle of good v. evil being thrown into a blender so you can’t recognize one from the other.  Every side has a story! Good people do bad things!  Bad people do good things!  I will fall for it, every time, if the writing is good enough to not shove it down my throat.
  • My final deep thought on this one:  so Karou has blue hair.  Okay.  So.  Like…what are we talking?  Is it more of a Katie Perry, or a Marge Simpson?


Get at me this this question of questions, Laini Taylor.   Inquiring minds!

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