Daughter of Smoke and Bone—Laini Taylor

For the way loneliness is worse when you return to it after a reprieve—like the soul's version of putting on a wet bathing suit, clammy and miserable. (21)
"I don't know many rules to live by," he'd said. "But here's one. It's simple. Don't put anything unnecessary into yourself. No poisons or chemicals, no fumes or smoke or alcohol, no sharp objects, no inessential needles—drug or tattoo—and...no inessential penises, either."
"Inessential penises?" Karou had repeated, delighted with the phrase in spite of her grief. "Is there any such thing as an essential one?"
"When an essential one comes along, you'll know," he'd replied. (22)
Part of Vaginal Fantasy Rewind

I skipped ahead quite a bit in my rewind for this one, because I was looking for something immediately available from my library via ebook while I was out of town and this was the first one I found. Boy am I glad I skipped ahead, because I LOVED this one. I'd been not impressed with several books I'd read in a row, so I really needed something like this.

Karou is just a normal teenager living in Prague. Well, normal except that she can make wishes and travel through doorways to other cities and has unconventional friends. But she's always felt that something is missing. Suddenly, something happens that separates her from the entire life that she's known and all of the beings who have been her family. She tries to find her family, all while dealing with a stalker angel who can't seem to leave her alone. She has no idea of the scope of what she will uncover in the process.

Guys, I loved this book. LOVED. I loved this book so much, I want to take it out behind the middle school and get it pregnant. (That's a 30 Rock joke, if you didn't know.) The past few books that I've really liked, I've gobbled up the proceeding books in the series almost immediately. This one I'm actually waiting to read the next book because I don't want the story to be over so soon.

The writing was superb. There were some passages that I just stopped and re-read a few times because I liked them so much. Like this description of Prague:
The streets of Prague were a fantasia scarcely touched by the twenty-first century—or the twentieth or nineteenth for that matter. It was a city of alchemists and dreamers, its medieval cobbles once trod by golems, mystics, invading armies. Tall houses glowed goldenrod and carmine and eggshell blue, embellished with Rococo plasterwork and capped in roofs of uniform red. 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. Thugs wore Mozart wigs and pushed chamber music on street corners, and marionettes hung in windows, making the whole city seem like a theater with unseen puppeteers crouched behind velvet. (24)
So beautiful.

The worldbuilding was so intricate and complex, weaving basically the world that we know with an alternate world full of hybrid beasts fighting wars against angels, where souls can be harvested and reinstalled in new bodies constructed from strands of teeth. I mean, where does this stuff even come from? Some books you read, and you think, "I could have come up with this" or "this is fine, but it's already been done before." This was something completely different from anything I've read, and I've read a lot.

Karou was everything that I want to be. She was badass, she had trained in martial arts so she could defend herself, she speaks over twenty languages as a result of wishes, she can make wishes to turn her hair blue and to add tattoos to her collection and to fly. She's snarky and smartassy in all the right places. She can go into Brimstone's shop and walk out the same door in a completely new location. Her small flat in Prague had an entire wall dedicated to books. Basically, I want to be her. Does all of that perfection make her a bit of a Mary Sue? Well, maybe. If so I do not care.

Akiva was meh for me. I didn't find him irresistible as a male lead, and didn't find myself caring much about his backstory or why he felt such a driving need to follow Karou around. I really wanted to know more about Brimstone and Issa and Kishmish and the other entities who had been a part of Karou's life and also knew about Madrigal as well.

I had literally no idea what was going on through most of the book, in absolutely the best, most intriguing way. Sometimes the data dumps could be a bit much, but other than that, I felt compelled to keep reading to figure out all of the mysteries surrounding Karou. Although it was a bit jarring, I actually found that I liked the essential split of the book when we find out what Karou's history is, and then a kind of flashback to that history. I actually thought the construction was superb, with the gradual reveals, and with one piece of information imparted to the reader, substituted by three more questions.

My one complaint is that I actually could have done completely without the romance. I was so in love with the world and lore that Taylor created, I knew that a romance would get in the way of my further exploration of those facets. I was really interested until it seemed like it was going to be a soul mate, two halves to a whole type thing. Once again, I don't love those whole "fated for each other" kind of romances. Granted, this one was a bit of a twist in that they had actually been together in Karou's previous life as Madrigal. And Karou's feeling of being incomplete was more about not remembering her past, rather than necessarily about not remembering her love for Akiva. But when you get right down to it, it ended up being about them and their crazy love, as exemplified in this quote: And yet, something tie them together stronger than any of that, something with the power to conduct her blood and breath like a symphony, so that anything she did to fight against it felt like discord, like disharmony with her self. (234) I want to read more about Karou/Madrigal and her search for Brimstone and his compatriots rather than the love story, so I'm hoping that's what's on the docket next.

I both cannot wait and am holding out as long as possible to continue reading in this series.
The ladies got WAY off track during this Hangout, but in the most delightful way. The only thing I really remember about this particular one from the first time watching it was their discussion about what animal attributes they would want if they were allowed to pick, like a revenant in the book.

I agree with their opening thoughts, and was pleased that everyone seemed to enjoy it as much as I did. It always feels gratifying to not be alone in one's opinion.

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