“Dreams of Gods and Monsters (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #3)” by Laini Taylor

Dreams of Gods and MonstersDREAMS OF GODS & MONSTERS (Daughter of Smoke & Bone #3)
Author: Laini Taylor
Read Date: 10 April 2014
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

In this thrilling conclusion to the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy, Karou is still not ready to forgive Akiva for killing the only family she’s ever known.

When a brutal angel army trespasses into the human world, Karou and Akiva must ally their enemy armies against the threat–and against larger dangers that loom on the horizon. They begin to hope that it might forge a way forward for their people. And, perhaps, for themselves–maybe even toward love.

From the streets of Rome to the caves of the Kirin and beyond, humans, chimaera, and seraphim will fight, strive, love, and die in an epic theater that transcends good and evil, right and wrong, friend and enemy.

Review summary: Perhaps too ambitious, but a dramatic finale that readers who have journeyed with Karou will certainly appreciate.

*SPOILER WARNING FOR PLOT DETAILS* Continue reading

“Night of Cake & Puppets” by Laini Taylor

night of cake and puppetsNIGHT OF CAKE & PUPPETS (A Daughter of Smoke and Bone novella)
Author: Laini Taylor
Read Date: 8 January 2014
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

In “Night of Cake & Puppets”, Taylor brings to life a night only hinted at in the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy—the magical first date of fan-favorites Zuzana and Mik. Told in alternating perspectives, it’s the perfect love story for fans of the series and new readers alike.

Petite though she may be, Zuzana is not known for timidity. Her best friend, Karou, calls her “rabid fairy,” her “voodoo eyes” are said to freeze blood, and even her older brother fears her wrath. But when it comes to the simple matter of talking to Mik, or “Violin Boy,” her courage deserts her. Now, enough is enough. Zuzana is determined to meet him, and she has a fistful of magic and a plan. It’s a wonderfully elaborate treasure hunt of a plan that will take Mik all over Prague on a cold winter’s night before finally leading him to the treasure: herself! Violin Boy’s not going to know what hit him.

I wish I was typing this post up while eating chocolate cake and sipping Moroccan mint tea. *tragic sigh*

As meet-cutes go, Zuzana and Mik’s is probably one of the best I’ve ever read. A treasure hunt around Prague? Come on, it’s gotta be tough to top that!

It’s not surprising that Zuzana was the one who orchestrated their first meeting, especially knowing what we know about her from the “Daughter of Smoke and Bone” novels; she is a very assertive lady.

Milquetoast girls raised on princess stories might sit tight and bat their eyelashes in desperate Morse code – notice me, like me, please – but I am not that girl.

And if “Night of Cake and Puppets” happens to be your happy accident of an introduction to Zuzana and the series, well, now you know (and knowing is half the battle, so get to reading “Daughter of Smoke and Bone” and “Days of Blood and Starlight” already!) 😛

One of the things that really intrigued me in this novella is the reveal that Zuzana (and her grandfather) had experiences with magic before all the shit with Karou went down in “Smoke and Bone”. And maybe it’s not much of a stretch to think that the undead fox Cossack inside the glass box in Zuzana’s house is a creature from that other world where the Chimaera and the Seraphim reside.

Once you know magic is real, it’s really hard to remember what it was like not to know. It’s kind of like trying to see how you look with your eyes closed.

The other thing that intrigued me is Zuzana using magic in the form of wishes made on the scuppies that Karou gave her. It has been some time since I read the 2 novels, particularly the first, so I am not sure if the magic system of the DoSaB Universe allowed just about any mortal to use scuppies or wishes when they get a hold of them. In any case, Zuzana’s use of it adds another dimension to the rules of magic in play.

‘It was magic,’ I say simply. I’ve learned this from Karou, as regards magic: You can tell the most outlandish truths with virtually no risk of being believed.

The last thing is that Zuzana would use 4 of her 5 precious wishes to get Mik. But then again, that’s passionate (and vicious) Zuzana for you.

I have scuppies in my pocket and lust in my heart. Tonight’s the night.

I had a problem with Mik’s chapters, though. In the beginning of Chapter 5, when the novella switches to his point of view for the first time, there was no noticeable change in the character voice. Mik’s narration had that same wit and parenthetic expressions that Zuzana’s had. There were also parallel stuff, like enumerating the things they know about each other.

I think I get what Taylor was going for here, showing more of the couple’s compatibility, but…well, Mik just sounds like Zuzana, only less giddier. His inner character seems too idealized, as if it was Zuzana talking. I’m sorry if this comes off as rather prejudiced, but…do men think like this or talk to themselves in their head like this? (No, really, serious question. I won’t judge you if you say “yes”; I just want to know if it’s authentic. 😉 )

But I like Mik; it’s hard not to like him after reading about him in the 2 novels. I don’t mind him being just your normal nice guy; he’s exactly what Zuzana needs for a partner.

He’s like a good book cover that grabs your gaze. Read me. I’m fun but smart. You won’t be able to put me down.

These in-between stories from the POV of secondary characters seems to have become a trend for YA series lately. This novella, though, enjoyable as it was, could have done with more editing. There is a lot of introspection to give readers an idea about the characters’ motivations and feelings, yes, but Zuzana and Mik overstayed their welcome a bit, and I can’t even believe I just said that about them and Taylor’s writing. But that’s just how I felt after reading it.

I still love the story, of course, and highly recommend it, even to those who haven’t read the first 2 DoSaB novels. It’s sweet and fun and magical and romantic. It has that same lyrical and dream-like quality as the novels, and it still makes me wish I had scuppies so I can wish myself to Prague right now.

And now I really must go find some tea.

❆ ❆ ❆
Related Reviews:
 

Cover Reveal + Excerpt: “Dreams of Gods and Monsters” by Laini Taylor

The Hollywood Reporter just unveiled the cover of “Dreams of Gods and Monsters”, the final book in Laini Taylor’s epic “Daughter of Smoke and Bone” trilogy.

Dreams of Gods and Monsters“Dreams of Gods and Monsters” starts where “Days of Blood and Starlight” left off, with Karou and Akiva discovering each other alive — although Karou is still not ready to forgive Akiva for killing the only family she’s ever known. And now, through an act of staggering deception, Karou has taken control of the chimaera rebellion and is intent on steering its course away from dead-end vengeance.

When Jael’s brutal angel army trespasses into the human world, Karou and Akiva must ally their enemy armies against the threat. It is a twisted version of their long-ago dream, and they begin to hope that it might forge a way forward for their people. And, perhaps, for themselves – maybe even toward love. But there are bigger threats than Jael in the offing. From the streets of Rome to the caves of the Kirin and beyond, humans, chimaera, and seraphim will fight, strive, love, and die in an epic theater that transcends good and evil, right and wrong, friend and enemy

There’s also a short excerpt at the link, in which we get to be a fly on the cave walls for a few lines of a Seraphim/Chimera war council. 😉

The book will be released in April 2014. (So. Far. Away. *sigh*)

5 Memorable “Cave Scenes” in YA Books

Some of our favorite books have memorable “love scenes” and “fight scenes” and “death scenes”. Apparently, they also have memorable “cave scenes”–scenes that are set inside caves.

My The Mysterious Reading Society friends and I started talking about this out of nowhere while waiting for our detained discussion leader to arrive. He never did. *hem hem*

So anyway…

1.  Achilles and Patroclus consummate their relationship in “The Song of Achilles”

a.k.a. While the centaur mentor is away, the boys will play.  😛

“The Song of Achilles” is one of my favorite books ever because of the way Madeline Miller took me on an emotional roller coaster with this story.

One of the turning points in the book is when Achilles and Patroclus finally became lovers in the truest sense of the word.  It’s tastefully written and actually rather emotional.

The cave smelled hot and sweet, like fruit beneath the sun. Our eyes met, and we did not speak. Fear rose in me, sudden and sharp. This was the moment of truest peril, and I tensed, fearing his regret.

He said, “I did not think—” And stopped. There was nothing in the world I wanted more than to hear what he had not said.

It’s a Cave Scene and a Love Scene!  😛

Interestingly enough, Chiron’s Cave is one of the few places in the world where Achilles’ goddess mother Thetis’ omniscient eyes cannot see through.  Convenient, eh?  😉

2.  Karou and Akiva stare each other down in “Days of Blood and Starlight”

a.k.a.  Karou and Akiva’s TV drama moment

Spoiler warning for those who haven’t read the second book of Laini Taylor’s wonderful series, “Daughter of Smoke and Bone”!

At the end of “Days of Blood and Starlight”, Karou and Akiva, along with a handful of chimaera and seraphim, bide their time in a cavern as they wait to fight against a common enemy.  And because Taylor’s prose is more capable of triggering a “wave of feels” than I ever can…

Her eyes are pulled elsewhere, across the cavern to where Akiva sits at another fire with his own soldiers around him.

He is looking back at her.

As ever when their eyes meet, it is like a lit fuse searing a path through the air between them. These past days, when this has happened, one or the other would turn quickly away, but this time they rest and let the fuse burn. They are filled with the sight of each other. Here in this cavern, this extraordinary gathering—this seethe of colliding hatreds, tamed temporarily by a shared hate—could be their long-ago dream seen through a warped mirror. This is not how it was meant to be. They are not side by side as they once imagined. They are not exultant, and they no longer feel themselves to be the instruments of some great intention. They are creatures grasping at life with stained hands. There is so much between them, all the living and all the dead, but for a moment everything falls away and the fuse burns brighter and nearer, so that Karou and Akiva almost feel as if they are touching.

Tomorrow they will start the apocalypse.

Tonight, they let themselves look at each other, for just a little while.

wave_of_feels-18739

I saw that scene in my head as if it was a TV drama, wherein the camera shows the two protagonists from all angles while staring at each other, complete with a voice-over.  “Tomorrow, we will start the apocalypse.”

I’ve been watching too many Korean dramas?  Why, yes, I sure have.

3.  Katniss and Peeta put on the act of their lives in “The Hunger Games”

a.k.a.  Katniss and Peeta’s REAL TV drama moment

Katniss tries to put on a “girl madly in love” act as she tries to cure Peeta’s injuries.  But it is only when she drops the act and lets her real feelings show that their mentor Haymitch sends them a reward.

“Katniss,” he says. I go over to him and brush the hair back from his eyes. “Thanks for finding me.”

“You would have found me if you could,” I say. His forehead’s burning up. Like the medicine’s having no effect at all. Suddenly, out of nowhere, I’m scared he’s going to die.

“Yes. Look, if I don’t make it back—” he begins.

“Don’t talk like that. I didn’t drain all that pus for nothing,” I say.

“I know. But just in case I don’t—” he tries to continue.

“No, Peeta, I don’t even want to discuss it,” I say, placing my fingers on his lips to quiet him.

“But I—” he insists.

Impulsively, I lean forward and kiss him, stopping his words. This is probably overdue anyway since he’s right, we are supposed to be madly in love. It’s the first time I’ve ever kissed a boy, which should make some sort of impression I guess, but all I can register is how unnaturally hot his lips are from the fever. I break away and pull the edge of the sleeping bag up around him. “You’re not going to die. I forbid it. All right?”

“All right,” he whispers.

And then a pot of broth drops from the sky.  And the shippers (as in the people of Panem) all squee.   giggle

4.  Sirius and Buckbeak co-habitate in “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”

a.k.a.  The Domestic Saga of Padfoot and Claws

At the end of “Prisoner of Azkaban”, Sirius Black escapes with the hippogriff Buckbeak and spends some time hiding from dementors and Ministry officials together in a far-away cave.

I dunno about you, but I feel like there’s a spin-off sitcom in there somewhere.

The cave scene in “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” with the locket horcrux and the lake of zombies was pretty awesome, too.

5.  Colin and Lindsey share stories in the dark in “An Abundance of Katherines”

a.k.a.  It’s Not That Dark If We Have A Bottle of Moonshine

Lindsey takes Colin to her “secret hideout” where they hang out and share stories.   There is no sex, but there is alcohol.  And lots of cute dialogue.

“It’s weird talking to you; I can’t see you at all.”

“I can’t see you either.”

“We’re invisible. I’ve never been here with someone else. It’s different being invisible with someone.”

Somewhere in the back of his mind, Colin was probably starting to like Lindsey already, but some of his little brain cells keep shouting “But she’s not a Katherine!”

 
So, what is it about caves, huh?  

But what about you?  Are there any memorable Cave Scenes from your favorite books?  🙂

Miscellany: Prophecies and Fortune Cookies

If I were to wake up one morning to find out that I have acquired a superpower worthy of Heroes, I’d accept almost anything except for the power of prophecy. It seems like such a useful power if you think about it, but it’s also a burden knowing what the future holds because a normal human cannot just sit there knowing what’s about to happen and not do anything about it.

But it’s fun seeing prophecy in action in fiction, though. And if it’s Laini Taylor who’s writing about it, then I’m on board!

Richelle Mead, Lisa McMann, Michael Grant, Meg Cabot, Laini Taylor, and nine more of the hottest YA authors to hit the shelves explore the concepts of prophecy and prediction in this story collection edited by NYT bestselling author of The Forest of Hands and Teeth, Carrie Ryan.

Have you ever been tempted to look into the future? To challenge predictions? To question fate? It’s human nature to wonder about life’s twists and turns. But is the future already written—or do you have the power to alter it?

From fantastical prophecies to predictions of how the future will transpire, Foretold is a collection of stories about our universal fascination with life’s unknowns and of what is yet to come as interpreted by 14 of young adult fiction’s brightest stars.

Laini Taylor shared her thoughts about the anthology on her blog, and she also shared the first line of her story, “Gentlemen Send Phantoms.”

Once, when the moon was younger than it is tonight and not as plump, three girls gathered by a hearth to bake a dreamcake.

Damn. I think I have to read this book.

★ ★ ★

Lauren Kate released a short story set in the Fallenverse called “Daniel’s Gift.” It ties nicely into the Daniel and Luce Valentine story in Fallen In Love.

 
It kinda hurts reading about Daniel when he’s like this. 😦

★ ★ ★

During the Authors as Readers panel in the 2nd Filipino Readers’ Conference, New Lit author Mina V. Esguerra spoke about the 3 kinds of characters from which most—if not all—love interests are molded from: The Unattainable Crush, The Best Friend, and The Jerk. She blogged about it in more detail here: click! If you like reading romance stories, do check out her post; it’s a revelation. 😉

★ ★ ★

Rick Riordan revealed one of the new characters that we will get to meet in The Heroes of Olympus #3: The Mark of Athena:

This is Nemesis, goddess of Revenge. *cue Temptation of Wife theme music* *yes, here come the Korean drama references*

When I first saw her, I was reminded of War a.k.a. Scarlett, one of the Horsepersons of the Apocalypse in Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens. I don’t know why; maybe it’s the motorcycle. Because the Horsepersons don’t actually ride horses. Because horses are like so last century…so Book of Revelations. (But wait, the Book talks about the future, so horses are so…next century? Ummmm… Processing… Okay, never mind.) Or maybe they’re hippies or something.

Anyway. Nemesis is apparently a shape-shifter and Leo will have an encounter with her in which he does some bargaining. I have a feeling “bargaining” may actually mean “aggressive negotiations,” you know, like in Star Wars Episode II. Or maybe it involves fortune cookies because she’s holding one. Like “you can bargain with me, but first, have a cookie!”

*cracks open a fortune cookie*

*reads out the ambiguous Chinese philosophical sayings*

*interprets the fortune just as ambiguously and makes it twistier than Red Vines*

*announces that it actually means “Sorry, Leo, you lose! I get to beat you up!”*

*drags Leo into a dark alley*

*demigod vs goddess Boss Battle!!!!*

Oops.

Sorry, I got carried away. I don’t even know why I’m blogging right now when my mind is a mess from trying to hold in my fangirl squeeing (I am working in a public place right now) after watching some videos. If I did not make any sense at all, you can blame HIM.

 

Cover Reveal: “Days of Blood and Starlight”

Oh wow! This is just… wow.

Entertainment Weekly just revealed the cover for the sequel to Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone entitled Days of Blood and Starlight.


In this stunning sequel to the highly acclaimed “Daughter of Smoke and Bone,” Karou must come to terms with who and what she is, and how far she’ll go to avenge her people. Filled with heartbreak and beauty, mysteries and secrets, new characters and old favorites, Days of Blood and Starlight brings the richness, color and intensity of the first book to a brand new canvas.

Publication Date: 6 November 2012

(click on the thumbnail to enlarge!)

Laini posted a teaser about the book when she revealed the title on her blog some time ago. You can read the teaser here.

I’m super excited for this book because I fell in love with Daughter of Smoke and Bone and it made me an instant Laini Taylor fan. Daughter also ended with a sort of cliffhanger—the beginning of a new journey for Karou that may change the lives of all of the characters.

And I need more Akiva, please. 🙂

Snapshots: Today’s fangirl squeeing is brought to you by…

 
…Laini Taylor!

I just posted my thoughts on Lips Touch: Three Times, when my Dad said he finally had time to pick up my parcel from the post office.

Turns out it’s the mystery prize I won by helping Laini count and match names and entry numbers for one of her contests. Honestly, I was just very very lucky that I was online at the time, since she seems to have posted the announcement when most of the Western world was asleep. 😛

"Faeries of Dreamdark: Blackbringer" signed by Laini Taylor and Jim DiBartolo


 
*squeeeeee!*

*much virtual jumping and skipping around going on, too*

And now to hunt for Silksinger!

“Lips Touch: Three Times” by Laini Taylor

 

Title: Lips Touch: Three Times
Author: Laini Taylor
Read Date: 14 February 2012 (how appropriate!)
Goodreads Reading Progress Status Updates: Click here.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Review Preview: I was enchanted. Three times.
——————————————————————————————————————————————–

Three tales of supernatural love, each pivoting on a kiss that is no mere kiss, but an action with profound consequences for the kissers’ souls:

Goblin Fruit: In Victorian times, goblin men had only to offer young girls sumptuous fruits to tempt them to sell their souls. But what does it take to tempt today’s savvy girls?

Spicy Little Curses Such As These: A demon and the ambassador to Hell tussle over the soul of a beautiful English girl in India. Matters become complicated when she falls in love and decides to test her curse.

Hatchling: Six days before Esme’s fourteenth birthday, her left eye turns from brown to blue. She little suspects what the change heralds, but her small safe life begins to unravel at once. What does the beautiful, fanged man want with her, and how is her fate connected to a mysterious race of demons?

Once upon a time, the Creator showered the Gift of Words upon the Earth and somehow, an inordinate amount gravitated toward Laini Taylor.

Lips Touch: Three Times is an impressive collection of stories which showcases Taylor’s mastery of evoking images and emotions using her words, and her husband Jim DiBartolo’s distinctive and breathtaking art.

What I loved, in general, about the three stories in this book, is how well Taylor seems to understand human nature and our deepest hopes and fears, and how well she manages to articulate all of it as if she can read our souls.

Kizzy wanted to be a woman who would dive off the prow of a sailboat into the sea, who would fall back in a tangle of sheets, laughing, and who could dance a tango, lazily stroke a leopard with her bare feet, freeze an enemy’s blood with her eyes, make promises she couldn’t possibly keep, and then shift the world to keep them. She wanted to write memoirs and autograph them at a tiny bookshop in Rome, with a line of admirers snaking down a pink-lit alley. She wanted to make love on a balcony, ruin someone, trade in esoteric knowledge, watch strangers as coolly as a cat. She wanted to be inscrutable, to have a drink named after her, a love song written for her, and a handsome adventurer’s small airplane champagne-christened Kizzy.

 
Goblin Fruit is the shortest story of the three, but it’s also the most whimsical. It reads like a fairy tale, so much so that if I were a screenwriter on Grimm, I’d probably ask permission to write an episode based on this. 😛 And Taylor’s style is so evocative, I could almost taste that kiss and that fruit.

Spicy Little Curses Such As These is my favorite of the three. If I were an animator like the awesome Ben Hibon (of The Tale of the Three Brothers fame), I’d turn this story into an animated short film. I love the exotic Indian setting, the Maleficent homage, the mythology, the classic Lost Diary plot point, and just the entire crafting of the story, really.

He had imagined himself, fancifully, to be half in love with the writer of the mysterious diary, but now, seeing her, that vague fancy was swept away by the exhilaration of actually falling in love with her, not by halves, but fully and profoundly.

 
Hatchling is the more fantastical of the three. If I were Tim Burton or maybe Henry Selick, I’d make a movie out of this one. I love how Laini also drew from world mythology like she did with Spicy Little Curses, but still managed to come up with something unusual. The world has a Labyrinth / The Dark Crystal / Mirrormask kind of vibe to it, but probably a little wilder, what with the supernatural creatures involved.

For all three stories, Taylor definitely delivered on her promise that the kisses will have profound consequences. Yup, it all started with a kiss!

I may gush and rave about this book all I want here, but I don’t believe I can adequately capture the magic and draw of Lips Touch. My advice? Buy it. Read it. Reread it. Fall under its spell three times. Every time.

Title Reveal: “Days of Blood and Starlight”

 
You can tell by the way I gushed about Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone that I adored the book, so yes, this title reveal deserves its own post.

Laini has revealed that Book 2 of the series is going to be called:

She also posted this teaser:

Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a new way of living—one without massacres and torn throats and bonfires of the fallen, without revenants or bastard armies or children ripped from their mothers’ arms to take their turn in the killing and dying.

Once, the lovers lay entwined in the moon’s secret temple and dreamed of a world that was like a jewel-box without a jewel—a paradise waiting for them to find it and fill it with their happiness.

This was not that world.

September 2012, woohoo! 😀

Coincidentally, I start reading her illustrated anthology, Lips Touch: Three Times today!

“Daughter of Smoke and Bone” by Laini Taylor

 
Daughter of Smoke and Bone Final Cover
Title: Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Author: Laini Taylor
Read Date: 11 September 2011
Goodreads Status Updates: None. I couldn’t stop reading long enough to go online and post status updates, but my favorite quotes are here.
Review in a nutshell: A fantastic new perspective on popular YA paranormal themes, with memorable characters brought to life by Laini Taylor’s evocative writing.
——————————————————————————————————————————————–

Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherworldly war.

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?

 
This is my first Laini Taylor book, but I can already tell that she and I are going to have an enduring “I will buy every single book you write” kind of relationship.

Taylor turns the popular supernatural/Angel romance theme on its head in Daughter of Smoke and Bone.  In Taylor’s mythology, the Angels are not your usual supernatural beings from Heaven (although they still are winged, beautiful, and powerful); they’re flesh and blood creatures from another world, whose civilization is at war with “demons”–the Chimaera, creatures whose body parts are from several different animals.

The story delves deep into the long, violent history of these two races, but no matter who started the conflict, what stands out, for me, is how the line between good and evil blurs as both sides commit acts of war against each other.  Yes, we often associate Angels with the good side, but the Seraphim in this story are just as culpable as the Chimaera, and just as guilty of pride and prejudice.
 

It is a condition of monsters that they do not perceive themselves as such. The dragon, you know, hunkered in the village devouring maidens, heard the townsfolk cry ‘Monster!’ and looked behind him.

 

The character at the center of this dark and grim backdrop is Karou, an art student in Prague whose only family are a group of Chimaera headed by a bull-headed “trader” named Brimstone.  She has no memory of her real parents or where she really came from; the only thing she knows is Brimstone raised her from infancy.

Karou exudes a certain otherworldliness–perhaps further amplified by the blue hair that grows out of her head that color–but remains grounded as a character because most readers will at least be able to sympathize with her loneliness and her quest to learn more about herself.  We may not experience everything that Karou does, but her emotions are easy to understand.
 

Karou wished she could be the kind of girl who was complete unto herself, comfortable in solitude, serene. But she wasn’t. She was lonely, and she feared the missingness within her as if it might expand and…cancel her. She craved a presence beside her, solid. Fingertips light at the nape of her neck and a voice meeting hers in the dark. Someone who would wait with an umbrella to walk her home in the rain, and smile like sunshine when he saw her coming. Who would dance with her on her balcony, keep his promises and know her secrets, and make a tiny world wherever he was, with just her and his arms and his whisper and her trust.

 

As if things weren’t complicated enough for Karou, she encounters Akiva, a Seraph who was sent to the human world on an important mission.  The Seraphim are capable of using glamour to hide their fiery wings, but you can still tell they are not of our world because their shadows show their true form and they are too “breath-stealingly beautiful” to be human.  

“Breath-stealingly beautiful”–Taylor’s words, not mine.  It was only when I read that that I realized just how important an author’s choice of words can be, because someone who can steal my breath away is vastly different from someone who can just take my breath away. Taylor’s prose is evocative and lyrical, and this is what makes the book something more than just a good story.

(Taylor’s description of Akiva evokes a non-traditional image of an angel in my mind.  No, wait, actually, he does not look angelic at all.  Truth be told, the image of Akiva that my mind conjures is the form that the devil will take if he wanted me to willingly follow him to hell. And so he joins Fitzwilliam Darcy in my list of Literary Boyfriends, which is probably TMI for you, but well, you did come here. 😛 )

It’s common in the genre that the supernatural character tends to be distant, aloof, and unreachable.  Case in point: Daniel Grigori in the first 2 books of Lauren Kate’s Fallen series, and even Edward Cullen, to a certain extent (and please don’t raise your eyebrows, okay?)  Well, they’re not human and the aloofness is expected, but I personally look for something in a character that I can connect with so that I can emotionally invest in the story and the romance aspect, in particular.  Taylor managed to provide that in how she wrote not only Akiva, but the Seraphim and Chimaera in general.

On hindsight, Taylor’s world and characters have less of the mystical supernatural flavor of Fallen; the book actually feels more like a Neil Gaiman urban fantasy.  And as with most good urban fantasy, the setting is a character in itself.  Here, Prague really comes alive, and I’m sure that if I’m lucky enough to visit it one day, I will recall Taylor’s words as I see it with my own eyes.
 

Gothic steeples stood ready to impale fallen angels. The wind carried the memory of magic, revolution, violins, and the cobbled lanes meandered like creeks. Thugs wore Mozart wigs and pushed chamber music on street corners, and marionettes hung in windows, making the whole city seem like a theatre with unseen puppeteers crouched behind velvet.

 

Taylor takes great care in building her world and developing her characters, and despite there bring some slow sections, overall, she exerts good control over the pacing of the book. Her control even extends to the romance aspect, which was plausible and thrilling without being suffocating. The scale of the world and the overall arc is epic, but she maintains a feeling of intimacy between the reader and the characters and their personal stories.

[SPOILER WARNING: Don’t read this paragraph until you’ve read the book. I don’t spoil a plot point, but my reaction might give too much away.] There’s one scene, though, that disturbed me a little because I felt it almost bordered on bestiality. Okay, not exactly that; I think this is more about me thinking about the circumstances too much.  To Taylor’s credit, that scene was subtle and well-written, and it’s likely other readers won’t think twice about what happened. There’s just no getting around it because the Chimaera and the Seraphim are what they are, and the scene is needed to make a point. I immediately got over it, though. It’s not a deal-breaker at all for this book, it’s just a personal reaction that I felt I had to mention because I wanted to know how others reacted to that scene.  (If you read the book, please let me know in the Comments if this became an issue for you or not. :D) [END SPOILER]

Daughter of Smoke and Bone is the first in a new series by Taylor, who’s already written a handful of other works. She has a modest but dedicated following, but I think more people should read her books. So if you’re into paranormal romance or YA fantasy or if you’re a sucker for star-crossed lovers or maybe just looking for a different read, give this a try. Heck, even if you hate YA, you should give this a try! It’s one of the best books I’ve read this year.

Here are the links to the lovely book trailers:
Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Part 1: Main Trailer
Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Part 2: Brimstone
Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Part 3: Akiva (The illustrations of Akiva are… ♥♥♥)


This review, including the quotes featured therein, is based on an Advance Reader Copy provided by Hachette Book Group USA (Phils.)
U.S. Street Date: 27 September 2011

Other Reviews:
Chachic’s Book Nook
Chris of Ficsation