Featuring necklaces made of wishes; an underground shop dealing in teeth; magical tattoos; a wishbone on a cord, DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE is a thrilling story about Karou and her secret life as an apprentice to a wishmonger. Karou manages to keep her two lives in balance. On the one hand, she is a seventeen-year-old art student in Prague; on the other, errand-girl to an inhuman creature who deals in wishes and is the closest thing she has to family. Her life is surrounded by mysteries she is desperate to unveil.
The hype surrounding this read is astounding, but, to my pleasant surprise, well warranted. The Daughter of Smoke and Bone is a well-crafted story with a fantastical plot, deserving of almost every great thing you’ve heard about it. The novel is a fantasy come paranormal romance story with powerful characters and heart-wrenching twists. It’s a new take on the old idea of ‘angels and demons’ set in historical cities and fantastical alternate worlds. The otherworldly races are diverse and summoned from the dimensions of what we already know, pulling visions from religion, and painting them shades of grey, blurring the lines between good and bad with finesse.
The story is set in a unique world, taking us between the reality we know and a wishmonger’s shop where teeth are exchanged for wishes. Readers are entwined in the difficult balance of the protagonist, going back and forth with a heightening plot. The pacing is masterful, save for a bit of a slow start, introducing intrigue step by step, and weaving a mystery like a gathering snowball. Taylor’s writing is impeccable. She uses well-crafted technique to subtly display realism, making absurd scenarios all too possible. Romance does tend to background the fantasy later in the story which is a shame; I wanted to understand more about the war and the races involved and I hope later books will grant my wish. And the romance does get a little over-the-top, but only in the squishy fairy-tale manner, and the hopeless romantic in me enjoyed this as well.
Characterisation has great development and depth. Our heroine is Karou, a girl caught between worlds, whose constantly seeking an answer to a complicated question, and thankfully nothing like the stereotype dominating YAPR at the moment. Taylor takes the time and effort to establish the dynamics of both her human and otherworldly life and in doing so establishes a unique connection with her audience. Despite not being in first-person (and if I ever learn the secret to this tactic I’ll be a happy writer), the story is told through the emotions of Karou; other characters become heed to her perspective, and so her reaction was always my reaction. Later we split into a duel narrative whereby we also follow the thoughts of Akiva, an angel with a chip on his heavenly shoulder. What’s interesting is you learn about these characters as they learn about themselves, and via each other’s opinions. This is true with almost every character major and minor throughout, and is the cause for one kicker on an ending.
This is a very promising start to a series, and definitely the best I’ve read in a while. It’ll be interesting to see exactly which direction Taylor takes her work. Even if you’re sceptical of the hype (and I was probably more than most) I urge you to give this one a try; this novel cuts away any excuse for poorly written star-crossed romance, and resets the bar on the genre as a whole. Mrs Taylor, you have my attention.
Below are two of the books official trailers. There are more if you search, but these two characters captured a heart just slightly more than the others, and they include more detail about the storyline, so voila.