Saturday, February 25, 2012

Writer’s View: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

From Goodreads: 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 grown dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly 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.

When one of the strangers—beautiful, haunted Akiva—fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

The Writer’s View:

There are so many cool things about this book, I’m not sure where to begin. I learned a lot from reading it. For the sake of this blog, I will focus on two things I observed while reading.

1 - Worldbuilding outside of every conceivable box

I was absolutely swept away by the magical world of Prague created by Taylor. I’ve only been to Prague once, but it left an impression. (My husband and I have a dream of renting an apartment there one day and staying for a few months.) Taylor not only captured the atmosphere of the city, but she left her own magical stamp on it.

In this world, she placed a blue-haired girl named Karou raised secretly be demons. Her father figure is Brimstone, a creature part ram, part reptile, part lion, and part raptor. Pretty cool, huh? Brimstone gives Karou tiny wish beads, which she uses to turn her hair blue and to make her ex-boyfriend’s private parts itch in public. Brimstone sends Karou all over the world to collect TEETH from various people and places.

The uniqueness of this world grabbed me. I wanted to drown in it, to learn everything about it. I’ve never encountered a magical world even remotely like this before.

As I look back on the writing I’ve done over the years, I know a lot of it has been derivative, especially the stuff I wrote as a kid. Taylor showed me that the best writers have to push the boundaries of spec fic, to break through and create something never seen before. That’s one of the reasons why we read spec fic, right? Because we want to journey to all those unknown worlds and experience them. To do it well takes incredible skill and imagination.

2 - The use of POV to study the same scene from multiple angles

In many parts of Daughter of Smoke and Bone, the same scene was examined from multiple perspectives—sometimes by major characters, sometimes by minor characters, sometimes by both. Sometimes these scenes were strung together consecutively; sometimes they were inserted at different places in the novel.

The effect was pretty cool. I felt like a gossip queen. I knew what everyone was thinking about all the glamour and glitz going down. I loved it. As a reader, I found this technique very rewarding to experience.

The scenes Taylor in which chose to employ this technique were all punch-in-the-gut scenes. I don’t think this would have worked well if it was over-used. But used discretely in the power scenes really created an impact.

My current WIP is a single POV, but I am mentally working on another series with multi-POV. I just might have to try my hand at Taylor’s technique and see if I can pull it off. *grin*


  1. I have to agree with you that the writing in Daughter of Smoke and Bone was beautifully done. I loved every minute of it until probably half way through when it turned into a full blown romance. From then on I just felt a little bit disappointed.

  2. Really interesting post, I like it! I still need to get around to reading this book. It'd be interesting to share notes. Good luck with trying out her technique!

    New to your blog :-)
    My Latest Post|Enter my Giveaway

  3. @ Lan - I just about died when this book turned out to be a YA angle romance. I was SOOOO disappointed. I felt tricked. How could a book with such a cool, unique beginning turn so NORMAL? Plus, I think I am old and jaded, because the romance (IMO) was so overblown and ridiculous, I just could not wrap my head around it. It would be like a mongoose and a cobra spending 30 minutes together, falling madly in love, and having wild passionate sex. Huh?

  4. @ Stephanie - thanks for stopping by my blog! I'll keep my eye out on your blog so we can compare notes when you get a chance to read Daughter of Smoke amd Bone. I'd love to hear what you think.

  5. Another great review. I have this book, but haven't read it yet, but am a bit wary now because of the romance that supposedly happens. I hope I still enjoy it, even though I'm not into books that like to pretend to be one thing, but really are something else, including romances that pretend to be UF's or some other type of book I like to read. Enough with the sneaking.

    But, I like that you learned you should try to push the boundaries of speculative fiction more because, like you said, it's all about scouting out uncharted territory. That's what makes me read it!

  6. @ Cathy - despite my disappointment at this revealing itself to be a YA angel romance book, the first 2/3 of the book is stunning. The whole thing is beautifully written. Taylor does some really cool, effective narration by moving back and forth between timelines during the romance portion of the book -- also another cool technique worth checking out. Can't wait to get your take on this!