Having read the book, I’ll say two things up front. One – I want to go to Prague and have a bowl of goulash at the Poison Cafe. And two – I so wish all this was true. “All this” being “Daughter of Smoke and Bone” – The opening book of Laini Taylor’s fantasy trilogy of the same name.
The story opens and runs with Karou, a young art student in Prague who is beautiful, naughty (not what you’re thinking) and funny. She also happens to be brought up by and living with four “Chimera” – who are, well, monsters with part-human and part-animal features, and keep some kick-ass magic up their sleeves.
On an average day, Karou has a fairly normal life. She goes to her art school, hangs out with her best friend in this really creepy cafe and tries her best to dodge a stupid ex-boyfriend. Many of those days, however, turn way out of average when she’s sent on errands to distant corners of the world by Brimstone – the nominal head of the Chimera quartet, and her guardian/father figure. These errands are always the same – to go and procure various kinds of teeth, which Brimstone weaves into mysterious magical necklaces for some unknown use. All this goes on about as normally as such things can, until Karou suddenly finds herself and her clan under deadly attack by the Seraphim. The Seraphim are another kind of magical creatures – they are beautiful and handsome, have a pair of absolutely gorgeous wings, and wield swords like you’ve never seen in Game of Thrones. After a..um, complicated(no spoilers) encounter with Akiva, one of the Seraphim, Karou begins to realise how little she knows of the things that have been going on all around her, in this world or some other that she has no knowledge of. And there, begins the main story.
While this is a book almost entirely about all things magical, the parts I enjoyed most are those where the normal and magical worlds in the book got violently mixed up. Taylor does a fairly good job striking a balance between the dramatic and the casual banter. The plot and narrative do get strained on a few occasions, but like with any good book you’d find yourself skipping those parts quickly to find out what happens next. One thing that is sure to touch you is the loving, intimate portrayal of Prague, with vantage points varying from shady alleys to tall church spires. And finally, the best thing about Laini Taylor’s book is that it doesn’t just run away with imagination, it makes you run away with your own. The vivid detail of things in the book makes you think up magnificent things in your head – angels, mosters, mythical battlefields and a lot more.