Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Paranormal romance with angels? Yawn, I thought. I am so over paranormal, and angels? Blech. Self righteous boring warriors. And the cover? While it actually fits with the story (+1) can we really not do better Photoshop jobs?
These were my thoughts as I held off reading the book, even as my colleague Jen touted it over and over (and Jen has a wishbone necklace*, so looking back, she might have been more invested in sharing the story than is proper).But I was prepping for a graduate conference, a long car ride with people I rather like but at the time, didn't know super well and wanted something to bridge any potential awkward silences.
Cut to me starting the book, and twenty pages in, my thoughts shifted from "blah angels" to "OMG OMG OMG, this is sooooooooooo good!"
Kittens, this book is soooooooooooo good!
I don't want to give too much away, so I will list a few of the things I love about this book.
1. The heroine, Karou, is a bad ass. The book opens with Karou nursing a bit of a broken heart, having finally dumped gorgeous but feckless Kazimir, but does Karou wallow in self-pity? Does she fall into a catatonic depression? No she does not. She picks up and keeps going, and when jerkface Kazimir shows up as a model in her life drawing class, trying to win back her adoration (which is all he wants, jerkface), she metes out a little magical revenge. Karou is a great character, complicated and smart and brave and vulnerable. Also, Karou has blue hair. So awesome.
2. Magic wishes. Karou occasionally uses wishes for petty or whimsical desires (the aforementioned blue hair and magical revenge), but it's clear that wishes are risky business. There are consequences, sometimes horrifying consequences. And the way she comes by the wishes. Yikes.
3. Zuzana -- Karou's bestie, Zuzana doesn't show up much in the story, but when she does, she's not just a stock character to fill out the corners of Karou's life.Zuzana is a bad ass, not in the literal ass-kicking way that Karou is (oh yes, Karou can break you). She's supportive but not solely a scaffold for Karou. There's a genuine friendship there, no mean girl backstabbing, no time-filler until the boy comes along. I love it.
4. Prague. The bulk of this story takes place in Prague, and now I want to go to there! Also, there's a brief scene near Boise, Idaho (hometown holla!) and a few other places, magical and real, but I really want to go to Prague now.
5. Angel mythology. When I was twelve or so, I went through an angel obsession, reading all about visitations and guardian angels and such. There is NONE of this sort of thing in this book. I LOVE that, instead of falling back on boring old angel tropes, Taylor created new mythologies for the seraphs and the chimeras (the demons in the angels and demons binary that runs through the story), completely sans Christianity. Removing religion from the story allows for a much richer and more complicated story, and I LOVE it. Seriously.
And now I can't wait for book two, due out in November, I think.
*A wishbone turns out to be a major plot point, but saying any more would be a serious spoiler.