Sunday, November 13, 2011

Star-Crossed Angels and Chimaera

Daughter of Smoke and Bone
I don't know about you, but I have no idea what a chimera/chimaera was. So I had to look it up. At first, I was like, "Hey. Why is that goat riding atop that silly lion?" Then I realized the goat was part of the lion. Interesting. Creepy, but still interesting. A little more time spent on Google Images, and I found a number of different creature cross/mutations that were just the right amount of neat (yep, sometimes I regress to the adjectives of a 12 year old girl from the 1980's) and creeper. So who wouldn't want to read a book about them, right? Oh yeah. Especially when it is a book that has gotten as much hype as Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone has.
Karou is human, but she wasn't raised by humans. She attends art school in Prague and lives like a regular student/starving artist, but she was raised by Brimstone and a few other chimaera in Brimstone's shop. As she got older, Brimstone trusted her with his errands... going through his magical portals all over the world to gather the teeth he traded for wishes. The type and amount of teeth traded gave the bearer different strengths of wishes. Scuppies, tiny little wishes, are all Karou really gets to use, but the consequences for strong wishes are more than most can handle. Karou knows she is safe with Brimstone, but she has no idea what the teeth are for and her curiosity eats away at her.
On one of Karou's routine errands for Brimstone, she realizes something has happened when there is a scorched hand print on the door back to the portal. When she is attacked by an angel (something she never knew existed), she fights for her life and through a previously unknown power that shoots out of her hands like burning white fire, is abel to escape. She gets back to Brimstone's shop, and when everyone thinks she is recovering, she finally succumbs to the years of curiosity and enters the door she has never seen opened. Inside she finds something so fantastic and surprising she forgets to be scared- she has entered a whole different world, complete with two moons instead of one- a world where the chimaera live. What she doesn't expect to uncover are years of secrets, long-lost, star-crossed loves, and a deadly vendetta that spans centuries. Now Karou and the angel are drawn together to learn about their connection and the role they play in the greatest war not of this world. The war where angels and chimaera have fought and died for as long as anyone can remember. But is there a life beyond the war?
Oh holy fantasy land! Taylor came up with a new world full of beasts, wars, mythology, and whole new worlds. And it is amazing! The whole ancient feud wrapped up in angels and mythological beasts was phenomenal. I couldn't stop reading this book. No wonder it was the only YA book on the Amazon Best of 2011 list! But the interesting thing I couldn't stop thinking about was the Romeo and Juliet connection. Karou and the angel were from two different warring worlds, but they couldn't stop thinking about one another. Their love was so great it moved past the battlefields, usurped death, and helped them find each other even after an execution. I was dying for them to be together!
This is a pretty beautiful fantasy, but I suspect it might be too intricate and abstract for your typical concrete thinker. In fact, I can see many of my students enjoying certain parts, but getting lost in the language and strange names and losing sight of the beauty of this story. I would save this story for a strong reader with a love for fantasy and other worlds. And don't hesitate to pass this on to adults you know, even if they don't regularly read YA novels. This is a pretty intricate fantasy that will appeal to readers of all ages. But only one question remains... What would you wish for?

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