Thursday, November 24, 2011

The book that changed my mindset about the Fantasy genre


The arrival of my advanced copy of Daughter of Smoke and Bone was accompanied by the usual things -- clapping, giggling, hugging -- 'twas received in a parcel, after all. Thanks, mailFaery.

After such a happy meeting, I'm embarrassed to say we didn't spend much time together.  Our relationship began with good intentions, but before long, I found I just wasn't giving time to my new book.  My priorities were directed elsewhere for so long, in fact, that the book changed completely; it ceased to be a genuine advanced copy after the book's release date came and went (Oct 1).

I accepted that if we were to reconcile, I would have to read Daughter slowly -- something I'm unaccustomed to, since if a book's any good, the practice is akin to torture.  I began.  I routinely read for 20-30 minutes in the mornings during Ivy's morning nurse and sedated doze, while Esky played with her blocks beside me.  This went on for some time...until I could no longer tolerate incremental doses of the best piece of fantasy I've ever read (which I know isn't saying as much as I'd like, since I admittedly tend to avoid the genre -- The Hobbit is mostly to blame -- after what felt like 14 pages describing a door in the shire, I made a sweeping and unforgiving judgement about books of such kind at a very young age).

Why I'm throwing superlatives around:
  • Daughter is less dwarves and goblins (or worse, princesses.../gag) and more...hmmm...vivid, affronting and uncommon. 
  • The lead characters are intelligent, witty and captivating. 
  • I tolerate most female protagonists (and that is me being kind, if we're talking about you, Bella).  Daughter's Karou is so much smarter and tougher than Katniss (c'mon, you can't tell he likes you?  Really?).
  • It has such a well-crafted pace to it.
  • I saw some things coming, sure, but it was absolutely no less delicious to devour the details of anticipated events unfolding.  But it was also impossible to anticipate everything -- what with all that's going on in the narrative and "incremental doses" being thrown to the wind.
  • My favourite writing style...to. date.  I said it.  I know, as if one superlative wasn't enough, right?  I like Taylor's writing...so much.  Maybe you'll entirely disagree, but for me, she strikes the balance just right -- variety of vocabulary and devices without self-consciousness or distraction; a distinct lack of highly elaborate little doors...
Cautions:
  • Like many other YA lit trilogies, (yes, embrace it, it's one of more -- and thank goodness, I want more), all love therein is star-crossed.  Two cautions in one. /wink 
  • Much like Meyer's bag (and treatment within The Host, in particular), Taylor's "love" is seriously charged and she gives you all but the hanky panky. 
  • Daughter is pretty dark.  If you think the Harry Potter books are blasphemy, you should not read this book.  I tensed here and there initially, nervous that the novel was going to take me places I would not be willing to follow...but in the end, I was satisfied that the world of the novel is not a negative commentary on religion, although it shares some religious motifs.  Read as fantasy, it's fantastical.  Go figure.
  • Some of the covers and images circulating for the book do it no justice -- which is a crying shame for people like myself -- judgers-by-the-covers folk (sometimes I find a book has to work to undo it's negative first impression..."Eck" example here).  The German illustrations (below) are much more befitting how I pictured Karou, and a better match to my perception of the novel's style.

So it's out now.  You don't even have to wait.  You're welcome.

In fact, you can even taste-test the first two chapters here.
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