Get it, read it, love it...
Daughter of Smoke and Bone is fantasy fiction at its most accessible. Not to be confused with overly simplistic, insipid fairy-tales; this is a sophisticated, innovative approach to the age-old theme of good versus evil and how blurry the line that distinguishes them can be.
Set in modern day Prague, we find Karou, a teenager with a difference. Not only is she a talented, beautiful artist, but her peacock blue hair and over-active imagination make her really stand out. Her sketchbook is overflowing with images of strange creatures, part human, part animal – each with their own name and according to Karou – their own personalities. Brimstone is the stern, ram horned, crocodile-eyed, father figure who sits stringing teeth necklaces. Issa, part snake, is Brimstone’s bouncer. Guarding the door to his shop, her snakes are wrapped around the neck of visitors to ensure they behave. Her motherly coddling is reserved for Karou and the others whose existence is the shop. Twiga is the giraffe-necked assistant, all obeisance and diplomacy, whilst Yasri, parrot-like, is capable of producing the most delicious nibbles, who looks after them all in her own, unassuming way. To her very few friends, it seems that Karou having never known her own parents has made these creatures her own quartet family. Karou knows better though. She knows that her chimaeras are real. Their Elsewhere is her first home, even if that home is full of secrets not being told. And still a teen in body, if not in mind, Karou finds herself thrust into a bitter war that she doesn’t understand.
Taylor’s superimposition of world upon world allows the reader a unique opportunity to connect with the otherworldly Karou and her chimaera family in a manner that would be beyond reach had Daughter of Smoke and Bone simply been written in a singular dimension. The roughshod joining of a modern human world and a hidden ‘beyond-time’ world of beasts and angels is sufficiently jarring to provide a stark contrast between a world of greys and one that exists in black and white. The seraphim (angelic hosts) are made equal to our expectations: eye-squintingly painful to look upon due to their incomprehensible beauty – and then Taylor rather cleverly makes us question our perception of angels as beings of good. Light, maybe – but good, maybe not.
A heart-thumping, breath-arresting tale of love, loss and family; Daughter of Smoke and Bone is a striking story, written with impetus and conviction – so much so, we couldn’t help but find ourselves pondering the possibility that such doors actually exist, if only we knew where to look. Taylor’s narrative may not have the poetic beauty of Patrick Rothfuss, or the complexity of Tolkien, but what she has in spades is an immediacy that is infectious and a sincerity that is commendable. This is one lady who’s on our shortlist of favourite fantasy authors – what higher accolade can we give than that? Get it, read it, love it.
We interview C J Daugherty about Night School
- 10 January 2012