Am I finally getting too old for YA? The (fantastic) Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy – Laini Taylor

Book Reviews, Book Thoughts, Recommended, teen book reviews, Uncategorized, Writing

Stunning, secretive Karou has lived a strange life in different cities, never putting down roots or having a real family. But that’s because she lives at least half of her life elsewhere – in another world, where a strange monster who is the closest thing she has to a parent sends her on missions to collect teeth. But when angels, and one particular, very handsome angel, crash into her world and a supernatural, inter-universal war that has continued through centuries…

Obviously I can’t really summarise three action and emotion packed books above, but that gives the kind of basic setting. This is a huge, ambitious, far-reaching and cataclysmic trilogy with exceptionally strong world-building, well established foundations and sympathetic characters who weave their way compellingly through gripping circumstances. It’s got gorgeous young adults who fall passionately in love, it’s got supernatural powers, friendship, betrayal, crazy monsters… just all you could possibly need from a YA fantasy series. And in many ways, I loved it. But in the end I think I’m left feeling I’m just a bit too old.

Having shelled out for a whole fantasy series on the strength of Strange the Dreamer, the start of another trilogy by Laini Taylor (soon to be reviewed here), and having taken it on what was likely to be my chief reading holiday of the year I felt like I was pretty committed to this. And when I discovered that it was partially and initially set in our world and our time, I was instantly disappointed. I was looking for fantasy escapism and here I was in the real world.

But my disappointment didn’t last long. Though the set up was mysterious, it was extremely well done. Taylor masterfully handles multiple worlds, races, creeds and mindsets, leading us strongly through what could be an extremely confusing swarm of information and ideas. Throughout the series the worlds, stakes and story grew and grew and grew – but it never outgrew itself. Taylor retained a tight, impressive grip on everything that was going on.

And nothing disappointed. Plots, characters, stories, ideas were all tied up satisfyingly and thoroughly. Thinking about it more I am more and more in awe. I’m pretty sure this is Taylor’s first series, too.

Plus, she managed to pull off one of my least favourite fantasy tropes without annoying me. I really hate it when a character who you have journeyed with up to this point suddenly discovers they are someone/something else, and suddenly have access to memories and information that you can never fully know. It feels like a betrayal to me; like cheating, like the character who I was alongside is now in a totally different place. Here, I was annoyed at first, but Taylor properly and seriously dedicated herself to bringing the reader up to date, which I really appreciated.

I’m going to recommend these books. I was intending this post to be more about how I have outgrown YA books, and there was certainly and element of this to my reading. I couldn’t get on board with the romantic relationships between the main characters, and I felt a bit too old for the way the characters related to each other. But particularly from ruminating on the books for this review, I’m left extremely impressed with Taylor’s mastery.

So, especially if you like YA fiction or are in fact a YA, go read this one. My not-so-very-teenaged sister is going to review it too…

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