I don't know the last time I was so torn in writing a review as I am for Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. I have never before enjoyed a book so much that I didn't really enjoy.
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky. In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grown dangerously low. And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war. Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages—not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out. When one of the strangers—beautiful, haunted Akiva—fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?
I LOVE how this book is written. It has the sort of vivid imagery and language I revel in. Here I give you the opening as evidence:
Walking to school over the snow-muffled cobbles, Karou had no sinister premonitions about the day. It seemed like just another Monday, innocent but for its essential Mondyaness, not to mention its Januaryness. It was cold, and it was dark-in the dead of winter the sun didn't rise until eight-but it was also lovely. The falling snow and the early hour conspired to paint Prague ghostly, like a tintype photograph, all silver and haze. On the riverfront thoroughfare, trams and buses roared past, grounding the day in the twenty-first century,but on quieter lanes , the wintery peace might have hailed from another time.
Talk about painting pictures with words. And notice Karou lives in Prague. We don't have nearly enough interesting books set in Prague. Taylor does a marvelous job bringing the city to life. (Of course, I have never been to Prague so whether or not it is accurate someone else will have to say. However, the city had a genuine and individual atmosphere that felt real in the story.) Then there is the main character, Karou, who is all kinds of awesome: artistic, irreverent, spunky, slightly rebellious, funny-and deadly. As I often enjoy a star-crossed romance if it is done right, I even liked that element because Taylor wrote it well. This was my first experience with Taylor's writing and I was impressed.
All of that together usually means I fall in love with a book. That it goes on favorite shelves and I reread it and eagerly anticipate its sequel. But that is not the case with this one. Why? It is a paranormal romance novel. It is a paranormal romance novel incorporating the type of supernatural creatures I have the least patience for in stories. It just wasn't for me. I will say that my hat goes off to Taylor for proving you can use the tropes of a genre, even the ones everyone makes fun of (instalove-it's here; she makes it work), and write them well. Very well. Let me stress again: THE WRITING IS SUPERB. Bravo. You go girl and all that. It is still what it is, and what it is is not my thing. If it is your thing, or you know someone whose thing it is, go forth and read because it is awesomely written.
Alas, I probably won't be reading the sequel. However, Taylor has written a couple of books about Faeries, and as Faeries very much are my thing I'm going to read those instead. I'm pretty excited because-did I mention?-she's a great writer.