Yay! It's finally time for Fall Book Club! Thank you to Tracey at Words on Paper for hosting this awesome blog discussion. October's book was Daughter of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone is fresh, different, and exciting. I've never read anything quite like it. These qualities make it a good read, but it’s not just good. It’s an I-have-to-stay-up-past-my-bedtime-to finish-and-then-write-a-five-star-review-at-two-in-the-morning great book.
Here is my attempt at a brief, spoiler-free summary:
Lovely, unique artist Karou walks a line between the world we know and a world of wishes and monsters. She runs errands for her not-quite human mentor Brimstone, wondering what he does with all the teeth he collects from around the world. When a mysterious stranger threatens the portals between earth and Elsewhere, Karou has to discover the truth about her past and decide which future she will fight for.
So, what makes this book amazing? The world building and story are both phenomenal. But it's the language that pushes it to the next level. Taylor writes with such depth and grace; the prose rolls from the tip of your mind like honey.
One of the reasons I’m in love with this book is because it blurs the lines between good and evil. Taylor’s word choices play with our preconceptions. Karou begins on the side of the “devils” and “monsters,” and the “angels” are heartless killers. The beautiful part is that by the end, we get to see both sides of the story, through brilliant third-person narration.
I loved this book. I’m not in favor of trying to put a unique thing in a box, but I do have lingering questions about how to classify Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Is it urban fantasy? Parts certainly take place on cities in present-day earth. But at a certain point late in the novel, the story shifts into straight fantasy. This approach works; the reader identifies easily with Karou in the beginning, and the cross-world connections are integral to the story’s progress. But I went in to this book blind for the Fall Book Club, and I actually went back to read the ‘flap’ summary halfway through, because I wanted to know how much the publisher gave away.
I discussed this with one YA author who prefers more ‘reality-time’ in the beginning. A few years ago the trend was toward faster immersion, with the story beginning where some strange (paranormal, magical, etc.) event thrusts the protagonist into the new world in the first five pages. Michael Smith’s The Alchemyst comes to mind, and Casandra Clare’s City of Bones. Is that trend shifting? In Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (which I enjoyed very much) I did feel a disconnect between the longer period of ‘reality’ in the beginning, because the fantasy elements came so much later.
What do you think? Would you rather a fantasy begin in the ‘fantastic’ world, or would you rather have more time to get to know the characters in the real world first? I can't wait to see how everyone else reacted!
Music perfect for this story: Paradise by Coldplay