Daughter of Smoke and Bone
This fantasy by Laini Taylor is the first in the "Daughter of Smoke and Bone" series published by Little, Brown and Company, a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone is written for kids ages 15 to 18. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
Karou, a 17-year-old art student in Prague, doesn't know much about her origins. Other-worldly creatures called chimera, which possess the physical characteristics of both animals and humans, raised her. Chimera are what humans refer to as demons or devils, and seraphim are their mortal enemies.
Karou is human, though her hair grows blue due to a wish granted her by Brimstone, the leader of her surrogate family. Brimstone is a sorcerer who uses dark magic and collects teeth of all kinds to provide power. He often sends Karou on errands around the world to pick up teeth and deal with his business partners. He pays her in small wishes.
Karou has ready access to Brimstone and the other chimera through doors around the world, which become portals when a chimera is waiting on the other side. In the human world, Karou takes classes, hangs out with classmate Zuzana and tries to get ex-boyfriend Kaz off her tail. When handprints start appearing on all of the portal doors that she uses, she discovers that seraphim are planning an attack on the chimera.
As a seraph named Akiva and his fellow soldiers mark doors, Akiva sees Karou. There's something strangely familiar about her, and he can't get her off his mind. Karou and Akiva fight on the street. Karou bears the tattoo-like markings of hamsas eyes on her hands, which give her power to subdue the angel and escape.
When Brimstone catches the curious Karou in his office and secret areas beyond, he sends her away. She can no longer access the chimera and suddenly realizes the war between the two sides is much more momentous than she imagined. Brimstone's messenger bird delivers a wishbone to her, and she wears the mysterious token around her neck. Feeling she must help Brimstone, Karou formulates a plan to reach him through a portal in the sky. She intends to use high-value wishes she's stolen off of Brimstone's former clients to fly through the air.
Akiva continues to pursue Karou, trying to figure out who or what she is. He knows her name means hope in the chimera language. Readers learn Akiva was born and bred to be a soldier, as all seraphim are. His father had numerous concubines and offspring. A chimera named Madrigal once saved Akiva in battle, and the two became secret lovers. Madrigal was beheaded for her indiscretion with the enemy. After losing her, Akiva feels only bitterness and resentment.
Karou injures Akiva in another street encounter, then remorsefully brings him to her apartment to patch him up. They talk, and the romantic tension between them grows. Akiva explains Brimstone's tooth collecting to her. He says the pain inherent in tooth extraction gives Brimstone his power, because magic always comes at a price. Karou and Akiva wander through Prague with Zuzana and her boyfriend.
Akiva begins to cry when he sees the wishbone around Karou's neck, and he tells her that he now knows who she really is. She begs him to tell her about her past, but he's afraid. Akiva's half-siblings appear in all of their angelic glory before a gawking crowd. They are the angel's closest companions, yet he battles them so they won't destroy Karou.
Back at Karou's, Akiva uses the wishbone to restore Karou's memories of her true identity. Karou was actually Madrigal in her first life. She can suddenly recall everything, such as being romantically pursued by a leader named Thiago and being beheaded when Thiago caught her having an affair with Akiva. Because Brimstone supported Madrigal's and Akiva's desires to stop the war, he resurrected Madrigal as Karou. The hamsas on Karou's hands were Akiva's clue that she was a revenant, someone who had been resurrected. But the wishbone, which had been Madrigal's, let him know she was his true love.
With her memories now intact, Karou understands her attraction to the enemy angel. She is anxious to restore their relationship and work with Akiva to end the war. Then Akiva confesses his terrible secret: He has recently helped kill all the chimera Karou loved. Karou leaves him and plans once more to access the portal in the air to determine what, if anything, is left of her family.
As onlookers begin to see angels in Prague, some murmur prayers and make pilgrimages to the places where seraphim appeared.
Other Belief Systems
A war between angels and devils takes center stage in this novel, though God is never mentioned. Angels and chimera alike deny the Christian notions of a heaven and have contempt for religion. Both sides hold to elaborate legends about how the world began, involving gods and goddesses and even a story about the sun raping one of two moons. The result of this union was seraphim.
According to Akiva, angels exist to fight. Akiva and his numerous siblings are bred as warriors. They experience little in the way of relationships or personal joy. Akiva is initially merciless and sullen. Like other seraphim warriors, he bears a mark on his fingers for each chimera he's killed in battle. A miserable, disfigured creature named Razgut lives on the back of a man in the human world. He claims to be a fallen angel, exiled for treason and for collaborating with the enemy.
Brimstone and Akiva contend that power is derived from pain. Akiva uses his personal pain to practice magic that he suspects he inherited from his mother's people. Brimstone collects teeth that give him the power to create wishes and resurrect the dead in custom-made bodies. Some of Brimstone's tooth suppliers are grave robbers, but others brutally kill or injure people to collect teeth. People willing to extract their own teeth in an act of self-mutilation receive particularly powerful wishes.
Rapture cults hold vigils after angels are sighted in Prague. Karou promises anyone who returns her sketchbook to her will be rewarded with cosmic goodwill.
The Lord's name is used in vain frequently in various forms, along with h---, a--, d--n, b--ch, crap, suck, freaking and piss. Karou and Zuzana often refer to Karou's ex-boyfriend as Jacka--. Anyone considered a jerk is referred to as an orifice. Several battles include hand-to-hand combat, guns and magical fighting, and some end in death. Thiago has Madrigal beheaded.
Karou lost her virginity to her ex-boyfriend, Kaz. She says at first she felt like she'd become a woman until she realized Kaz had been telling a number of other people about their intimacy. Brimstone guesses what she's doing and tells her not to put anything nonessential, such as alcohol, drugs or penises, into her body. He tells her to wait for love. Kaz cheated on Karou but tries to get her back by pleading, seducing and even posing nude in Karou's art class. Other men pose nude for the class as well, leading Karou and Zuzana to have several discussions about penises.
Karou thinks about the first time she saw Kaz naked and describes his body. He surprises her with a tattoo of her initials on his buttocks and poses in lewd ways to get her attention. On several occasions when the conversation revolves around Kaz's private parts, Karou says they aren't that impressive. A naked man, later revealed to be Thiago, straddles Karou when she fights with him. Karou and Akiva share intense moments of touching and kissing before and after she learns she was Madrigal in her past life.
Karou's memories reveal that Thiago was courting Madrigal. Before a big event with him, Madrigal's sisters dressed her in an almost invisible gown and coated her body with sugar so he could taste her. Thiago liked Madrigal for her "purity," both because she was a virgin and because she was still in her first life. Madrigal wasn't purposely a virgin, as chimera weren't puritanical. She just hadn't found the right moment to have sex. Thiago examined Madrigal lustfully at a party and tugged at her sheer dress to make it fall off. Madrigal and Akiva became lovers and spent many nights together.
Homosexual behavior is mentioned briefly when a nude male model impresses a male art student. Karou's chimera friend Issa is a serpent from the waist down and a globe-breasted woman on top. She resembles women found in Kama Sutra carvings.
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Readability Age Range
15 to 18
Little, Brown and Company, a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc.
YALSA Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults, 2012; ALA Readers Choice List, 2012; Publishers Weekly Best Children's Books, 2011