Snapshot From a Book: Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Snapshot From a Book is a feature that I started sometime last year and so far, I only have three posts for it (Interim Goddess of Love trilogy by Mina V. Esguerra, The Chocolate Thief and The Chocolate Touch by Laura Florand). I did mention that I wouldn’t be sure how often I’d be able to do this since it’s rare for me to visit places that are used as settings in the books that I read. Also, I think it’s pretty cool that I’ve managed to use lomography pictures in all my posts so far. In keeping with that theme, today I’m featuring snippets and pictures for Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor (my review). I visited Prague a few months ago and I believe Laini Taylor did a magnificent job in describing this gorgeous city. I’m sharing pictures taken using my Vivitar Ultra Wide and Slim film camera with no edits. Films used were Fuji Sensia, Fuji Velvia, Lomochrome Purple and Revolog Kolor.

“The streets of Prague were a fantasia scarcely touched by the twenty-first century – or the twentieth or nineteenth, for that matter. It was a city of alchemists and dreamers, its medieval cobbles once trod by golems, mystics, invading armies. Tall houses glowed goldenrod and carmine and eggshell blue, embellished with Rococo plasterwork and capped in roofs of uniform red. Baroque cupolas were the soft green of antique copper, and Gothic steeples stood ready to impale fallen angels. The wind carried the memory of magic, revolution, violins, and the cobbled lanes meandered like creeks. Thugs wore Mozart wigs and pushed chamber music on street corners, and marionettes hung in windows, making the whole city seem like a theater with unseen puppeteers crouched behind velvet.

Above it all loomed the castle on the hill, its silhouette as sharp as thorns. By night it was floodlit, bathed in eerie light, and this evening the sky hung low, full-bellied with snow, making gauzy halos around the street lamps.”

Prague lomo 1Prague lomo 2Prague lomo castle

“Prague entranced you, lured you in, like the mythic fey who trick travelers deep into forests until they’re lost beyond hope.”

Prague lomo astronomical clockPrague lomo old town

The medieval Cesky Krumlov was very briefly mentioned in the book as well, so I thought it would be nice to include some shots of that lovely place too:

“Zuzana was Czech, from a long line of marionette artisans in Cesky Krumlov, the little jewel box of a city in southern Bohemia.”

Cesky Krumlov lomoCesky Krumlov lomo 2

Days of Blood and Starlight and Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor

I read and loved Daughter of Smoke and Bone the year it came out. I can’t believe it’s been four years since then! I don’t know why I put off reading its sequels, I think I wanted to wait until the trilogy is finished so I can read all three books together. I was in the mood to read about Prague and also to immerse myself in a good fantasy world so I picked up Daughter of Smoke and Bone to reread and dove right into the second and third books. There are unavoidable spoilers for the first book in this combined review.

Days of Blood and Starlight
Days of Blood and StarlightVastly different from the first book in the series, Days of Blood and Starlight is all about the cycle of violence and vengeance involved in the never-ending war between the seraph and chimaera. Karou and Akiva are on opposite sides of the war and both are struggling to make the most out of their current situation, to find a way to atone for everything that they’ve done previously. The peace and tranquility of Karou’s human life in Prague gives a nice contrast to the war-torn world of Eretz. If Daughter of Smoke and Bone was about an epic love, its sequel is about soul-crushing heartbreak. Heartbreak not just for Karou and Akiva but also for all their people, for everyone who has only ever known war. I can’t say that I loved twists and turns that the story took but I have to admit that it’s a compelling read. Laini Taylor has a beautiful writing style. I wanted to keep reading but also didn’t want to continue because I didn’t want the characters to go through more pain. While it’s not easy to read, I did appreciate the empathy that this kind of story invokes in the reader. I really just want things to get better for everyone (well not the villains, of course). I started the third book right after finishing this one because I couldn’t wait to find out what’s going to happen.

Dreams of Gods and Monsters
Dreams of Gods and MonstersYou know how some series just keep getting better as it progresses? For me, this series was the opposite of that. I loved Daughter of Smoke and Bone and thought it was a beautiful story. I wasn’t as emotionally invested in the second book but I still found it an absorbing read. With Dreams of Gods and Monsters, I kept thinking more along the lines of, “What? What is going on here?” While Karou and Akiva’s storyline continues, other threads featuring new characters (Eliza and Scarab) are introduced. I wasn’t really invested in Eliza’s story and even skimmed some of the sections that were devoted to her. Scarab was more interesting but it might have been better if there was more than a hint about her people in the earlier books. At the end of the book, the varying threads of the story are pulled together but it didn’t feel seamless to me. I got the feeling that Laini Taylor was trying to tie loose ends and create an epic mythology encompassing Eretz and Earth but it felt a bit all over the place for me. From the start, the trilogy was focused on Karou, Akiva and the war between their people. The new elements in this last installment made the main focus of the trilogy feel smaller and less significant. I think there really was just one thing that I liked in Dreams of Gods and Monsters, which was the sweet secondary romance. Aside from that, I kept reading only because I wanted to see how the story would end. And even that wasn’t as satisfying as I would like. The end felt more like the beginning of the end – raising more questions than settling answers. It really makes me sad that I didn’t love the whole trilogy since it started really strong for me.

Want Books: Days of Blood and Starlight

Want Books? is a weekly meme hosted here at Chachic’s Book Nook and features released books that you want but you can’t have for some reason. It can be because it’s not available in your country, in your library or you don’t have the money for it right now. Everyone is free to join, just grab the image above. Leave a comment with a link to your post so I can do a roundup with each post.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone was one of my favorite reads last year. I fell in love with Laini Taylor’s lyrical writing and immediately wanted more. The sequel, Days of Blood and Starlight, is one of my most anticipated novels this year. Its release date is November 6 but unfortunately, the book still isn’t available in bookstores or even the library here in Singapore. Sigh, maybe I should have pre-ordered the book so I wouldn’t have this problem right now.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Art student and monster’s apprentice Karou finally has the answers she has always sought. She knows who she is—and what she is. But with this knowledge comes another truth she would give anything to undo: She loved the enemy and he betrayed her, and a world suffered for it.

In this stunning sequel to the highly acclaimed Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Karou must decide how far she’ll go to avenge her people. Filled with heartbreak and beauty, secrets and impossible choices, Days of Blood & Starlight finds Karou and Akiva on opposing sides as an age-old war stirs back to life.

While Karou and her allies build a monstrous army in a land of dust and starlight, Akiva wages a different sort of battle: a battle for redemption. For hope.

But can any hope be salvaged from the ashes of their broken dream?

Are you looking forward to reading this as well? I know several bloggers have finished reading this but I’m trying not to read reviews because I have a feeling I’ll just feel worse that I still don’t have a copy.

Shoot That Book: Laini Taylor Hardcovers

Shoot That Book combines my passion for books and my tendency to become trigger happy with a camera. My lack of photography skills is compensated by my enthusiasm. Basically, I like taking pictures of books.

Since I reviewed Silksinger this week, I thought it would be a good idea to feature my Laini Taylor hardcovers in today’s post. Laini Taylor is one of my favorite discoveries this year and it makes me happy that I have all of her books in hardcover format:

Aren’t they pretty? And they all have illustrations inside (well, only that feather for Daughter of Smoke and Bone):

I used to have a thing about having matching editions when it comes to my books, especially if they’re part of a series, but now I don’t really mind. Although I do feel like getting hardcovers whenever I fall in love with a book because that makes me feel like the copy would last longer. Sigh, I would love to have hardcovers of all the books by Megan Whalen Turner, Robin McKinley, Ilona Andrews and Melina Marchetta but they’re not readily available (in Ilona Andrews’ case, her books are published only in paperback editions). What about you guys, are you particular when it comes to matching editions? Do you have hardcovers of all the books of certain authors?

Silksinger by Laini Taylor

Silksinger is the second book in the Dreamdark series by Laini Taylor and is the sequel to Blackbringer. Laini Taylor has become an auto-buy author for me because I fell in love with her YA books: Daughter of Smoke and Bone and Lips Touch. I found Blackbringer a little harder to get into that her other books but ended up enjoying it quite a bit once I got used to the writing and the worldbuilding. I picked up Silksinger right after reading the first book because I wanted to see how the story would progress. Okay, I just realized that I posted my Blackbringer review a month ago – I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to write about the sequel. Sorry about that!

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Whisper Silksinger is the last of the secret guardians of the Azazel, one of the powerful Djinn who dreamed the world into being. Relentlessly pursued by bloodthirsty devils, she flees to the city of Nazneen to restore the Azazel to his temple. At the same time, Hirik Mothmage is also on a secret quest, to find the Azazel and restore his disgraced clan’s ancient honor.

And behind them all flies Magpie Windwitch, desperate to rescue Whisper and the Azazel alike before they fall in the clutches of a sinister hidden enemy.

I’ve heard from other bloggers that Silksinger is a lot better than its predecessor, Blackbringer, and I have to agree. The second installment in Laini Taylor’s series about faeries is a lot easier to get into that the first book. Or maybe it’s also because I’m more familiar with the details so it wasn’t as difficult as experiencing Dreamdark for the first time. I found the action-packed adventure story engaging right from the start. Here’s a glimpse of how the first chapter begins:

“Whisper Silksinger knew two kinds of death. There was the peaceful kind, quiet as eyelids fluttering shut, and there was the kind with teeth, sudden as a spurt of blood, a devil pounce, a scream. She had seen both. Of her whole clan only three faeries remained, and now death had come for them too.

And it had come with teeth.”

Doesn’t that make you want to know what happens next? The characters in the first book – Magpie, her crow companions and Talon – are back in this novel but new characters are also present. What I liked about Silksinger is that Laini Taylor continued to breathe life to the world that she created in Blackbringer by introducing new characters like Whisper and Hirik, moving the setting to different locations in the same world and adding new kinds of magic. I feel like there are more layers to the story as it moves forward, giving it more depth. I like that each Dreamdark novel focuses on one of the djinn and the fairies that have special connections to them. So even if Magpie, Talon and crows are in this novel, it really is more of Whisper and Hirik’s story. At the start, Whisper might seem like such a timid person but she has a backbone of steel when it comes to doing her duty as a guardian of Azazel. She’s not as feisty as Magpie but she has her own strengths. And Hirik is the same – he’s determined to bring back honor to his clan by serving the Azazel in spite of all the dangers involved.

I’ve only read a handful of middle grade novels this year but I’ve really liked all of them, which shouldn’t be surprising because I base my reading choices on recommendations from blogging buddies or Goodreads friends. After reading Silksinger, I really felt bad that the publisher has decided not to continue the series. I don’t understand why because it’s well-written and I would really like to read more of Laini Taylor’s writing. Her Dreamdark books are different from her YA novels, which I think is a good thing because it shows her capabilities as a writer. She switches from middle grade epic fantasy to YA urban fantasy and does it successfully. Isn’t that amazing? I believe she’s working on Daughter of Smoke and Bone’s sequel and then she’ll probably work on the third novel in the trilogy after that. Which means she won’t be able to come back to Dreamdark until after a few years have passed. SAD. There’s closure in both Dreamdark books and they don’t end in cliffhangers so they can be read on their own but come on, I want to know what happens to the other djinn! I really hope the series finds a new publisher and that we’ll eventually see the rest of the books. So if you’re a Laini Taylor fan and you love epic fantasy, support her Dreamdark books by reading (and if you can, reviewing) them.

Here’s another reason to read the books, they include beautiful illustrations by Jim di Bartolo:

Other reviews:
Fantasy Cafe
Charlotte’s Library
By Singing Light

Retro Friday: Blackbringer by Laini Taylor

Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Angie over at Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc.

Laini Taylor is one of my favorite discoveries this year. I fell in love with both Lips Touch and Daughter of Smoke and Bone when I got to read them. Since the latter is getting a lot of attention from bloggers and readers alike, I thought it would be a good idea to feature her lesser-known Dreamdark novel during Retro Friday.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Magpie Windwitch is not like other faeries, most of whom live in tranquil seclusion. When she learns that escaped devils are creeping back into the world, she travels all over with her faithful clan of crows, hunting them down. The hunt will take her to the great forest of Dreamdark, where she must unravel the mystery of the worst enemy her folk have ever known. Can one small, determined faerie defeat the forces that threaten to unmake the world?

Blackbringer is the first book in the Dreamdark series. Laini Taylor mentions in her website that she initially wanted to write five Dreamdark books but the publisher has decided not to continue with the series. When I found out about that, I rushed to the bookstore to get my own copies of both Blackbringer and Silksinger because I was afraid I would have a hard time looking for copies later on. I had a difficult time getting into Blackbringer at first because it’s different from the other Laini Taylor books that I’ve read but after a couple of chapters, I was hooked and enjoyed reading the whole thing until the end. It’s written for younger audiences, middle grade instead of young adult, and is epic fantasy rather than urban fantasy.

Other faeries are content to live in their own world, enclosed by protective spells that keep away both humans and devils. But Magpie is different, she gets her restless energy from her parents and her grandfather, the West Wind. She travels with her band of crows to fight against devils, just like the champions in the golden days of Dreamdark. Devils are evil creatures who devour and destroy everything they can get their hands on. Magpie is one feisty character and I didn’t have trouble liking her. She’s young for her race, about a hundred years old, but she’s determined to do something for their dying world. Even though I didn’t think the writing in Blackbringer is as beautiful and lyrical as her YA novels, I still think she created an enchanting world in her first Dreamdark novel and I look forward to seeing how she builds upon that. Some things that I liked about her faeries: they belong in different clans and have their own special skills (e.g. one clan tends to plants and trees while another warrior clan is in charge of protecting Dreamdark) and their wings vary too. Some faeries have butterfly or moth wings while Magpie has dragonfly wings. Another thing that I liked is how significant dreams are in this story – dreams play important roles in the events that unfold in this novel. Illustrations by the author’s husband, Jim di Bartolo, also appear in various sections of the book. Here are samples:

I love books with illustrations in them and I think these are beautiful. While the book didn’t end on a cliffhanger, it’s set up in such a way that the reader knows that there’s more to this world. I’m excited for the sequel, Silksinger, especially since I’ve heard that it’s even better than this one. Recommended for those who enjoyed reading R.J. Anderson’s Knife or for fans of faerie books. I’m hoping that because Daughter of Smoke and Bone is getting a lot of attention, more readers will pick up Laini Taylor’s backlist.

Other reviews:
Fantasy Cafe
Charlotte’s Library
The Book Smugglers
Squeaky Books

In My Mailbox: Laini Taylor Edition

In My Mailbox is a meme hosted by Kristi of The Story Siren and was inspired by Alea of Pop Culture Junkie. This meme is about books that you received or bought during the week.

So I know I said I’m trying to limit my book purchases but I couldn’t stop myself from buying Laini Taylor’s Dreamdark books, which were my Want Books pick last week. I loved Lips Touch and Daughter of Smoke and Bone and they’re both included in my best of 2011 pile. Since Laini Taylor has become an auto-buy author for me, I decided to grab copies of both Blackbringer and Silksinger. I’ve heard good things about these two books from fellow book bloggers and that has made me really excited to read this. And look, they have illustrations from Laini’s husband, Jim di Bartolo too:

Pretty, right? Thank you, Fully Booked, for having stocks of Laini Taylor’s books. Yay, I now have copies of all four of her books, just need to wait for my finished copy of Daughter of Smoke and Bone and I’ll have them all in hardcover format. Yes, I’m a fangirl. 😛

What about the rest of you, what books did you get this week?

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

I already pre-ordered Daughter of Smoke and Bone but jumped at the chance to read the ARC when Hachette Philippines gave us copies for the Filipino ReaderCon. I’ve been wanting to read this ever since I fell in love with Laini Taylor’s writing in Lips Touch. I finished this book last week and I’ve been wanting to write a review ever since, to convince the rest of you to pick this up.

Here’s the summary from Laini Taylor’s website:

Around the world, black handprints 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.

Believe me when I tell you that I was really excited to read this book. It’s one of my most anticipated releases this year. I had high expectations because I wanted more of the author’s lyrical way with words and I wasn’t disappointed. I’m not sure under what genre or category Daughter of Smoke and Bone will fall under but I’m guessing it’s either YA urban fantasy or YA paranormal romance and while I usually shy away from those kinds of books, I didn’t have to worry about not liking this one. I was torn between wanting to read the book slowly so I can savor the words and devouring the whole thing in one big gulp.

There’s a lot of mystery surrounding Karou, her upbringing and the chimaera who brought her up. Chimaera are creatures from another world, with various animal and human features mixed together. Others may call them monsters or demons but they’re more whimsical than scary. The novel is partially set in this world, in Prague, where Karou is based, as well as all the other places that she goes to for her errands. The other setting is in a world different from our own, where chimaera have been fighting a war against another kind of supernatural being for as long as anyone can remember. Look at me being vague to avoid spoilers. The worldbuilding in this book is something that I fell in love with – from the everyday descriptions of Karou’s life in Prague to the back story of the chimaera and their world. The atmospheric setting made me eager to go to Prague and see for myself if it’s really as lovely as the book described. It’s the kind of worldbuilding (and prose) that will suck you in and won’t let go until you reach the very end. And when you get to that part? It will leave you wanting more.

The romance was totally swoon-worthy. For me, what made the love story work were all the details and intricacies involved. There’s a lot of history tied up with the romance and there were valid reasons that made it as complicated as it was. I ate up the last few chapters of this book like they were pieces of chocolate, they were that scrumptious. I kept adding favorite quotes from the book on Goodreads and since I love Laini Taylor’s beautiful prose so much, I thought it would be a good idea to give a sample:

“Karou wished she could be the kind of girl who was complete unto herself, comfortable in solitude, serene. But she wasn’t. She was lonely, and she feared the missingness within her as if it might expand and… cancel her. She craved a presence beside her, solid. Fingertips light at the nape of her neck and a voice meeting hers in the dark. Someone who would wait with an umbrella to walk her home in the rain, and smile like sunshine when he saw her coming. Who would dance with her on her balcony, keep his promises and know her secrets, and make a tiny world wherever he was, with just her and his arms and his whisper and her trust.”

Even before I got my grubby little hands on a copy, I predicted that Daughter of Smoke and Bone will make it to my best of 2011 list and I was right. I truly cannot wait for the sequel to be finished. I have to wait a whole year before it will be released! I need to get my hands on those Faeries of Dreamdark books to tide me over while waiting. If I haven’t managed to convince you to read this book by now, I don’t know what else I could say. Enthusiastically recommended for fantasy fans, especially those who like the YA variety. I’m predicting that this one will become a hit.

Other reviews:
Fantasy Cafe
Book Harbinger
Janicu’s Book Blog
Good Books and Good Wine
Ficsation
The Girl Who Read and Other Stories

Want Books: Faeries of Dreamdark

Want Books? is a weekly meme hosted here at Chachic’s Book Nook and features released books that you want but you can’t have for some reason. It can be because it’s not available in your country, in your library or you don’t have the money for it right now. Everyone is free to join, just grab the image above. Leave a comment with a link to your post so I can do a roundup with each post.

I recently read and loved Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor (yes, I know, I need to post a review of it soon) and since I also loved Lips Touch, Laini Taylor has become an auto-buy author for me. She has two Faeries of Dreamdark books that are out right now – Blackbringer and Silksinger – and I’ve seen them in local bookstores. I haven’t bought them yet because I’ve heard that they’re written for younger audiences but my friend Kristen of Fantasy Cafe has convinced me that it would be a good idea to get copies soon. Apparently, the publisher has decided not to continue with the series and I’m worried these two books would become out of print soon.

Here’s the summary for Blackbringer from Goodreads:

When the ancient evil of the Blackbringer rises to unmake the world, only one determined faerie stands in its way. However, Magpie Windwitch, granddaughter of the West Wind, is not like other faeries. While her kind live in seclusion deep in the forests of Dreamdark, she’s devoted her life to tracking down and recapturing devils escaped from their ancient bottles, just as her hero, the legendary Bellatrix, did 25,000 years ago. With her faithful gang of crows, she travels the world fighting where others would choose to flee. But when a devil escapes from a bottle sealed by the ancient Djinn King himself, the creator of the world, she may be in over her head. How can a single faerie, even with the help of her friends, hope to defeat the impenetrable darkness of the Blackbringer?

What about the rest of you, what book is in your wishlist?

Daughter of Smoke and Bone, I has it! I has it, my precious.

Look at what I got today – an ARC of one of my most anticipated titles this year, Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. Note that the cover for the ARC isn’t the final design. I read and loved Lips Touch by the same author a few months ago and I’ve been looking forward to reading her latest ever since. I’ve been hearing such good things about it from fellow book bloggers and I’m jealous of everyone who’s read it so far. And now I’ll be able to do it a few weeks early. *beams* Thank you to Isa of Hachette Philippines for my copy.

Doesn’t that make you more curious? I can’t wait to finish the book that I’m currently in the middle of so I can start on this already.