ABR's full Daughter of Smoke and Bone audiobook review and many others can be found at Audiobook Reviewer.
Oh, how to begin?!?
“At the beginning”, you say. Unfortunately, I find myself at a loss for words. Which non-clichéd superlatives should I use to convey how unexpectedly much I enjoyed this book without turning your ears deaf in disbelief? Incredible! Awesome! Amazing! Yeah, those adjectives just don’t begin to describe how enamored I am with this story! There is nothing clichéd about this ingenious world.
When given the opportunity to listen-for-review, I chose this book because I thought it would be good. I didn’t expect to be utterly and completely sucked in and held captive.
This is a wonderfully imaginative YA fantasy romance with origins in mythological folklore, though not of Roman or Greek variety. Set in modern-day Prague and Marrakesh and incorporating a millennial old battle between the “good guys” and the “bad guys”, your determination of who is which will oscillate throughout this well-organized tale. (You might read elsewhere that this battle is between “angels” and “demons”, but, I assure you, not all of these “angels” are angelic and not all of these “demons” are demonic.) Being the first book of the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, this opener tells the histories of our three hero/heroines: Karou, a blue-haired, highly artistic, 17 year old (human) girl orphaned and lovingly raised by four chimaera; Akiva, a 50-year- young and eternally handsome, magically gifted, born-to-fight seraph; and Madrigal, an orphaned-by-war, compassionate, high-human aspect, pure chimaera who is a page to one of the same chimaera raising Karou.
While the three stories are interwoven in the telling, the three stories are not told in alternating chapters. Instead, the book begins with Karou’s story, then, around the 50% mark, transitions to Akiva’s tale, nearly obscuring Karou’s story. Finally, we transition to Madrigal’s history, nearly obscuring both Karou’s and Akiva’s stories, before Ms Taylor reveals the completed tapestry that is all three stories as one beautifully created piece of artwork. The first half of the story, that portion with Karou at its center, is lighter, wittier and “happier” than the second half of the story. This shift in temperature is noticeably sudden and somewhat jarring. This first book is a complete story, but not the whole story, hence, book one of a trilogy. As this installment will not leave the reader dangling over a cliff, you will be well-equipped to determine whether Ms Taylor’s creation is enticement enough to want more or satisfying enough to allow you to move on. (I, for one, am wanting more.)
Ms Taylor is a gifted storyteller, precisely knowing how to intrigue and captivate her audience, both young and old. With every character, major and minor, modern day and ancient day, chimaera, seraph and human, this author deepens her narrative with stories within stories. She paints incredible characters unique to anything I’ve ever read. Laini Taylor incorporates passages both poignant to the story, to the story within the story and extractable to the readers’ world. (This one made me laugh the most: “I don’t know many rules to live by,” he’d said. “But here’s one. It’s simple. Don’t put anything unnecessary into yourself. No poisons or chemicals, no fumes or smoke or alcohol, no sharp objects, no inessential needles—drug or tattoo—and… no inessential penises, either.”) Miss Taylor masterfully carries her readers at her pace through emotions, (full-body anger, soul-cratering guilt, humbling thankfulness, heart-wrenching sorrow, new-found-love joy, torturous anguish), through histories, and through relationships (friendly, familial, adaptively familial, and adversarial). I’d be hard-pressed to imagine who would not enjoy this book.
As I listened to the audio version of this book, narrated by Khristine Hvam, I cannot comment on the editing of the printed version. At 12 ½ hours, the audio book is wonderfully narrated by Ms Hvam as she gives voice to humans and creatures alike, not once reminding me that I was listening rather than experiencing. Her characters were recognizably distinguishable, accents consistent throughout the chapters and her voice easy to listen to. Though I am certain I would have enjoyed this book just as much if I had read it rather than listened to it, I am not as certain I would have created as many opportunities to read as I did to continue to listen.
I see that there are intentions to create a movie based on this book/series. I look forward to the opportunity to see Laini Taylor’s characters come to life. I thank the author for the opportunity to listen to this audio book in exchange for a review. Now, I am off to purchase the next book in the series!
Audiobook provided for review by the publisher.