A very long time ago, a good friend and I sat down for an early afternoon drink on Hotel del Coronado‘s patio. The sun warmed our shoulders, the sky was flawlessly blue, and we were indulgent with escaping the end of the school year. It was agreeable and innocuous, and then I tried a refreshing-sounding drink made up of lemonade, white grape juice, vodka, and what was most likely ambrosia. It was delicious, and after chatting awhile, I realized I was thoroughly, benevolently drunk. Eventually we adjourned for a walk on the ocean beach, and the day went from pleasant to astonishing.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone is a lot like that drink.
There is so much to love here, from dialogue that hits the late-teen years spot-on, to the beautiful setting of Prague, to inventive language that almost sounds like it was translated. I found myself torn between lingering on phrasing or speed-reading for plot. Unusual ideas include wishes that come in denominations, created with teeth–potential coming from loss and death. Penises come in inessential varieties, and an obnoxious ex is called a “scandalous rodent-loaf” by a naga-woman. An elderly artist’s model is known as an “unwrapped mummy,” the young women regularly meet for meals at the Poison Kitchen, and vomiting stomach butterflies are responsible for those strange feelings when in love. I was drinking in Karou’s story and getting to know Prague when all of a sudden Taylor turns the story sideways and sends us to another world where we are immersed in fighting angels and chimaera, and the origins of an immeasurable tragedy.
I have a couple of minor quibbles, especially the cliff-hanger ending. My initial objection to lurve-at-first-sight was cleverly averted by Taylor’s plotting. This and the sequel Days of Blood & Starlight win a spot in my space-constrained library.
“Her own eyebrows did not function independently of each other, which handicapped her expressions of suspicion and disdain.”
“For the way loneliness is worse when you return to it after a reprieve–like the soul’s version of putting on a wet bathing suit, clammy and miserable.”
“As she walked, clock towers across Prague started arguing midnight, and the long, fraught Monday came at last to a close.”
“It was like stepping into the pages of a book–a book alive with color and fragrance, filth and chaos–and the blue-haired girl moved through it all like a fairy through a story, the light treating her differently than it did others, the air seeming to gather around her like held breath.”