Monthly Archives: August 2013

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

daughter-of-smoke-and-bone

“The tooth-traders who came to the shop were, with few exceptions, about the worst specimens of humanity had to offer. Through Brimstone did have a small coterie of long time associates who did not turn Karou’s stomach- such as the retired diamond dealer who had on a number of occasions posed as her grandmother to enroll her in schools- mostly they were a stinking, soul-dead lot with crescents of gore under their fingernails. They killed and maimed. They carried pliers in their pockets for extracting the teeth of the dead- and sometimes the living. Karou loathed them, and she was certainly better than them.

Brimstone said, “Prove that you are, by using wishes for good.” ”

Love, love, love. I fell in love with Daughter of Smoke and Bone by the end of the first chapter, maybe even the first few pages. Taylor has done an absolutely amazing job in creating a fascinating world of fantasy and lore that takes place in the familiar setting of the modern world.

Karou may be a little eccentric with her blue hair, tattoos and countless art books filled with sketches of creatures that are a mixture of animals and human but ultimately she seems to be a normal young woman. Or at least that’s what she portrays to everyone else but the truth is another matter. Karou has been raised by the very beasts in her sketchbooks including Brimstone, intimidating and horned, and Issa who is as much snake as she is human. She has a purpose of her own within this odd family; collecting the teeth of animals and humans for Brimstone. Magic has always been a part of her life but whereas the act of collecting teeth had never bothered her before, curiosity is now getting the best of her.  That very inquisitiveness soon turns her world upside down especially when she encounters Akiva, an emotionless angel, and learns that her family is from a race that has been fighting angels for centuries. Something about Karou pulls at Akiva, memories from a life he led long ago. They will both come to learn the truth together which cumulates in the revelation of a brutal betrayal that will change things forever.

The thing that struck me from the very beginning of Daughter of Smoke and Bone is the maturity of the writing and contents. Being a teenager myself less than a decade ago I think I can say with some accuracy that it’s not often that writers truly give credit where it is due and create a story and characters that acknowledge the true depth that many teenagers want in a novel. However, Taylor has done just that. The writing is of a great caliber being both entertaining and imaginative. There is a love story, like most teen books, but it’s certainly not the typical telling and expands beyond the two individual involved. It’s an inventive retelling of Romeo and Juliet that takes place in a world of magic and fantastical proportions.

The fantasy of the novel is the other element of the book that I eagerly devoured. I have always been a fan of fantasy; I gobbled that genre up when I was a teenager though I more often than not found it in books that were actually in the fantasy section. While the setting of the book is a modern one, Taylor has also infused it with fantastical elements of magic and puts a really interesting twist on an age-old battle between good and evil. I can only take a small dose of religion at the best of times but thankfully while angels and the monsters they fight against are the two stables of the story’s lore, Taylor keeps her distance from preconceived notions of the two. Both side posses redeeming and destructive qualities, and it’s the telling of their stories that makes Daughter of Smoke and Bone so enthralling. I lost myself in the world of collecting teeth and a city caged by bars. The complexity of the two worlds and the profound realness of the characters easily launched this book to the top of my list of most-loved books read this year.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone is a book that stands on its own and deserves to be read by anyone who appreciates a little bit of fantasy and an intricate storyline containing riveting characters and secrets that will leave you eager to read the next chapter. Its sequel Days of Blood and Starlight thankfully was available when I finished Daughter of Smoke and Bone and is sitting on my shelf. I eye it every now and then but like a good desert, I’m holding off and waiting for the right moment to submerge myself back into the mystical world created by Taylor, mostly because I don’t want the experience to be over too quickly. Books like Daughter of Smoke and Bone don’t come along too often and when they do, you never want them to end.

Devon – a1000booklife

Other books by Laini Taylor: Dreamdark series (2007 and 2009), Lips Touch (2009) and Days of Blood and Starlight (2012)

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The Demonologist by Andrew Pyper

the-demonologist

“Here’s another definition of wandering: emotions so great they require superstition to explain them. This is the core observation of my field of study, after all. Fear- of death, of loss, of being left behind- is the genesis of belief in the supernatural. For someone like me to suddenly find himself entertaining the myths of primitives can only be seen as symptomatic of a psychotic break of some kind. I know this to be as verifiable as the street numbers I walk past, as the time on my watch. I am proposing that a demon took my daughter from me. Just stop and say that out loud a few times. Just hear it. It is the sort of theory that rightly justifies locking someone in Bellevue for long term observations.

So I move on. Surrounded by blue-green people on blue-green blocks.

And feel almost nothing.”

Lately for some reason the theme of demons has become prominent in my entertainment choices, first with seeing the movie The Conjuring and now with reading The Demonologist by Andrew Pyper. Dan Brown’s Inferno, which I am currently reading as well, is also centered around a prominent piece of literature and several pieces of artwork based on a creative interpretation of Hell and Purgatory. I have always found it a fascinating subject, maybe because it such a feared, almost taboo topic in some regards. And yet it also speaks of human beliefs that go back for generations and the historian in me gets giddy at the idea of how current literature makes use of these themes.

David Ullman is a world-renowned expert on demonic literature, specifically Milton’s Paradise Lost and while he may not refer to himself as one, he is a demonologist of sorts. While his academic career may be a success, his personal life is dissolving before his eyes and the only source of comfort comes from his daughter Tess and Elaine O’Brien, an academic college who is also his best friend. When a mysterious woman arrives at his office and extends a vague invitation from an unnamed employer, Ullman initially refuses but the intrigue soon gets the better of him and he, along with his daughter Tess, heads off to Venice, Italy. While there he witnesses a horrific event of unbelievable proportions, which ultimately leads to the loss of his daughter. The journey to reclaim her will lead Ullman to face demons of all kinds, some personal, some beyond the realm of belief. Where he once refused the plausible reality of demons, Ullman gradually comes to understand that their presence may have been a constant throughout his entire life and now, along with his academic knowledge, cumulates with unknown forces choosing him for a task of demonic intent.

While The Demonologist is categorized as fiction, it could easily belong in the horror section; some of the episodes of demonic activity that Ullman experiences are quite disturbing. The storyline is also a nonstop adrenaline rush with Ullman facing danger after danger, some mortal but most immortal, and numerous times when I set the book aside for the night, images conjured from the demonic encounters written by Pyper made sleep a little harder to come by. There’s no denying that Pyper was able to touch on an underlying fear in all of us; the unknown. Between that and the elegant style of prose used by Pyper, which pulls the reader through the more disturbing content, it is certainly a hard book to put down.

The one thing that drew me to this novel, besides the obvious fascination with the demonic possibilities, was the fact that Pyper writes David Ullman as an academic professor and so I was looking forward to learning some historical goodness about the subject, very much like what Dan Brown does with Robert Langdon. However, while there are some in depth discussions regarding Paradise Lost any kind of real delving into the lore of demonology fails to take place.  The struggle is very much centered around Ullman’s memories and mentality, which makes for an interesting read in and of itself but I would have personally enjoyed a little more background knowledge concerning demons and their presence in the written record and experience.

The Demonologist by Andrew Pyper is a fascinating novel that holds its own with multiple scares and moral dilemmas. It certainly sits on the darker side of fiction but Pyper masters the combination of using a striking writing style and unnerving demonic intervention to create a thrilling piece of fiction that draws you deeper and deeper into a man’s world that is falling apart when evil forces tear away the things he loves most. Unlike so many modern novels however it’s not terrorists or crime that causes this loss, but something far more old and sinister. It was a great, if somewhat disturbing, read that I highly recommend for anyone with similar curiosities about the unknown.

Devon – a1000booklife

Other books by Andrew Pyper: Lost Girls (1999), The Trade Mission (2002), The Wildfire Season (2005), The Killing Circle (2008) and The Guardians (2011)

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Taken by Erin Bowman

Taken

“Blaine being gone is kind of like when Ma died, only this time I’m alone for good. I spend the first few days forgetting his absence is permanent. I catch myself looking up from dinner, expecting to find him walking through the door. I feel him moving through the house behind me, but when I twist around, the room is desolate and cold.

About two weeks in, when it begins to feel real and I know he’s not returning. I break down for the first and only time.

Taken was one of those books that took me by surprise. While receiving good word of mouth since its release in April of 2013 I didn’t pick it up until recently. It some ways it reminded me a lot of the Hunger Games, maybe not the game part exactly, but the social change that became more evident in the later books is out in full force in Taken pretty much from the get go. It has a good pace and a story that has lots of potential.

Gray Weathersby is absolutely sure of two things; that he is terrified of losing his brother Blaine to the Heist and that his feelings for Emma, the daughter of the town’s medic, are of a deeper nature than the social expectations surrounding him normally allow someone to foster. Gray lives in a world that is primitive and simple in some ways and yet jarring and harsh in others. Every man disappears on the eve of their eighteenth birthday in Claysoot and so Gray knows that eventually he will be claimed too. Most have accepted this but some risk climbing the stone wall that encircles their community and nearby woodlands to try and escape it. They don’t fare any better however, for they always return as charred corpses. However, as Gray becomes closer to Emma and they begin digging into the past of Claysoot they make a shocking discovery that leads both of them over the wall. What they find is a world they didn’t know existed, including a war being waged between the leader of Taem and the supposed human-experimentalist Harvey Maldoon. Unfortunately, Gray will learn things on this side of the wall can be just as deceiving as they were inside of it.

Bowman certainly knows how to keep a reader hooked. The story plunges ahead and keeps the pace a non-stop ride. The characters are constantly thrown from one scenario into the next and new plot lines, including information essential to understanding the many twists and turns the characters are experiencing, are doled out at suitable intervals to keep the reader guessing, while still ensuring they don’t become frustrated with the constant changes. While this certainly makes for an exciting read, I think the development of the secondary characters may have suffered to keep the novel so fast paced. Gray is written wonderfully and his struggle and emotions can be felt through the words but the more notable secondary ones, while each having distinguishing characteristics, still came across as somewhat hollow and one-dimensional; Blaine is the perfect and well liked one, Emma the good girl but not really, Brie the girl who can hold her own with the boys. Hopefully this will be more of a focus in the second novel and Bowman will give us a better understanding of how the minds of these characters work.

I loved the original idea of Taken, a town that is slowly being depleted as the male population disappears. Bowman created a really interesting society that struggled to adapt to these unstoppable events while still trying to carry on with day to day life. I was a little disappointed that Gray and Emma leave Claysoot so early in the book but the twist at the end, which essentially reveals what the second book will be about, soothed me enough to let that particular downside go for now.

Overall I found Taken to be a fast-paced thriller of a read which left me hankering for the continuation of the story and which directions Bowman might take her characters, especially with the hinted promise of a forthcoming adventure that Bowman leaves her readers with at the conclusion. Thankfully Frozen, the second installment in the series, is due to come out in April of 2014. For those who enjoyed the danger and social upheaval of The Hunger Games series, this is one to read!

Devon – a1000booklife

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