The other day I sat next to a lovely girl on the train and we got around to discussing books; I started to recommend Daughter of Smoke and Bone, which I was rereading (for the 5th time in under 2 years), but as I started to talk about it I realised it sounds really bizarre. I could see her face go from “interested” to “that sounds bloody weird actually”, so I changed the subject.
This is one of my favourite books, and the first book in one of my favourite trilogies, so I thought I’d finally write my review, and try to do the book some justice.
From the blurb:
Around the world, black hand prints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.
In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grows dangerously low.
And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherworldly war.
Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real, she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”, she speaks many languages – not all of them human – and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.
When beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?
“Once upon a time an angel and a devil fell in love. It did not end well.”
The story begins in Prague, with the main protagonist Karou, a 17 year old girl studying art at a prestigious private school. She is blue haired, beautiful, and somehow mysterious. Karou’s sketchbooks are infamous amongst the students, filled as they are with fantastical illustrations of monsters, who she claims are her family. There is Brimstone, the reptilian giant with rams horns, Issa who is half woman-half snake and parrot beaked Yssra.
Whenever she is asked about where she gets the inspiration to draw her “monsters” she smiles wryly and refers to the tattoos on her wrists which state True Story. No one believes her when she says that her hair grows blue either… but it does.
Brimstone is the Wishmonger, he grants wishes, which he creates in a workshop that exists between world’s. He has looked after Karou since she was a baby, she doesn’t know who her parents are or how she came to be with her monster family. Now that she is older Karou runs errands for Brimstone, collecting teeth from all over the world, using the doorways that lead to the shop to visit Paris, Tokyo, Marrakesh…
Through Brimstone Karou has been able to acquire 26 languages, martial arts and a vast fortune. She doesn’t know why Brimstone needs the teeth, only that the work is important.
One day on her errands for Brimstone, Karou notices that one of the doorways has been marked with a burnt black handprint. The handprints then start to appear at doorways across the world.
This is the beginning of events that will change Karou’s life, and finally tell her where she came from.
Seeing it written down, it still seems like an odd book. It is absolutely odd book, but it’s also a brilliant mix of modern life and fantasy, and full of great characters. My favourite character is Karou’s best friend Zuzanna (A.K.A. the rabid fairy) who has some great dialogue.
This book is possibly even better on the 2nd…or 5th.. read, when you can pick up details you missed the first time around.
Everyone I have recommended this to has loved it, so if you’re looking for a good fantasy read give it a go.
Let me know of you’ve read this book in the, and what book always sounds crazy when you try to describe it to people.