My fellow readers and writers, I’m thrilled to bring you some exciting news: I am officially a VIP member of the Sony Readers Book Club! A few weeks ago, Sony announced that it was starting a new book club and was looking for twenty-five VIP members to participate in the program. As a book club member, Sony asked that we participate in four amazing book club discussions/chats with authors Laini Taylor (Daughter of Smoke and Bone), Barbara Kingsolver (Flight Behavior), Michael Connelly (The Black Box), and Molly Ringwald (When It Happens to You). As you all know, I love eBooks and my Sony Reader and always have, so I thought I’d apply even though I thought winning was a long shot. Much to my surprise, I received an e-mail a few days later that said I had been selected as one of the twenty-five VIP members. (Insert visual of me jumping up and down and screaming with delight in my kitchen. [And no, my cats were none to pleased about my reaction.])
One of the amazing benefits of being selected as a VIP member is that the lovely folks at Sony sent me a brand-new PRS-T2 reader, complete with a reader cover and book light. In February, I’ll join my fellow Sony Readers and head to Los Angeles to participate in a live book club discussion with author Michael Connelly. To say I’m excited is an understatement! We participated in our first book club discussion today with Laini Taylor, and it was fantastic. Everyone who participated asked great questions, and we learned a lot about Ms. Taylor’s inspiration for the book, her favorite characters, and more. (Search the hashtag #sonyreader on Twitter to see the highlights.) Our next chat will be with Barbara Kingsolver on January 16 at 12:30 p.m. PST. Click here to RSVP for the event. You won’t want to miss it!
So, now to the review.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
I’ve actually read this book twice. I read it this summer for the first time, and honestly, I wasn’t impressed. I was just coming out of another series that had captivated me until the end, and I was still basking in its glow. In truth, I probably should’ve waited a while before picking up this book, but a good friend recommended it to me—and she’s never steered me wrong on a book—so I had to read it. My first reaction was that the book was hard to get into and that it started out slowly. I was annoyed with the fact that Taylor gave us no big breadcrumbs to follow that would allow me to guess the book’s ending halfway through like I normally do, and I ended up putting it down for a couple of weeks before coming back to it and plowing through until the end.
Needless to say, when Sony announced that this would be their first pick in the inaugural Sony Readers Book Club, I wasn’t exactly excited. Boy, am I glad I was wrong.
The first thing that captured me about Daughter of Smoke and Bone was the descriptions. Every word seemed carefully picked, and I quickly fell in love with Prague, where Karou, the main character, lives. I even found myself Google searching pictures of the city, which looks exactly the way Taylor describes it. The picture Taylor paints of this dark city is rich and teeming with life, and more than once while I was reading I found myself making a cup of hot tea when Karou had one or imagining myself to be sitting with them in Poison Kitchen as I sat in a local coffee shop.
Each character takes on a life of its own, and I often found myself wondering about their past lives (literally and figuratively in this case). As Laini Taylor mentioned in today’s chat, each character has a back story so deep that each one could have its own side stories in addition to this trilogy. And if they did, I would read them all. Brimstone, Karou, Madrigal, Akiva, Zuzana, and all the others are dark and mysterious in their own ways, and any combinations of them together on the page produce some fantastic conversations. My personal favorite is the best friend dynamic between Karou and Zuzana. I laughed out loud a few times at Zuzana’s tiny warrior attitude and the quick, sarcastic dialogue the two share.
One of the biggest themes in the book is the battle between good and evil. We’ve all seen books that have totally good or completely evil characters, but Taylor is able to bypass these stereotypes. For example, the seraphs believe they’re right in trying to conquer the Chimaera “devils” and force them into submission. After all, aren’t angels the ones who are supposed to be “good”? They believe the Chimaera are rebellious and ungrateful and that they seek to take over. But the way the Chimaera see it, the seraph slave drivers are the monsters who claim to control the Chimaera lands and refuse to relinquish control to the ones who were born there, raised their families, and buried their elders there. The question becomes, is either side actually evil? Both believe they are 100 percent correct in fighting for their beliefs.
The darker nature of this novel makes it perfect for older teen audiences. There are some references to sex, but nothing explicit—which is the way it should be in YA. Overall, I’d recommend this to anyone interested in YA fiction/fantasy, and I’ve already added the sequel, Days of Blood and Starlight to my reading list.
Learn more about author Laini Taylor here.