The common reading for my Master of Fine Arts in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University for the June 2015 Residency was Daughter of Smoke and Bone (YA Fantasy 418 pages) by Laini Taylor.
“Who is the daughter of smoke and bone? From master storyteller and National Book Award finalist Laini Taylor comes a sweeping and gorgeously written modern fantasy about a forbidden love, an ancient and epic battle, and hope for a world remade.”
The very first thing I have to say about this book is that the world-building is absolutely fantastic. This book definitely challenges people’s conceptions of good and evil and the fight that is often portrayed between groups described as monsters and angels. Most of the world-building, for me, came from Karou’s sketchbook, which I think is one of my favorite parts about the entire book. Along with the fact that Karou is an artist living in Prague. In chapter two, Zuzana looks through Karou’s sketchbook and that’s where Issa, Twiga, Yasri, and Brimstone are first described. I am absolutely fascinated by Karou’s sketchbook and the vivid imagery used with Prague as the main part of the story.
The world-building continues as Karou hints at her tattoos and her blue-growing hair. Karou shows magic in the world she knows by wishing tiny itches on Kazimir and this bit of magic continues throughout the story, especially when Karou travels through the door into the world where Issa, Twiga, Yasri, and Brimstone reside.
One of the things that was discussed during the classroom portion of this reading was how this book fits into the Young Adult genre. We discussed how the main character, Karou, was dealing with a variety of thoughts and concerns that are usually more associated with teenagers and younger personnel. Some of these concerns involved the search for identity, dealing with romance and romantic tendencies, and a need for independent adventures away from parental figures.
As soon as the book switched over to more of a romance and less of an adventure story, I lost interest. I’m not a fan of romance stories, but I’m not opposed to them, either. I think the reason the romantic element in this book annoyed me so much was because I was getting ready to believe that Karou was actually the daughter of Akiva and Madrigal. So I was taken rather off-guard when Karou and Akiva started being more romantically inclined.
I’m not really going to go into more detail about the book because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t read it. I will say that it was one of the few books I’ve read lately that intrigued me enough for me to enjoy the book and I would have finished it even if it wasn’t a homework assignment.
Overall, it would rate it as a solid three on my rating scale. While I’m not entirely thrilled with the romantic element, I do understand why it’s there. But the world-building and the concepts of good and evil are so well done in this book that I am definitely glad I own it.