Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Angels & Chimaera

Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy book covers
by Laini Taylor
Series: Daughter of Smoke and Bone #1-3
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: September 27, 2011 / November 6, 2012 / April 8, 2014
Source/Format: All borrowed from Rachel (Thanks!) || Hardcover

It seems fitting that I make an art analogy when I talk about the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy: Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Days of Blood & Starlight and Dreams of Gods & Monsters. The books, collectively, had the same effect on me as seeing Monet’s paintings of water lilies in real life. At first sight, I might not have understood what a beautiful piece of art I was engaging with. But slowly, as I switched perspectives and allowed myself to truly interpret what I saw, it became one of the most beautiful things I’d ever had the privilege to encounter. The Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy might have made no sense to me at the start, but as the pieces fell into place, I found myself completely captivated by the beauty of these books.

It is, without a doubt, Laini Taylor’s gorgeous writing that reeled me in so completely. Her writing is, quite simply, beautiful. As I told a friend, it’s like her words crash into each other haphazardly, messily, and yet it still reads like art. With every chapter, there were words and phrases and passages to savor. This actually slowed me down quite a bit as I was reading, as I was constantly rereading passages that resonated fully with me. But it’s to Taylor’s credit, obviously, as I fell head over heels for her writing style.

Her words, pretty as they are, are merely building blocks for an incredible story. I was so thoroughly invested in the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy from start to finish. While I definitely took a little more time to read Days of Blood and Starlight (because it was so, so, so sad), overall, the entire trilogy reads like one extremely long story. The premise, in bare bones, is very simple: angels versus chimaera, and the hope harbored by one angel and one chimaera for a new, peaceful world. It’s the nuances - the losses, the victories, the secrets, the moments between – that really colored in this tale, and made it magical.

But the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy would not have worked half as well, were it not for the creativity that went into the lore, the setting, and these characters. 

In terms of lore, Taylor utilized concepts that ring with familiarity: angels, chimaera, war, love. But she took these things and spun them to be uniquely attributable to the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy. It’s always a risk to do so, as there’s a chance it won’t translate properly. But Taylor makes these concepts work in a logical, believable way. She balances this real world with her imagined world of angels and chimaera perfectly, convincing readers that perhaps there is indeed a world that exists that we just can’t see.

Her settings, too, shared that distinctively familiar yet strange aura. Her books happen in imagined worlds, but the real world surfaces now and again: the cold and mystery of Prague, the heat and adventure of Morocco, the age and veneration of Rome. It was dreamy to read of her fantasy worlds, but even cooler to read about these real places as she writes them.

But really, my biggest soft spot here is with the characters – well-crafted, so real… so alive. There are villains, there are heroes, and there are those caught between them. The angels, for the most part, were battle-ready and intimidating, honed to be weapons and to wage this war against the beast. But the chimaera, misfits and monsters that were part human, part animal, were my favorites.

There are those who stand out among the crowd – tortured & vulnerable warrior Akiva, and brave, intelligent & creative Karou clearly being the two stars. However, I also loved Liraz (Akiva’s “sister”, a woman who is fierce, battle-scarred and yet still capable of deep feelings), Ziri (a chimaera of Karou’s kind, who has so much heart), Zuzana (one of the two humans who impressed me by being funny, silly and such a great best friend to Karou) and Mik (Zuzana’s boyfriend, who also proves that he’s worth it by standing by Zuzana and Karou).

Honestly, Taylor has seriously impressed me with the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy. Each book is beautifully written, complete with a twist that would shock me with its cleverness. While I definitely thought I would like it, I wasn’t expecting to fall for these books as hard as I did. It’s the perfect marriage of excellence in writing, story and characters! It’s a series I’m so glad I’ve finally gotten to read, and can highly recommend to fellow fantasy fans.

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If you’re curious about what I thought of each novel, here are a few brief thoughts below:

Daughter of Smoke and Bone is my favorite of the trilogy. Not only is it set in Prague (which is described so wonderfully that I want to visit, and I never have before), but it’s also my introduction into Taylor’s world of chimaera and angels. It’s my first time meeting the main players as well, and I think Taylor wove all these introductions into a series starter that is compelling and mysterious. Plus, everything climaxes with this great twist and it left me absolutely speechless by the end.

Days of Blood and Starlight took me the longest to read. Most of it feels melancholy, and hard to swallow considering all that Akiva and Karou had, have and will have to go through. The story fed my curiosity, and I was still invested in finding out what would happen. But their sadness also made me sad, which made it hard to read this one in large chunks. However, the twist in this one is pretty crazy, and had me itching for book three.

Dreams of Gods and Monsters is a great series ender, save for that epilogue that I’m torn on. There were so many different emotions running through me as I read on to find out what happens to Karou, to Akiva, to this entire cast of characters I’ve grown to love (or hate, in the case of villains). It was exhilarating and terrifying, and altogether, one of the most intense reading experiences I’ve had in ages.

13 comments:

  1. Wow. I got chills just reading your review, Alexa. I absolutely love this trilogy and every time I read the books it's like I'm reading them for the first time. The magic is always there, which is due to Laini's incredible storytelling.

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  2. This is such a beautiful review Alexa!!! I too have such love for this series. The writing, the world, the story, the characters are all so beautiful and well-crafted. You definitely do it justice. :)

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  3. I love this post so much. I agree with all of this. I need to take a road trip too. Such a great list and post!

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  4. This. All of this. Perfect. Like I can't even form words. You've managed to verbalize everything I feel about this series in words I couldn't find. The beauty is palpable

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  5. I'm loving both of these, but I'm thinking that if I had to choose, I'd take the West Coast road trip! :) Mostly because I've spent my entire life on the East Coast and have traveled it a decent amount (though I'd looove to visit Boston and Atlanta!).

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  6. Oh, Alexa. I'm absolutely thrilled you loved this series! I know it's one I'd enjoy, but SO many people love it and praise it that I'm a little worried I'll expect too much! :(

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  7. Beautiful review, Alexa! This series is one I definitely want to invest in, but it sounds so daunting! Book 2 scares me the most - I know the romance is at its rockiest here. But I got a sneak peek at Laini Taylor's writing with the novella - Night of Cake and Puppets - and she blew me away. Her writing is GORGEOUS. I've never seen anything like it, and I want more. So glad you enjoyed this series!

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  8. YES, YES, YES! Such a gorgeous and wonderful review. Taylor's writing is so beautiful and just plain magical. How does she even come up with this stuff? Each page is pure poetry, and I'm so glad you fell hard for these books.

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  9. Great post! I did the East Coast trip last year in reverse minus Orlando, from Atlanta to Boston, and it was so much fun! I'd highly recommend it :)

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  10. You are right Bumbling! Orlando and Boston offers a wide range of tourist attraction for visitors. Boston is my favorite city in the world. You know that the Boston Public park is the most famous and major enjoyable place in this city. I have visited there before boston to dc bus tours with my wife. This park is present the natural beauty of god. I really like to visit there.

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  12. FANTASTIC REVIEW, ALEXA! By far, one of the best I've read about this ABSOLUTELY STUNNING series! : )

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  13. Hi Leah, it looks like you commented six months ago, but did you ever decide to dive in?? I REALLY hope you did!

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Thanks for leaving a comment! I love seeing what you have to say, and will try to reply (here or on Twitter) as soon as I can :)

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