Daughter of Smoke & Bone - Laini Taylor Karou - Hope for the YA Urban Fantasy Genre

NOTE: I received this copy as part of the Amazon Vine program.

Karou is a teenaged girl, raised by chimaera, Brimstone. But there is much about herself that Karou doesn't understand. Where does she come from? Where are her parents? What is beyond Brimstone's backdoor? And why are black handprints appearing on Brimstone's portals?

I've been seeing rave reviews for this book amongst my friends, who were saying how unique and ingenious this book is. I love urban fantasy (particularly young adult), but let's be honest: it's gettin' to be kinda a boring, lifeless, stereotypical genre, isn't it? Seems like most authors are going:

1 Female protagonist

2 Male Love Interests

A dash of Vampires/Mermaids/Angels/Dystopias

Blend until a pudding texture. Serve lukewarm.

Thank GOD for Laini Taylor and "Daughter of Smoke and Bone"! There is so much win in this book, it is at the top of my "BUY IT IMMEDIATELY WHEN IT COMES OUT!!" List! (And yes, even though I got this as an ARC, I did go out and buy in hardcover!)

Firstly, let's talk protagonists. Karou is our protagonist and from the VERY FIRST CHAPTER, she rocks. You see, she has this deadbeat ex-boyfriend, Kazimir, who just won't leave her alone. Does she run and hide? Does she stick with him until Love Interest #2 appears? Does she go back and forth between him and Love Interest #2?

Nope, Karou deals with Kazimir on MULTIPLE occasions herself, not relying on her future boyfriend to rescue her from his clutches, nor succumbing to Kazimir's despicable behavior. And there, not even 5 pages into the novel, Taylor has won a fan.

TAKE THAT, BELLA SWAN!



Of course, that is just the tip of the iceberg of the character that is Karou. She has interests, likes, dislikes, friends outside of the paranormal world she lives in (whom she even opens up to on occasion), and a story that goes beyond "Which drop dead sexy boyfriend should I bump uglies with?" She is practical, she fights for herself, she is smart...Karou is AWESOME!

The other characters are equally well sketched. Brimstone is a favorite, what with his aloofness and secret-keeping. And yet, he obviously cares for Karou, in his own quiet way, that is really touching--particularly near the explosive end. Zuzana is a kick in the pants, a true friend. I could almost imagine a younger Kristen Chenoweth playing her. Akiva is a great character, a great love interest. He does NOT try to butt in and take control of Karou's life (such as trying to chase Kazimir off), which TOTALLY makes me fall in love with him. Here is a man that truly is trying to think out for someone and NOT be a control freak.

The world-building is absolutely awe-inspiring. Taylor paints a beautiful portrait of Morocco, of Prague, of Eretz that was a joy to read, almost like being there myself. Her world of seraphim and chimaera is fascinating, removed from the typical Christian mythology and now a part of their own. I particularly enjoyed the separate creation myths that the seraphim and chimaera had; it was fascinating to compare and contrast, to see how similar they were (both tended to paint the other race as "evil") and yet how similar. I love how neither side is good, neither side is bad, how each side is populated with both.

And the story! Gah, the story! It's just as unique and special and jaw-droppingly amazing as the characters and setting. It is NOT your stereotypical romance. It is NOT your stereotypical "Which boy should I choose" story. It is a fascinating tale of peace, of hope, of magic, of friendship, of love, and of perseverance. I could probably say a lot more, but I might be a bit more revealing into the plot than I should, and YOU NEED TO READ THIS BOOK, so no spoilers, sorry!

There were times when I thought the book got a bit long winded in some places. ^The biggest problem I had with the story was the "insta-love". When Karou first meets Akiva, she feels an instant connection to him and thus begins their romance. The second half explains this "insta-love"--with yet another "insta-love" scenario. There are a few things I just don't care for: Romantic Triangles, wimpy female protagonists, and Love at First Sight. I realize this is somewhat of a fairy tale, and Love at First Sight is commonplace in fairy tales. And this was done pretty well, as insta-love goes. But it is still there, and it still did irk me a bit.

In one book, Laini Taylor has brought to my world of urban fantasy what Karou brings to Brimstone: Hope. Hope that urban fantasy can be something new, unique, and clever, that doesn't have to rely on overused tropes (okay, so it still uses insta-love) and silly plotlines in order to pad out the page count. This is a book I'm proud to have on my shelf, and one that I canNOT recommend enough.

Dialogue/Sexual Situations/Violence:
Brief, mild language.
Discreet sexuality (Karou is sexually experienced, but nothing graphic). There is a scene with a nude model (nothing graphic).
Quite a bit of violence--battlefields, open shoulder wounds, a guillotine, etc.