I am a little late to the chimaera ball; probably about 35 years too late, as Laini Taylor’s trilogy is marketed as young adult fiction and it is clearly some years since I was a teenager! However, despite my advanced age, once I got into the rhythm of this tale, I was swept along by the sheer brilliance of the author’s imagination.
Karou has been raised by Brimstone, a strict taskmaster who has a use for teeth. Karou doesn’t know what he uses them for, but she is nevertheless required to interrupt her studies in order to act as a courier, travelling the world to pick up dental specimens. Karou’s unusual life begins to take on an air of undisguised menace when scorched handprints begin to appear on doorways. An encounter with Akiva, a beautiful but damaged angel exposes Karou to her true origins and identity, knowledge which brings both closure and responsibility. She also finds out what the teeth were for. It is clear at the end of the book that this is the first in a trilogy, as the stage is fully set for Karou and Akiva’s passionate affair and the fight to resurrect the chimaera.
I am not a fan of fantasy novels and would not have picked this up at all had it not been recommended by a friend but I honestly loved it. The writing is evocative, conjuring up vivid visual images. Even though many of the characters are a melange of human and animal bodies, I could see them in my mind’s eye. Similarly with the settings – Prague and Morocco in this world, but also the battlefields and cities of Eretz, the other world. The writing is full of fire and passion and I can see why it has attracted leagues of teenage fans, some of whom have produced the most amazing fan art (just Google it!). Well worth a read and I’ll look out for the two sequels – if a teenager near you needs some escapist fiction, ‘Daughter of Smoke and Bone‘ fits the bill beautifully.