Daughter of Smoke & Bone, by Laini Taylor
Synopsis: Romeo & Juliette with angels and demons.
Book Review: The first thing you notice about this novel is that strength of the author’s voice. It is witty and young and energetic, and reminds you what it’s like to be a teen. I rarely see such a fantastic portrayal of modern sensibilities outside of the best online fanfic (and just to be clear – yes, this is a compliment. There’s fanfic out there better than many published works). I want to hang out with these characters. In fact, the prose in this book is just fantastic throughout. Taylor is extremely skilled in the craft of writing.
Furthermore, unlike most YA romances, this one doesn’t get the vapors and need a fainting couch whenever sex is mentioned. The protagonist has already had sex when the novel begins! It’s discussed as a real thing that real people do as a part of life, rather than some sort of mythical holy grail. I cannot begin to say how great it is to see the traditional American Puritanism tossed aside in a book that’s marketed for teens.
Two-thirds of the way through the book we hit an extended flashback that lasts the rest of the novel. It feels like this should have been a separate book, because we need all-new exposition and world-building. In fact, the requirements of building a new plot & world in a short time this far into the book dominate the text, and it crowds out all the amazing characterization and the strong voice we’d grown accustomed to. It was an unfortunate choice in an otherwise excellent book. However the extended flashback is still good, if not great.
I have a bit of a prejudice against YA, as covered before. But this book really is quite good. If you’re going to read just one YA this year… well, read Heroes of the Valley. But if you’re going to read TWO, read this one as well. I can’t outright recommend it, I wouldn’t read this just for myself. If you’re like me, Not Recommended. But if you like YA this is a shining example of the genre, and it must be Recommended.
Book Club Review: This is a very enjoyable book, and pretty much anyone who’s been a teen can relate to it. And even people who generally don’t like YA or don’t like romance will still like the book because it’s written so well. Maybe they wouldn’t read it of their own accord, but they’ll gladly finish it for a book club, to have that shared experience with everyone else reading it. It’s the perfect size and flows quickly, and is laugh-out-loud funny in quite a few places.
In addition, it does contain a few meaty chunks to talk about. The morality of colonialism and vengeance may well come up. While initially it seems hard to sympathize with the colonial oppressors (especially if you come from a country that uses its heroic struggle against such oppressors as its foundation myth), perhaps after a thousand years of perpetual warfare someone would be willing to strike a truce? And what’s with Brimstone’s bone-headed decision to keep the protagonist in the dark about her past, and extend the war by (at least) two decades? C’mon man!
So yeah, fun times all around. Recommended.