Laini Taylor's worldbuilding is rich within the constraints of the dual framework of an otherworldly, very
loosely mythological, paranormal romance and a Romeo and Juliet
Her writing is luxuriant and evocative, definitely a cut above for YA.
Her characters approach three dimensions at times.
The story is compelling when it's not faffing off about hard-bodied angels with satiny shoulders and creamy-skinned blue-haired Mary Sues.The bad:
This is yet another book that would not exist if not for Twilight
, and the 5-star reviews seem to mostly be written by teenage girls who will 5-star anything with a hot boy in it.Daughter of Smoke and Bone
is a YA paranormal romance pretending to be a doorway fantasy with angels and demons. Karou is a preternaturally adept teenager living in Prague, raised by magical beings who hide in an extra-dimensional cubbyhole, who goes on errands around the world, and incidentally picks up tons of languages and skills all over the place. Then an angel shows up and tries to kill her, something like a covert Armageddon goes down, and the rest of the book becomes Karou uncovering her secret past while making out with angel-boy.
The rest of the book had an almost Narnia tone when it went to Elsewhere and the war between the seraphim and the chimaera. If only the author had capitalized more on these fantasy elements! But the epic war between these races is subsumed by, you guessed it, a pair of star-crossed lovers making kissy-face at masked balls and rolling on grassy hills.
I give this book 2.5 stars. The writing is great, the story and the setting are interesting enough to stand up with most fantasy novels. But at its heart, this is just another angsty teen romance with supernatural lovers, and many, many pages are spent dwelling on the physical perfection of the two protagonists and how they make each other feel hot and gooey inside.
I recognize that I am not the target audience. I picked this book by chance, and it's not for me. But that said, you can deliver a mature, sophisticated fantasy novel with
romance, even for teenagers. This is not that book, though it does come painfully close at times.