05 dezembro 2012

Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Laini Taylor)

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company (2011)
Format: Hardcover | 417 pages
Genre(s): Urban Fantasy, Fantasy, Young Adult
Description (GR): "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?"
WARNING: Contains Spoilers
First Impressions: I relutanctly give it 3.5 stars for the world-building (in the fantasy lands, at least) but I was a little disappointed with the cliché star-crossed lovers who dream of changing the world romance. This book had so much potential!

Daughter of Smoke and Bones is another one of those books everyone loves and raves about. Maybe that's why it sat on my bookshelf so long, but I bought the second one because I got an excellent price at Amazon and I decided I could avoid this one no longer.

The synopsis didn't give me a clear idea of what to expect, which filled me with dread and joy at the same time. At least there was no obvious predominance of romance and stereotyped characters. Still, I find myself disappointed. I wanted to like this book a lot... and as people say (or as I say?) expectations are a bitch. 

Karou is a high-school student in Prague. She is artsy (and has blue hair), has a mouthy (and stereotypical) best friend and lives a perfectly normal life. Oh and she was raised by demons. Yes, you read right. She was raised by a demon (who calls himself a chimaera) called Brimstone and his band of merry friends, one of whom is a Naja; they live "Elsewhere" and their dwellings are only accessible through portals hidden all around the world.

Brimstone is a sorcerer of sorts, and much like the tooth fairy he collects teeth in exchange for wishes. Karou is his errant girl and collects teeth from all over (when she's not in school or hanging out at the coolest bar ever - and I am not being sarcastic here). She never questioned her way of life even if she knows other people don't believe in monsters.

Everything changes when an angel appears. His mission is to destroy the portals and Karou's family.

So, this is very true. Everything changes when the angel appears. I loved the whole concept behind the story; Karou was a lively, likable heroine and her chimaera family was truly interesting.

Then Akiva, the angel arrives, bent on vengeance and everything went downhill.

Sure I understand, after reading the whole book, why it was "insta-love". There is actually a reason besides the fact that Akiva is hot and tortured and oh-so-dark. But... he is also all that and it annoyed me to no end. There I was, with an otherwise fantastic, interesting and mysterious book on my hands and the male lead just had to fit the Male YA Stereotype to a T.

I didn't care for Akiva. He was boring, overdone, the type of male lead that is only saved by the fact that he isn't an asshole (most of the time) to the girl. But he was tortured. And dark. And hot. And so very sad. And Karou swooned in his presence and I lost some respect for her, as a character, right there.

So basically, my main problem with this book was the fact that the author handled the romantic themes poorly. As in, like almost every YA author. As in, the heroine drools, the hero suffers in silence and their attraction is A Very Powerful Thing.

Oh how disappointed I was!

The book redeemed itself a little in the end and I did love the ending because it adds more emotional complexity and depth to the main character's relationship. Still, like I said in my first impressions, I was a little turned off by the cliché "star-crossed lovers who dream of changing the world" romance. It's a common plot device... in made-for-TV movies.

But then there was the world building (fantastic) and some of the supporting characters (charismatic) and I felt better about Daughter of Smoke and Bone.

Overall: it was good and imaginative. It blends urban fantasy and classic fantasy seamlessly and, oh, did I mention the writing is mostly fantastic? I didn't like the romance or the part it plays in the story, but in the end the good points outweigh the bad. I'd recommend this one.

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