Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
There are angels and demons and a plethora of books about them. This is not one of them. This is about angels and chimera. Not Beefalo (mix between cow and buffalo) but more similar to the creatures atop Notre Dame with the gargoyles only with more imagination.
There are angels whose origin is different according to the source, the Chimaera who are in the same world as the angels and then the humans who live in Prague. That's where the story begins, anyway. This is an interesting choice as Prague was directly impacted by both World War I and World War II. In fact, there are references to both wars within the story. There are also similarities to the human wars and the angel vs. chimera war which has been going on for eons. Although the creatures in question come from a vivid imagination, the concept is universal; war sprouts from fear.
In this case, the war is between the chimaera and angels. The angels were the dominant race see themselves as saviors to the lesser race. The chimaera see themselves as enslaved and beaten down. Tired of being the underdog, they united and rose up to fight while the angels were unaware of their intelligence and unity.
But again, the story starts in Prague with Karou who is a... ? That is the question. She was raised by a kindly and grumpy chimaera who carries the world on his shoulders and keeps his secrets close to his chest. There are three other chimaera in the shop that Karou loves like family. Meanwhile, Karou is attending an art school in Prague. She has experienced a unique childhood and possesses the gift of tongues. She collects languages and uses them to fit into whatever country or culture she is currently inhabiting.
The imagination of the author is astounding. In order to visit her "family," Karou must knock on the portal door and wait for it to be opened from the inside. If she opens the door, she is greeted by a human inhabitant of the building. If it is opened from the inside, it is Issa, a beautiful Chimaera that ushers her into an airtight foyer. The door behind her closes and then the second door opens and she enters Elsewhere which is not of the human realm.
I can't begin to explain the imaginative and literary liberties without spoiling the story. All I can say is that the book is original, the story executed in perfect increments, description swallows up the reader into the world of Elsewhere, and of course, star-crossed-lovers.
I would rate the book as PG:
Sex is implied but not graphic in any way.
Language is mild.
Swearing is non-existent.
Violence is part of the story. It's war.
Audio Review: I have adult onset ADHD. In other words, I diagnosed myself and perpetuate this condition by constantly toggling and multi-tasking. This makes audio books a bit of challenge for me at times. I'll be listening along and then my mind starts wandering and I eventually find myself deep in an argument with myself over my political views or, more likely, Oooh. A butterfly! In other words, like many of the technologically savy and multi-tasking adult population, I need a lot more than listening to a book to keep my attention. First of all, I need a good story line. Daughter of Smoke and Bone's story line. Check. Secondly, I need an engaging voice that uses inflection and accents to keep my mind rolling through the story like a well written, directed, and edited film. Check.
The voice talent is truly that; talented. The story takes place in Prague and the voices coming to my ears had just enough of a Prague accent to transport me but not enough to make me go, "What? What?" Each character clearly had his or her own "voice." The story flowed just as well on CD as when I read the book thanks to the careful combination of a great story and incredible talent well versed in dramatic reading. The reader captures the raw emotions with her voice and timbre. I would love to hear more from her.
I maintain my high star rating even without the benefit of holding an actual copy of this book in my hands while I folded clothes, baked bread, and drove to Yellowstone. Fortunately, there were no bears, elk, or deer to distract me on the road (just a lost cow or two. Oh, and bison). The story unfolded beautifully and with the panache of a seasoned talent.