Thursday, November 10, 2011

Daughter of Smoke and Bone

"Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love. It did not end well."

Laini Taylor is rapidly becoming my favorite teen fantasy author. She's neck and neck with FLB and that's saying a lot. I first fell in love with Laini Taylor's writing when I read Lips Touch Three Times. That was a trio of three (longish) short stories. Daughter of Smoke and Bone is the first full-length novel I've read of hers. It was 418 pages--and that wasn't long enough for me. I just didn't want it to end.

Seventeen-year-old Karou lives in Prague in her own apartment. She seems normal enough. Sure, she has a head of bright blue hair and arms covered in tattoos, but that's not uncommon for the students of her art school. What isn't normal is Karou's secret childhood upbringing. Raised in the workshop of a "monster" named Brimstone, Karou grew up in a world of magic. She travels between worlds though she doesn't have the key. If her foster family didn't let her in she wouldn't be able to return to the place she considers home. Home means Brimstone, who is huge, imposing, taciturn, and obviously a master of magic (he spends most of his time collecting teeth and stringing them on necklaces--their purpose is unknown to Karou) as well as Issa, a half snake, half human woman. Karou knows magic is real. She knows that Brimstone grants wishes, and she knows that he controls many portals all around the world. Karou can start her day in Prague and in moments walk into an alley in Turkey, sent to collect more teeth for Brimstone. But the limits of her knowledge are frustrating. There are doors she is never allowed to pass through, strange visitors she is never allowed to see. As she grows, the more she wants to know about the world of magic, and even more so, where she came from. Who is she? What is her purpose? Brimstone never answers her questions.

And then the burning black handprints start appearing on the portals between worlds. Amazed humans claim to see angels all around the world. Something both beautiful and deadly is winging its way toward Karou's childhood home, and threatens to destroy her world even as the truth of her background is revealed.

So gorgeously written. So well-told and well-plotted. And the end! The end leaves you gasping. I can't say more than that for fear of revealing too much. What I will say is this is a five-star book and worthy of its nomination in our annual Mock Printz discussion this year. If you enjoy fantasy, fabulous writing, and incredible characters, this one is for you. If you don't like those things, then I don't know what to do with you!

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