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05 June 2013

'Daughter of Smoke and Bone' by Laini Taylor

Laini Taylor's angels and monsters are new and refreshing

Now, I am an old hand at reading fantasy... I am no snob and love themes I know well retold, transformed and re-imagined. Laini Taylor takes angels and monsters and tells me something new about them.  She took a risk with such familiar literary characters.  Every reader, I imagine, has a litmus test for stories.  As a reader I pick up a book and willingly suspend my disbelief; I hope it stays suspended.  Let me explain how this works for me when I read fantasy...

Say an author tells me about angels amongst us.  She uses the word angel to describe this character.  I make some assumptions based on this word.  She then adds something new to my personal angel lore.  If I believe it and happily add it to my angel file then this fantasy is a success. If, on the other hand, I argue, snort in sarcasm and get annoyed then she should have used a different word to describe the character.  This is a simplistic explanation but that is more or less how it works for me.  There are authors that in my small reading universe add to my fantasy files, these authors include Jasper Fforde, John Ajvide Lindqvist, JK Rowling, Terry Pratchett, and Jim Butcher amongst others.  You see, it is important to know lore and literature well when you chose to describe your character as a wizard, vampire, elf... Each conjures a picture, an incomplete picture.  Talented writers fill in some spaces in harmony with the rest of the picture.  Clumsy, uninspired writers graffiti annoying initials on the frame.

Fantasy is deceptive. Most writers do not just make it up.  For example, one cannot get rid of certain features of the vampire without transforming it into something else.  Moreover, one cannot add certain features to a vampire without diminishing it somehow.  The success of this give and take depends on the art of the writer, the talent if you will, and how this vision of a vampire is then presented to me.  Often old familiar fairy tales, legends, sagas, traditions or religions are the foundations of the fantasy genre.

I am cautious when I pick up a new author (new to me, by the way, I mean I can't know everybody).  I am tired of finding out the object promoted to me is number 3 in a 5 part trilogy (yes, I used trilogy with irony).  And like I have said (shouted) before, a good editor could have cleaned up these sagas into two decent books.  It is my luck that Laini Taylor knows how to write.  She has thought about her characters and her worlds.  It is funny how her description of celestial armies and the angels' inherent sadness has been on the edge of my own musings for some time... She colored these musings in for me.  Her instincts in this fantasy are excellent.  Moreover her angels and monsters are deep and knowable at the same time. I look forward to the rest of the trilogy (no irony).

Laini Taylor 
ISBN: 9781444722659 

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