Monday 23 July 2012

205. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Published June 2012 Hachette Australia (Hodder Paperbacks)

From the publisher:
Errand requiring immediate attention. Come. The note was on vellum, pierced by the talons of the almost-crow that delivered it. Karou read the message. 'He never says please', she sighed, but she gathered up her things. When Brimstone called, she always came. In general, Karou has managed to keep her two lives in balance. On the one hand, she's a seventeen-year-old art student in Prague; on the other, errand-girl to a monstrous creature who is the closest thing she has to family. Raised half in our world, half in 'Elsewhere', she has never understood Brimstone's dark work - buying teeth from hunters and murderers - nor how she came into his keeping. She is a secret even to herself, plagued by the sensation that she isn't whole. Now the doors to Elsewhere are closing, and Karou must choose between the safety of her human life and the dangers of a war-ravaged world that may hold the answers she has always sought.

Wow, what an absolute gem of a book!  I stumbled across a review of this book, and I will once again admit to being drawn to it because of the cover.  It cam out last year in a larger format, and I have no idea why I haven't heard about it sooner.  Admittedly this isn't really my genre of choice, so perhaps no one thought to mention it to me...but I loved this book.

So many reasons to love this book.  Firstly the setting...Prague, a beautiful Gothic city that is just the perfect backdrop for this story, secondly, the main character, Karou.  A 17 year old art student, with hair the colour of lapis lazuli and the words true and story tattooed on her wrists like bracelets and the hamsas (eyes) tattooed on her palms, she is just someone you want to know, funny, witty and smart.

But it isn't the way that she looks that makes Karou different from most 17 year old girls, it's the errands that she is constantly called away for, that really separate her from the norm.  Karou runs errands for Brimstone, and Brimstone is a chimaera, part human part beast, withe the head of a ram, human torso, lions legs and raptor like feet.  Her 'errands' involved her travelling the world, through magical portals...collecting teeth.  Karou doesn't really know why Brimstone needs the teeth, she just knows it has something to do with magic.  Karou enters Brimstone's shop by the means of a very ordinary looking metal door, it lets her into a small vestibule, and when the outside door is sealed, she can enter the shop proper.  The door can open in any number of portals around the world, and this is how Karou travels.

Karou is human, but was raised by Brimstone, and other chimaera, Issa the serpent woman, giraffe necked Twiga and parrot beaked Yasri.  Now she lives in the human world, but she is also still connected to the world of the chimaera.  

So, that's a brief background, the story really gets interesting when scorched hand prints start appearing at the doorways, and when the door in Prague is burnt to the ground Karou is stranded in the human world.  Then there's the fact that she was nearly killed by Akiva...a sword wielding angel. A soldier who is fighting the ancient war between the good (angels) and the evil (the chimaera), a war which Karou had no idea was going on.  The plot twists keep coming as we start to find out that Karou is not what she appears to be, and Akiva knows who (what) she really is.

Like I said, this isn't really my usual thing, but I think it's was the strong character of Karou that made me want to keep reading.  The story starts with a foot in 'this world' and for a non fantasy reader like myself, that was a good start, and when slowly the other worlds were introduced, I already loved the characters and it didn't matter to me where the story was set.

I won't give anything more away about the story, only to say that I have since found out that it is to be the first book in a trilogy (YAY).  It has a something for everyone, strong female character, amazing setting, humour, romance, conflict, magic and monsters.  I honestly don't know why there are so many teenage girls out there still raving about the Hunger Games, when there is a book like this out there to be read.  It is now my mission to spread the word.

2 things in this book I wished were real:

Poison Kitchen: A cafe with a ghoulish history, apparently in the Middle Ages, a cook lost his mind and murdered the whole priory with a batch of poisoned goulash.  The signature dish is, of course, goulash.  Patrons sit on velvet couches and there are coffins for tables, life-size roman statues decorate the room. It used to be a locals only,  cool place to hang out until the Lonely Planet  outed it to the world.  I honestly hoped that this place was actually isn't.

Karou's colourful string of beads: The beads are scuppies.  Scuppies are the lowest denomination of wishes, and can be used for lovely little wishes, like turning your hair blue, or turning off the light switch, so you don;t have to get out of bed!

Who will like this book: Girls aged 14+
Read it if you like: Phillip Pullman's Northern Lights

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