Romeo and Juliet take a step back. Because these star-crossed lovers have got you beat.
An art student in Prague, Karou has a rather busy life. Between school, keeping up with her friend Zuzana, and avoiding her ex, you’d think her life is full as it is. And yet, Karou has always thought something was missing from it.
Well, there are her chimera friends. Giraffe-man Twiga, kind bird-like Yasri, and snake-woman Issa. And Brimstone: the wishmonger, the teeth collector. They are her hidden family, her dark secret.
Brimstone’s shop lies in Elsewhere, accessed only by portals disguised as regular doors. But when handprints are found seared on doors all over the world, Karou’s life will change forever.
That ending. That was a cliffhanger of Riordan proportions.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s look at the story.
Right off the bat we’re told this is a story of forbidden love. It doesn’t exactly enter this set up right away. There’s a lot of world building, and the story doesn’t really get its start until about halfway in.
But once you get there, Taylor makes it worth the wait.
I have a need to compare this to The Infernal Devices simply because where Clare is writing a soap opera under the guise of a fantasy novel, the fantasy plot here is central. None of this makes sense without it.
There was a point where I kept thinking, “Um, when did these two idiots fall in love? I’m confused.” Because it happened suddenly and without warning.
But later on you realize “Oh, that’s when,” and everything is okay again.
Karou is such an awesome protagonist. Between her artistic skills, her blazing self-confidence, her prowess in fighting, and still maintaining a sense of compassion and vulnerability, she’s such a complex character.
At first, Akiva’s description made me roll my eyes. The impossibly hot, tortured love interest once again makes its way into YA literature. Big surprise.
But, over time, I was endeared to his character. To be truthful, I think he has the least interesting character in the story, which can either build in the sequels, or just coast its way through. I don’t hate it, but I don’t love it either.
That being said, I don’t think I dislike a single character in terms of their formation and development. Taylor is very good with making each character distinct. Zuzana, Brimstone, Issa, Hazael, Liraz…each with traits, flaws, and personalities that are specific to them.
I’ll admit it: this book was oddly paced. For the first half, it seems very stagnant. Karou’s just running around doing errands for Brimstone, and despite some odd occurances nothing particularly exciting happens.
Then a burst of excitement happens followed by a lengthy flashback.
The problem is that the lead up isn’t that exciting. This small burst of excitement and understanding is enough to make most of what follows rather boring, that is, until the last page.
Because that ending clicks all the subtle hints together and plunges it into the depths of cliffhanger.
Taylor’s world building is absolutely phenomenal, which is partially why we have such a slow start. The city of Prague, the secrets of Brimstone’s shop—they are well developed and in many ways are characters in their own right. Time is taken to properly build these ideas, layering them so the ending has the largest impact possible.
What’s interesting in this novel is that magic is not a neutral force. It is, rather explicity, evil.
To combat this is hope. Rather cliche, I know, but what makes it special is that, in contrast to magic, hope seems rather powerless. What can sheer will and wishing do in comparison to the instancy of magic?
A bit of work to read, but definitely worth it, Daughter of Smoke and Bone is a promising start to this trilogy. With strong characters, exceptional world building, and a great twist on the familiar story of forbidden love, Taylor sets up both a tragic past and uncertain future.
Recommendation: Buy. You better believe you want to buy this book and read it. Holy crap is it good.