By day, Karou is a striking seventeen-year-old art student in Prague, sporting blue hair, tattooed palms, and a killer sketchbook that even Picasso would be jealous of. By night, she is an errand girl for a lonely, gentle monster named Brimstone who lives behind a hidden alley door and collects teeth for reasons known only to himself. All Karou can remember is growing up at Brimstone’s hairy knee and helping him collect the human and animal molars and incisors that he strings together into endless ropes of morbid charms. Where does she come from? Who was her mother? Is Brimstone her father? And what in the world does he do with all those teeth? No matter how much she asks, the taciturn monster refuses to reveal anything about her origins. Resigned, Karou keeps her shadow life secret from her school friends as she continues to go around the world, using Brimstone’s disguised portals to collect his grisly ornaments. Until the day she notices the scorched hand prints appearing on all of Brimstone’s supposedly secret doors. Until the day she is attacked by a furious seraph who nearly kills her. Until the day she discovers she is part of a centuries-old otherworldly war. Until the day…she falls in love. This lush, brilliantly constructed fantasy by master storyteller Laini Taylor is gradually and skillfully told backward, until readers would practically give their own teeth to discover Karou’s true identity. And yet, Taylor’s luxurious use of language makes you want to linger over every sentence. Like this description of Karou: “Creamy and leggy, with long azure hair and the eyes of a silent-movie star, she moved like a poem and smiled like a sphinx.” Or this account of the city of Prague: “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.” There is great satisfaction in finding out Karou’s past the same moment she does, and equally great frustration when Taylor leaves K’s future in question, obviously to be addressed in a sequel. Short, action-packed chapters that raise questions about the tenacity of hope, the futileness of war, and the enduring power of love make this book both a pleasure to read and a heart-pounding page turner at the same time.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor