Again with the recycled content! Sorry. Here's my review of Daughter of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor, which was originally published in SFX issue #214, last year. I hope to have a new review up on either Thursday or Friday this week...
Lots of people loved this, but it really was not my cup of tea.
There are some trends in young adult fiction that it’s hard, as an adult reader, to take entirely seriously. The special snowflake loner heroine who has no idea how beautiful she is, for example, or the brooding older guys who have endless time on their hands to spend gazing at her from a distance. Relationships that consist largely of angst and pretty, pretty cheekbones. You know the type.
Taylor’s heroine is Karou, a blue-haired 17-year-old living alone in Prague, whose drawings inspire awe in her art school classmates, and who numbers martial arts expertise and multilingualism among her many improbable talents. (There is, at least, an in-story reason for those last two. Although not a very good one.)
Karou also grew up in a magical workshop in a parallel world, to which she periodically returns. The novel is at its most successful when it homes in on Karou’s dislocation and search for identity, while the angels vs. demons war-without-end of the backstory makes for some grim dystopian fun. But it is the inevitable star-crossed romance that gets the lion’s share of the pages, drowning out the more interesting stuff.
Taylor writes well, although she is more secure with high emotion and portraits of her protagonists than sense of place; for all that the characters periodically sneer at superficial tourists, this is a soft-focus, chocolate box Prague whose landmarks are name-checked rather than explored.