This is the second novel in Duvall's creative series centered around Chalice, a member of an order of knights (The Hatchet Knights) who have been around since the Crusades and mate with the Arelim, the lowest form of angel, to propagate their order. The same original and quirky ideas for magic present in the first are contained here in second, but I have to say that overall, Ms. Duvall definitely got off on a better foot with this second effort in her UF/PNR offering. While the plot I thought would be the center of Darkest Knight (restoring Aydin back to humanity from his cursed gargoyle form) wasn't at all what this novel was about, I wasn't disappointed. The antagonist created for the events of book two neatly tied in with the mythology and lore of the first and was on the same malevolence level as the previous antagonist, the evil sorcerer-kidnapper Gavin. And while I wasn't as surprised as I could've been at the "reveal" of the Big Bad of the book and the heart of the murders/mystery, I thought it left an interesting possibility for the plot of the sure-to-follow third installment.
I felt tepid and 'mehhh' about the first (Knight's Curse) when I read it last year and a large amount of my dissatisfaction had to do with and centered around the main character Chalice. I liked it well enough, was certainly entertained by it but the knight had a way of frustrating very simple situations, either by not listening or assuming she knew all the answers. Chalice in book two is a bit more aware, a bit more intelligent and a whole lot easier for me to like. I despise when heroines are convinced they shouldn't let allies into their plans because only they can do it, only they know the risk, etc and so on! And while Chalice was like that in the first, I found that her uneasy relationship with guardian-angel Rafe brought out a more mature side to her. While I still didn't wholly invest in Chalice or closely identify with her, I do like several aspects of her personality: her independence, her openness to magic finally, her fighting abilities; I love a heroine that can fight well and Chalice is one those few. Her martial skills complement her prickly personality quite well. One of the few major issues I had with Chalice here in this was her "instructing" the new squires of her order when Chalice has been a knight for less than three months, known of the order for only that long, has never had any formal training herself and there are older, more indoctrinated knights able to do the job....so why pick the newbie who is clueless to teach new members?
What also improved my experience the second time around is the romance of the novel. Or, to be perfectly clear, the lack of stressing the romance and love between Aydin and Chalice. I didn't buy their almost insta-love connection from book one and since they're separated more often in Darkest Knight, I actually got to see them on their own for extended periods of time. They both actually have to work for the relationship (and get over their dumb decisions, like Aydin's particularly stupid rejection in the beginning), and work together to fix Aydin's curse. It brought out another dynamic to their relationship and also helped to flesh out Aydin a bit more independently. I truly like that both people fight and struggle for the other: Aydin wants Chalice just as much as she wants him. Another bonus originality point for this series? Aydin is the swoon-worthy love interest and he is not a typical WASP. Diversity brings a lot to the table and for Aydin especially, it sets him apart from the thousands of UF/PNY love-interests out there. The whole 'gargoyle' thing doesn't hurt, either.
Back to the mythology of Darkest Knight: the world Duvall has created for her novels is a potent one. There are charms, magic, sorcerers, gargoyles, curses, guardian angels and Fallen angels - all with their own conduct, rules and uses. While the lore behind the angels can be confusing sometimes, it is unique and presents an interesting structure for the Hatchet Knights to find mates within. While the charms didn't impress me as much as the creativity shown in the first seems to have waned a tad (except for a pen with ink that makes the writer invisible - not the words being written. That's creative.) with a few exceptions: the "soul-stain" (which reminded me of Lord Denbury's condition in Darker Still), the non-dead non-living "life" of St. Geraldine, the half-sylph half-necromancer exorcist that I picture as an English man who says things like, "My dear chap, I daresay I couldn't possibly...." I also really liked that that the plot of the second book could be found mentioned/hidden within the first; there are references within Knight's Curse that, in hindsight, seem to set up the stage for book two perfectly.
The abrupt ending seemed slightly rushed to me, but definitely did not pull any punches. Characters die, lose their powers, fight and have an all-might brawl that made this quite hard to put down. This is action-packed and though some of the fights seemed redolent of earlier clashes (Evan and Zee, both specifically seemed to pop up for an altercation one too many times - especially Zee!) the pages turn quickly and Chalice's story is amusing for an hour or two. Though I found the uncovering of the Hatchet murderer to be too drawn out and arduous for how obvious it was (view spoiler)[(C'mon now guys: who has acted weird and sketchy and arrived just before the murders? Who repeatedly lies and sneaks around, getting into forbidden areas and trinkets? Come on now, it shouldn't take 300 pages!) (hide spoiler)]. Darkest Knight is a fun and enjoyable read. The ending leaves several key plotlines open for a continuing third volume and since this is one of the few series where I've liked the second more than the first, I can guarantee I'll be on the lookout for more from Chalice, Aydin, and my favorite: Ruby.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
4 stars for the first hundred pages, one for the next 188. That was a good start, followed by a lot of issues and problems. This is a book I want...moreSigh.
4 stars for the first hundred pages, one for the next 188. That was a good start, followed by a lot of issues and problems. This is a book I wanted to love, was halfway there, and then it went downhill. Fast.
Wow. A strong yet still likable character in a well-realized and exciting world? A romance that isn't cloying or saccharine sweet? Angelfall is a winn...moreWow. A strong yet still likable character in a well-realized and exciting world? A romance that isn't cloying or saccharine sweet? Angelfall is a winner and I need the sequel ASAP.
Full review to come in a few days, but this is going to a hard novel to follow!(less)
Just.. wow. This is such a novel. I don't even have the words to articulate how rich, lovely, and special this book is. I knew I loved the first,...more Wow.
Just.. wow. This is such a novel. I don't even have the words to articulate how rich, lovely, and special this book is. I knew I loved the first, with its blue-haired, quirky protagonist and it's legions of monsters and angels, but this one is better.
Days of Blood and Starlight is a far cry from Daughter of Smoke and Bone, but it s a deeply magical and thoroughly unique, beautifully written piece of art.
I was just bored by this, to put it in the barest and baldest terms. I found nothing original or interesting within the first 75 pages - not the rehas...moreI was just bored by this, to put it in the barest and baldest terms. I found nothing original or interesting within the first 75 pages - not the rehashed plot, the irritatingly perfect female character, the overdone 'tortured' love interest. I gave up after page 100 when I realized it was going to be standard, very cliched angel/demon/Heaven/Hell forbidden romance that changes someone for the better!read - not worth the time to read and eviscerate later. I have too many novels I'd like to actually read to waste time on a novel that has so little to recommend it.(less)
On A Dark Wing is obviously eye-catching and interesting novel, just judging by looks alone: from the vaguely foreboding tone of the title...more2.5 out of 5
On A Dark Wing is obviously eye-catching and interesting novel, just judging by looks alone: from the vaguely foreboding tone of the title itself to the scattered murder of ravens across the letters of the title, and the ominious, "Death never forgets. . . " ominously taglined in front of the Grim Reaper, this is a hard to miss title. It's a readable book that veers from normal to supernatural to creepy thriller almost: one thing that can be honestly said about On A Dark Wing is that it is never predictable. This is the story of a girl named Abbey, yes like Abbey Road of Beatles fame, her obsessive crush, her mom, a paralyzed but lovable hacker and Death. Yes, Death with a capital "D" - the Man himself appears and is the crux around which the rest of the book - and characters - must revolve.
Abbey is from Palmer, Alaska. It's immediately clear that miss Chandler is fairly damaged goods: her guilt and issues over her mom's death is immediate and obvious from the get-go. I had to shave off rating points for such a heavy-handed introduction: I like when the author eases the problems in so it's not overwhelming every page. She's also constantly around death: her dad runs a crematorium so death and dying are more personal and familiar to Abbey than most people. By page thirty, Abbey has begun obsessively regaling the reader with her obsession with a boy named Nate. From the way Abbey talks and acts, it's obvious her feelings veer into stalker territory: she plans openly, without any kind of embarrassment, to radio-eavesspydrop on a trip of Nate's that he doesn't even know she knows he is going on, not to mention the tiny fact that Nate has no idea who Abbey is. It's fairly uncomfortable to read Abbey waxing lyrical over a guy who literally couldn't pick her out of a line-up. I mean saving, "Nate, give me strength" when in a bad situation? Just.. what? Who does that? I certainly wanted to like Abbey - I definitely came closer the closer to the end that I got in the book and she grows up quite a bit- but her stalker tendencies, coupled with her piss-poor treatment of her father made it nearly impossible for much of the novel.
Other than Abbey, there is of course, Nate himself. I felt no real connection with Nate as an individual character, nor is it apparent for a while why we are supposed to care about a random boy going on a trip for the first few chapters. Nate is far too generic, too perfect for me to really buy into: I want a flawed man over a too-good-to-be-true archetype any day. His plot-line, though I liked how it intersected with Abbey's eventually, just failed to garner my interest from the start. Even his scenes on Denali failed to catch my eye - they were too bland and encompassing to create much emotion. I was much more interested in the paralyzed, funny and smart Tanner Lange than Nate. He is a much more flawed, real character than Nate, and carried the pages he appeared upon. Even when I found his cooperation with Abbey's stalker plans to be bemusing, I liked him immensely. He doesn't rag on Abbey for substituting food for love, he doesn't constantly rehash her guilt over her mother, he's just a best friend: supportive, loving, kind, there when he is needed the most.
I went into this novel perhaps expecting a bit too much. I think I might have fallen in love with the gorgeous cover, and was waiting for a tour-de-fo...moreI went into this novel perhaps expecting a bit too much. I think I might have fallen in love with the gorgeous cover, and was waiting for a tour-de-force to knock me off my feet. The beginning introduction, an in media res glimpse at the world/monsters of the novel seemed to reinforce my notion: it was a genuinely creepy and intriguing way to introduce the reader to this world. Sadly, my hopes remained unfounded for the most part of the story, I will say I enjoyed this novel and had fun while reading it - I just never fell in love with it, nor the characters, nor the plot. Juliet Dark, an alias of the well-known author Carol Goodman, does a fine job of nearly all the elements in her premier foray into the supernatural/urban fantasy genre: I just never loved the story the way I wanted to. Set in Fairwick, New York, The Demon Lover is a first-person novel, told in the steady voice of associate professor twenty-six year old Cailleach "Callie" McFay (first quibble: "McFay"? Really? Obvious, much?) In Fairwick, as Callie quickly learns, the fae/faerie/brownies/vampires/incubi she believed to be entirely myth and legend are revealed as living, breathing, and often malicious beings.
A break-neck romp set in a world populated with gargoyles, nephilim, demons, and angels, Knight's Curse was a fun diversion for a couple days. An easy...more A break-neck romp set in a world populated with gargoyles, nephilim, demons, and angels, Knight's Curse was a fun diversion for a couple days. An easy read filled with action, different forms of magic/abilities, curses and female knights, this first adventure by Karen Duvall centers around the character of Chalice. Chalice is special, with unique abilities ("Sticks and stones may break my bones, but I'd see them coming before they hurt me. Maybe even smell them," she says in the first chapter) because she is the descendant of a human woman mating with angels. In this world of Duvall's, those women who mated with angels and bore their (apparently only female) offspring were of an order of Knights existing since the Middle Ages. Her mother was deliberately murdered and Chalice kidnapped at thirteen by an evil organization (think the mafia with mojo), she was cursed as a means of control- every three days Chalice must make contact with her gargoyle, Shui, or be turned into a monster like him for all time.
Chalice herself failed to engage me, or make me really care about her story. I wanted to like this character much more than I did. By all means, I should love her: she's smart, snarky, sarcastic, good with a blade, and fierce. Why don't I?
I'm of two different minds about this novel. I'm typically not a huge fan of angels as a race/species/what-have-you in fiction, but they seem to be pr...moreI'm of two different minds about this novel. I'm typically not a huge fan of angels as a race/species/what-have-you in fiction, but they seem to be pretty inevitable, especially in the young-adult paranormal genre. I've even reviewed (and genuinely liked) Addison Moore's Nephilim-friendly Ethereal, but on the whole it's a niche I'd usually try to avoid. To me, it seems that there is a fine line between incorporating the celestial as an aspect of your novel for ingenuity and using it for subtle (or not so subtle) metaphor preaching at your audience. While Mephisto (for the most part) stays far away from that pet peeve of mine, it did hit upon a few others.
I personally, am not a fan of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight. I try not to rant on about it as it's genuinely not horrible not the worst thing out there (Eragon, I AM LOOKING AT YOU) and it got a metric ton of people to read that normally would not (and it's been out forever soo been there, done that), but on the whole, I find Twilight bland, derivative and cringingly laughable. At times The Mephisto Covenant sadly reminded me strongly of the same vibe I get from Twilight. We've got a bland, perfect MarySue Alexandra "Sasha" Annenkova. She's described as "insanely beautiful" more than once, and much time is spent waxing philosophic on her many, varied attributes. Thankfully, Sasha grows and changes, but only with (and here is another problem of mine in 3, 2, 1. . .) . . . .
to finish this review (be warned SPOILERS ahead!) click HERE! (less)
It's a rather large understatement to say I had high expectations for Daughter of Smoke and Bone. It was - and still is - pretty ubiquitous and lauded everywhere you find it mentioned. I was so keen on reading this novel I preordered it. I rarely preorder anything; bookbuying before seeing/touching the actual novel is one of the few area I can exercise some patience in. For example, the last book I preordered was George R. R. Martin's A Dance With Dragons after nearly six years of anticipation. But, lo and behold, even before the promised release date of September 27, a beautiful copy of Daughter of Smoke and Bone appeared on my doorstep. I devoured it in two days, only stopping because of a headache so bad I literally couldn't see straight. Laini Taylor's amazing novel more than met my high hopes: she exceeded them in every way. It's a novel that delights and entertains, neither stinting on the drama and humor nor on acutely attractive brooding male characters.
It's hard to review something you love - I've had trouble reviewing this as well as The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman and Kate Morton's epic The Distant Hours. I sat on this particular review for over a week trying to analyze how I felt about it and how to express my opinions other than just fangirl squeeling ("Oh my god, I wish I was Karou. Oh, My. GOD. Akiva.<33," etc). When you love a book, it's personal in a way few things are: you want everyone else to love it unconditionally, too, and hiss at any detractors. While Daughter is not the end-all be-all my review might sound like, it is one of my top favorite reads of the year/all-time. From the tagline "Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love. It did not end well," alone I knew I was in for an epic star-crossed love affair and had faith that Laini Taylor would handle it with aplomb and not melodrama. I highly recommend this to anyone looking for a fresh read with unique elements, and note as well this is a young-adult novel that is certainly not just for young-adults.
Daughter is not a paranormal romance. Daughter is not an urban fantasy. Daughter is not a fantasy. Daughter is not a coming-of-age young adult novel with significant supernatural elements. Or rather - it is not just one of those genres individually. It is a marvelous and utterly unique mix of all four. It's the story of Karou, a blue haired, tattooed, lonely artist in Prague. A girl that "moved like a poem and smiled like a sphinx," and an utterly striking protagonist. Though clearly 'special' Karou is a magnetic character and one I like immediately without reserve. She's funny, human in the most defining sense of the word and not above a little petty revenge against those who need it. Surrounded by a cheeky best friend, the "master of the eyebrow arch" Zuzanna and her strange (more on that later) family, Karou manages to come across as a lonely and very alone young woman trying to balance a hidden demanding supernatural life with human problems like exyboyfriends, though without straying into self-pity. As the mysteries pile up around the young artist, I felt questions piling up in my head, wondering if the author would pull of answering all of them to my satisfaction: who is Karou? What is Karou? Where did she come from, and where/who are her parents? And like most reviews note: what exactly is up with the creepyass teeth?! While I thought the mystery went on too long at the time, the pacing and reveal feel absolutely perfect when they are - finally - uncovered. I should never have doubted.
The secondary characters are also mysterious, powerful... and above all, different. Hinted at in the tagline, Karou's adopted family is firmly in the "devil" camp - though the correct name is chimaera and one and all, from the snakelike Issa to the giraffe-necked Twiga, are never anything less than kind to the bluehaired waif they raised. I enjoyed the "humanness" Laini Taylor brought for her monsters. No side is black and white in this eternal way between angels and devils, and I thoroughly appreciate the 'human' monsters/crazed angels over a more black/white/ absolute scenario. Karou runs messages for Brimstone, a mysterious chimaera collector of teeth and granter of wishes - which allows her to eventually run into the angel foretold: the sexy and dangerous Akiva. A beautiful and forbidding seraphim sworn to fight the chimaera, Akiva sells his brooding mysteriousness and past pain without overplaying it. It took me a while to buy into more than his obvious superficial appeal, but the haunting backstory added a layer of depth to his personality. His looong life is a nice foil for Karou's shorter mostly conflict free existence of whim.Their chemistry is palpable and sizzling: one of the more exciting YA romances I can think of, honestly. (Wow, this is still waaaay fangirlly. It's just that good.)
More love: Laini's writing. Not only is it lyrical and poetic, but she manages to personalize everyone and everything - often with a dab hand at humor or image. Like Zuzanna'a master eyebrow mastery perfectly creates a sardonic, but caring face. Zuzana bursts with flair and personality: all the fun isn't reserved for lead role Karou. And the sparkle is not just reserved for the people: the setting benefits from the author's talent as well. Prague. Oh my godPrague. Between this and Wasserman's addicting The Book of Blood and Shadow I'd say this has rocketed to the top of my "Cities I MUST Visit in Europe" list. From poetic and vibrant passages like this,
"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 dreams, its medieval cobbles once trod by golems, mystics, invading armies."
to the day-to-day life of Karou, I was struck again and again by Ms. Taylor's narrative, consistently in love with the vibrant prose and the very-much-alive city it gave birth to. I loved the beautiful, not purple, prose, which consistently evoked colorful imagery of the setting, the characters, and the amazing world (in, within, around Prague) that wordsmith Laini Taylor has crafted. In a vibrant city of such history - and supernatural myths too of foundation by a witch - Laini Taylor breathes fresh life into old themes of forbidden love, fallen angels, and even the battle between good/evil/Heaven/Hell.
My few, teensy complaints: the "big reveal" to Zuzanna wasn't. It was offscreen and almost hastily brushed aside with a demonstration - and I wished for more time with the diminutive Czech scenestealer. I also felt that Karou and Akiva had a teensy bit of an instalove situation a la Twilight, but that fear was happily quashed. SPOILER AHEAD, please do not read if you've yet to get your hands on a copy. Seriously it's the next sentence. I also worry that the Karou I liked so much, identified with so closely - might "disappear" due tothe big twist/revelation near the end. I worry that the essential "Karouness" will be lost and I'll feel different about her in the second book. I hope not and have almost every faith Laini Taylor will not steer me wrong.
The story is striking and imaginative and unforgettable. Daughter of Smoke and Bone is a genre-blending exercise of win, unlike anything I have read. It's a new, charismatic spin on the angel/devil/seraphim/nephilim/chimaera theme, populated with real characters with actual personalities - relayed by dialogue and deed rather than an infodump. I loved the nicely tuned balance of action and wit, drama with imagination and wordbuilding on a grand-scale. When's book two out? I cannot and hope not to wait long for another installment in this spellbinding world.(less)