Monday, February 16, 2015

Daughter of Smoke and Bone | by: Laini Taylor

Daughter of Smoke and Bone is the first installment of Laini Taylor's beloved fantasy/paranormal trilogy which follows the story of a peculiar girl named Karou. Karou is a human, and she goes to school just like any other human girl would, but her home life is unlike any other. She has been raised by monsters in a shop. Brimstone, the only father figure she's ever had, always has her running errands collecting different types of teeth from all over the world and he's never told her why.
An errand trip gone awry in which Karou must fight for her life may seem to make her circumstance even more confusing, but it will lead her to the truth she's been deprived of her whole life.
I was incredibly excited to start this book. It seemed that everywhere I turned in the wide and wonderful world of the Internet there was always someone fangirling like crazy over this trilogy, and the more I heard about it, the more amazing it seemed. People said it was dark and complicated and just downright fabulous. Apparently I'm the odd one out because to be honest, it's hard for me to pinpoint my feelings about this book. I've never read something and felt such overwhelming uncertainty until now. The only fear I had is that it could be a little overhyped, and that's not even my problem. Bear with me.
At first I was quite intrigued. The setting is unique and the characterization is impressive - that goes for both the humans and the chimera. Since Karou doesn't even know that much about her mysterious world, it leaves a lot of room for a reader to wonder, and when there are characters collecting tons of teeth... Well, you know you're in for something interesting. My first reaction to the first 150ish pages was "This book is weird." And I meant that in a positive way. I was intrigued and entertained. Plus, Taylor's writing is pretty, and it's definitely darker than quite a bit of YA fantasy/paranormal in terms of both the writing and the overall plot.

So after this initially positive reaction, what swayed my opinion toward the negative side? Akiva came along. There's nothing wrong with him as a character or anything. In fact, I like him well enough. The romantic element is done well: Laini Taylor really makes sure her readers feel ALL the feelings and she does the whole reincarnated-love thing better than what I've seen in the past. That's all fantastic and whatnot, but I keep running into the same problem: There are simply too many parallels to Sonja and Lucian's story explained first in the 2003 film Underworld and then explored in depth in the 2009 film Underworld: Rise of the Lycans. Karou and Akiva's specific forbidden love felt unoriginal and so did the past execution - especially the past execution. This aspect of the story would've made Daughter of Smoke and Bone special, but I just can't love it like everyone else, not when I can't stop thinking "this has been done before." I suppose one could argue that the general set-up 'wasn't that original anyway' if he or she wanted, and that if one of the characters in the flashback was human I might not see make the connection as clearly, but this is the first time I've come across anything this similar and the similarities still manage to unsettle me.

Perhaps all the hype it got does contribute to my feelings after all. Maybe if I wasn't expecting something so complicated and new and out-of-this-world (well... it technically is out of this world, but you get the idea) I wouldn't judge it so harshly. Perhaps if I wasn't so in love with Sonja and Lucian's story I wouldn't feel so abrasive towards this book... But it is what it is: The similarities are just too much for me personally. I already have a copy of the second book, Days and Blood and Starlight (although I wish I didn't get it) and I'll have to give it a try eventually and see if I like it any better now that we know Karou's story and can move on.

I'm not feeling too positively about this trilogy so far, but maybe Taylor can change my mind with the second book.

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