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nataliya

nataliya

“Books are a uniquely portable magic.” 
― Stephen King, On Writing.

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"If you want to know what a man's like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals."— J.K. Rowling

Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Daughter of Smoke and Bone, #1) - Laini Taylor A teeth-gathering blue-haired spunky young woman raised by a Wishmonger gets caught in the middle of the long war waged in the 'Elsewhere'. Pictographically:Was this book perfect? Not nearly. But I still loved it, even despite the annoying 'classic' YA tropes that it was NOT immune to: (1) insta-love (actually, it happens twice), (2) the otherwordly, basically underpants-disintegrating beauty of the male love interest - who initially, of course, (3) tries to murder our heroine. Still, Daughter of Smoke and Bone managed to captivate me and convince me to forgive its flaws by making its kickass protagonist, Karou, the girl who I hope my future (hypothetical) daughter will hang out with.I love that Daughter of Smoke and Bone avoided the easy and tempting pitfall of presenting the heroine as an ordinary unremarkable girl, a blank slate ready for readers' self-insertion, little else but a plot device to make the reader fulfill the desire of experiencing a relationship with an attractive mysterious male love interest. Some popular YA novels with female characters are really the odes to the male lead using the heroine as our eyes to stare at the hero. Daughter of Smoke and Bone thankfully DOES NOT follow this annoying path.The blue-haired ass-kicking raised-by-chimaera Karou is clearly not your regular high school girl "blessed" to become the object of attentions of a supernatural being. From the beginning, she is established as a remarkably talented, strong and independent young woman, who - shockingly for the YA novels about innocent high-schoolers - is even sexually experienced. She leads a double life, belonging both to the ordinary and the supernatural worlds. She had been innocent once, a little girl playing with feathers on the floor of a devil’s lair. She wasn’t innocent now, but she didn’t know what to do about it. This was her life: magic and shame and secrets and teeth and a deep, nagging hollow at the center of herself where something was most certainly missing.And most importantly, unlike the innocent all-talk-no-action young women in many a YA book, Karou does not hesitate to stand up for herself. She does not need a protector and does not hide behind the strong shoulders of the male lead; as a matter of fact, she kicks his ass, almost literally. And even in the evil clutches of required YA insta-love she maintains her identity and independence, does not automatically center her life around her romantic interest, and retains the ability - like any young woman should - to call out her romantic interest on the consequences of his actions without blindly trusting and blindly forgiving. But something unyielding in her shrank from the promise. He might have chosen her, but that didn’t mean that she would do the same if she were faced with the same choice—against Brimstone, Issa, Yasri, Twiga. She had told Brimstone, “I want you to know I would never just leave you,” and she wouldn’t. She would choose her family. Anything else was unthinkable, though even now the idea of turning and leaving Akiva behind brought on physical pain. She is not afraid to assert her views and values and stick up for what she believes. She is not afraid to call Akiva out on his hate and, for the lack of a better word, racism. 'So basically,' she said to Akiva, trying to gather all the things he’d told her into a simple strand, 'the seraphim want to rule the world, the chimaera don’t want to be ruled, and that makes them evil.' To recap my excited bumbling - Karou is strong-willed, rebellious, bold, independent, curious, adventurous, talented, funny, and loyal. Basically, I could not help but imagine her as an older sister of Neil Gaiman's Coraline. My future (hypothetical) daughter can definitely have sleepovers at Karou's flat, that's all I'm sayin'.=================================================This book also, in a way, attempts to subvert the long-standing trope of equating beauty and goodness. It does not always succeed, as both protagonists are exceptionally beautiful, and their attractiveness is repeatedly emphasized. But at least there is an attempt to make the more traditionally attractive otherwordly race the bad guys, making us root for the chimaera, not the angels. He can’t see it. It is a condition of monsters that they do not perceive themselves as such. The dragon, you know, hunkered in the village devouring maidens, heard the townsfolk cry ‘Monster!’ and looked behind him.=======================================I liked Laini Taylor's writing; it's pretty crisp and flows well. The characters (even Akiva, whom I frankly hated) are well fleshed-out and are quite memorable even if their appearances are quite short. I enjoyed that the messages this book was trying to convey went past the "it's great to have a boyfriend" and "romantic love is the only thing you need to be happy" angle that again, I've seen too many times in the books aimed at girls and young women. I like how it emphasizes loyalty, hope, friendship, and even duty. Thumbs up for all that, book!Hope? Hope can be a powerful force. Maybe there’s no actual magic in it, but when you know what you hope for most and hold it like a light within you, you can make things happen, almost like magic.=================================================All that said, it's an enjoyable and rather well-executed book with a lovely and refreshingly strong female protagonist. It falls prey to some YA clichés, but recovers from them quite nicely. I will definitely read the second book in the series just to see how my new blue-haired friend Karou is getting along. But I do hope it does not fully devolve into another paranormal love story, because then I will be severely disappointed.4 stars rounded up from 3.75.--------For my review of the sequel, Days of Blood and Starlight, (five-star alert, by the way!), you can head over here.