YALSA's list of best fiction for young adults, and that it's been nominated for an Audie Award. That was enough for me.
Our heroine is Karou, a teen with blue hair, a mysterious background, and a lot of secrets, who is going to art school in Prague. She is an incredibly talented artist who fills her sketchbook with bizarre, otherworldly images that she tells detailed stories about, as if they are all entirely true (because they are, but of course no one believes her). She runs errands for these creatures, going through magical doorways into a shop like nothing ever seen on Earth, and ending up in remote areas around the world. She often returns injured and exhausted, and she is adept at evading unwelcome questions.
The most compelling question of all: who she actually is, and how she fits into this space between two different worlds, is one that she doesn't know the answer to. But when she comes face to face in Marrakesh with the most terrifying, gorgeous being she's ever seen - and he tries to kill her - it appears that she will soon discover some answers.
This was a fascinating story, and Karou is a strong, likable heroine. The audio narration is fantastic, and the book unfolds like a complex, twisting, turning fairy tale. It was the kind of story that I couldn't wait to get back to, where each question that is answered raises entirely new questions and possibilities, and the suspense and tension just kept increasing. But then, about two-thirds of the way through the book, everything came screeching to a halt. Some questions were answered, but the story backtracked over events that had already been relayed, as had the ultimate outcome. The tension vanished, the plot meandered, and I felt annoyed and impatient to continue the story in the current timeline. It was so tedious that I actually put the book down for a while and listened to something else.
Eventually, curiosity drew me back to it, and I managed to sit through the rest of the back story. Once the narration came back to the current events of the story, the momentum picked up, and it was just as engaging as before. Taylor creates a memorable world with fascinating characters, one that is full of lush sensory images and surprising revelations. There were enough positive things about the novel that, despite its awkward structure, I am looking forward to reading the sequel. This is the first part of a story, not a standalone novel, and while it doesn't end on an absolute cliff-hanger, it's still just the beginning of a much longer tale. The good news is that the second book has already been published, readers won't have to wait.
Books in the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series:
1. Daughter of Smoke and Bone
2. Days of Blood and Starlight
Daughter of Smoke and Bone (#1 in the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series) by Laini Taylor; narrated by Khristine Hvam (Hachette Audio, 2011)
Also reviewed at:
Bewitched Bookworms: "I loved the phrasing, the humor that infused even the sadder moments, and the way Ms. Taylor used words like paint, drawing the reader in to the complete picture of her world."
Fantasy Cafe: "A lot of the fun in reading this book was in seeing these mysteries set up and then slowly learning more about the answers over the course of the novel. "
Love Vampires: "It has some beautiful storytelling that carries the story’s appeal far beyond just a teenaged audience."