Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor:
JH Reading Club

The last reading club meeting of 2016 met yesterday afternoon, to talk about Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone, a 2011 YA fantasy, the first of a trilogy. As usual, it was a small group of four students, but also as usual, all four had read the whole 418-page novel, and had lots to say. 

We were split -- one student proclaimed this her favorite book yet (!!), a second said it was a tie between this one and Afterworlds (October's book), and the other two put Afterworlds on top.  Those readers preferred the complexity of this alternating storylines, and the plots themselves.  None of this group of four were crazy about the romance aspect of Daughter of Smoke and Bone -- as I reread it for yesterday, I realized that I too am so over  the' hot angel boyfriend' trope.  That's my term, but the readers (girls and boys alike) said they were disappointed when the angel showed up and they realized it would be "just another love story."  The character of Akiva is definintely the least interesting.  In this book (I think it gets better in the remainderof the trilogy) he comes off as Edward-like ancient stalker-ish for a long time.

Luckily, there's so much more than hot angels to the story.  The characters of Karou, Brimstone and Zuzana were top topics, and we also talked about the roles of Hope, teeth, wishes and belonging in the novel.  A couple of students were familiar with Emily Dickenson's poem "Hope Is The Thing With Feathers," and we wonderered how that might tie in with Karou (whose name means 'hope' in Chimera) and the images of angel wings and feathers (she wears a feathered mask at the ball).  The legendary mythological nature of the animal/human creatures that are Chimera, and that in Laini Taylor's world they are the sympathetic characters and the Seraphim (angels) are the tyrannical, warlike bad guys.  We talked about Karou's tactic of telling the truth with a smile, so that none of her human friends believed that her outlandish tales were real, and I told them a story I'd read about actor Clark Gable's strategy of introducing his mistress at parties as "my mistress" -- his theory being that no one would believe such a bold statement! 

The collection of fan art below was a lot of fun to talk about.  Karou wasn't so difficult to imagine, but Brimstone was tricky.  Not everyone had imagined him with an animal face.  And Thiago (the guy with the white hair in the bottom row) -- there aren't that many examples of him online (he's a villain) and I explained why I chose that last drawing.  Thiago is a wolf-ish Chimera, described as strong and handsome, yet scary and repulsive.  That's my reaction to that drawing -- technically good-looking, but intensely creepy. And Akiva?  We looked up images online, and there was nothing remarkable at all.  Interesting, no?

Most of the drawings are from the artists social network (lots of fan art there!), and it turns out that one of the club members is a "Deviant Artist."  Cool!

We didn't get to watch the author interviews I'd embedded at the bottom of this page.  I forgot to take my own laptop, and the student iPad we used was blocked from YouTube.  Boo.  But I sent the links in an email so everyone can watch later.

This is a fantasy-loving group of readers.  I'm planning for us to read multiple genres (if you're interested in reading club but prefer other genres, let me know!!!), but for January we're still in the "fantastic" realm -- no magic, just cool, weird Steampunk, as we read Fever Crumb by Philip Reeve. Reeve's 2005 novel, Mortal Engines (out of print!!!), is set to be released as a movie next year.  Fever Crumb is a series in its own right, but sets up and takes place in the world that develops into the Hungry Cities of Mortal Engines.

Fan interpretations of Karou, Brimstone, Madrigal & Thiago

For a collection of international edition covers, check out Laini Taylor's blog!

A short interview with author Laini Taylor

Another interview with the author (in a noisy crowded place!)

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