by Calvertjones | 12/17/2013
" This is a quietly thrilling, marvelous novel that I found extremely moving. To give a quick spoiler-free synopsis, it takes place in Prague, where readers are introduced to an eighteen year old named Karou. There are several mysterious aspects of Karou, which are gradually presented to readers in smallish doses that effectively inspire curiosity and ultimately create significant suspense. All these curious aspects of Karou, rest assured, come together in a brilliant, heartrending, and curiously believable package revealed toward the end. (So, this is not a "Lost"-like situation, with strange minutia and puzzles presented apparently just for the sake of it, with limited long-term planning.) As an example, Karou travels around the world to collect teeth. She also wears a necklace whose beads allow her to make small-scale wishes, such as turning her hair blue or causing another person to experience uncontrollable itching. And, her home seems to be an old-fashioned shop where a father-like figure serves as a merchant and bears a curious resemblance to our myths of what the devil looks like--horns and all. Giving more away would lead to spoilers, so I'll leave it at that.
Why is this book so great? First, you will find that the novel is written and paced with extraordinary skill, which places it, in terms of artistry, a cut above, say, The Hunger Games. I also loved The Hunger Games, and comparisons are bound to be made because of the female-centered action/adventure element in common. The way The Hunger Games was written, though, always felt somewhat manipulative to me, lacking in nuance, as if instructing the reader with cue cards to "Cry here!" and "Clap here!" and "Feel sorry for Katniss here" and "Reflect on the burden of war here!" Again, I do love The Hunger Games, but I'm trying to illustrate why Taylor's writing is superior. It is far more nuanced, and there is genuine openness to interpretation; you will not always be sure "how to react" or how the writer wants you to react to situations. The Hunger Games had brilliant pacing--I dare anyone to stop reading it. But Daughter of Smoke and Bone had superior artistry in writing.
Second, the plot is extremely creative and original. I can almost guarantee that you don't know what's coming in Daughter of Smoke and Bone. As a hint, she's not secretly a witch, she's not part of a long bloodline of vampires, witches, ghost hunters, were-humans, etc. She doesn't possess secret powers. She's not part alien. She's not a vampire hunter or a spy. She's not involved in a government conspiracy, in fighting one, or in a secret Matrix-like prison or Hunger Games-like arena. The plot is genuinely new, and fascinating in its depth and richness.
Third, secondary characters are fantastic. They are not as predictable and dull as is often the case. (Fortunately, Hunger Games doesn't have this problem either--great secondary characters there too, such as Haymitch.) Fourth, Karou herself is complex and interesting. Fifth, the love story aspect of the story is absolutely fascinating, done almost "in reverse" though I won't give away how that might be the case. Great novel, though it does end on a cliffhanger--it is the first of a trilogy, and the second novel is out and even better. "