All I had heard about Daughter of Smoke and Bone before reading it for myself was that it was beautifully written and truly compelling. People weren’t wrong.
Weird and wonderful and well paced, I found myself falling in love with a city I’ve never visited (Prague) largely due to Laini Taylor’s evocative prose. I felt like I could get lost in the labyrinthine cobbled paths that wind their way through history and myth and maybe even magic. I could almost feel the heat and the noise and the bustle of Marrakesh along with Karou. It’s been some time since a book has actually managed that for me, and Booktubers weren’t exaggerating when they said the writing in this book was gorgeous, I just wanted to drink it in.
Meanwhile, the characters too were weird and wonderful. After a while of reading it just seemed normal to come across a being with a jackal head – that seemed as commonplace as the ‘real world’ characters of Prague and I think that’s a testament to how immersive Laini Taylor’s world (both her depiction of ‘the real world’ and of Elsewhere) truly is. Whilst Karou is a strong character who made me laugh and despair in equal measure, I found myself most intrigued by those on the sidelines (Zusana and Issa to name but a few) and hope to see them developed in the following books along with, I’m sure, Karou’s development. It would be nice to have a touch more development to Akiva too; as much as I do so enjoy hearing about his stunningly toned physique, it can get a little wearing. We get it, he’s angelically beautiful.
The pacing was well executed. I appreciated the way that Laini Taylor built up the world around Karou and introduced her (admittedly odd) life and friends before slowly teasing out the threads of the storyline. I enjoyed hearing about her run-ins with Kaz and his posturing in art class, her and Zusana’s trips to the quirky Poison Kitchen, and her many, many sketchbooks filled with drawings of Brimstone and Co, just as much as I did the moment of big reveal when the reader, and Karou, finally learnt what the deal was with the teeth collection!
This might easily have been a five-star book given the (for me at least) originality of its world-building and magic system, if it weren’t for a few minor quirks in the prose that bugged me – ‘He said, not ungently’ being one of them, and unnecessary casual droppings of words like ‘scapula’ being another. I will also say that I kept a collection of quotes on my quote blog and, looking back at them, all of the most brilliant turns of phrase were found in the first half of the book. Perhaps that’s just the inevitable way of the world, as the story started to unfold and narrative/action took precedence over the quality of the prose, but it is a small shame.
However, overall, a strong fantasy book and I look forward to soaking up more of Laini Taylor’s work in the future.
Notes: A previous version of this review was originally posted on Goodreads, here.