Monday, April 1, 2019

Romance In Fantasy Fiction: My Enemy, My Love & Laini Taylor's "Daughter Of Smoke and Bone"

Laini Taylor
I have dedicated 2019 as my Year of Romance (#YOR), specifically Romance in Fantasy Fiction (#RIFF.)

Last month, having started with The Lord of the Rings,  I promised to return with a Fantasy novel "where love is far closer to the core of what makes the story tick."

Which was an easy-peasy choice since Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone is not only a favorite of mine, but the love between protagonists' Karou-Madrigal and Akiva is absolutely the center of the story.

And as evidenced by the foreword, it also epitomizes the style of romance I term "My enemy, my love":

"Once upon a time an angel and a devil fell in love.
It did not end well."

As well as ticking both the Fantasy and Romance boxes, Daughter of Smoke and Bone includes elements of "time slip", which is popular in historical fiction, and also past lives affecting the present, so there's plenty to give the storytelling interest in that respect.

The basis of the story is this. Karou, a young woman living in Prague, with blue hair and hamsa tattooed on her hands, encounters Akiva, a seraph warrior who is burning black handprints onto secret doorways in the human world. From first meeting, they feel a sense of connection, although Karou's instinctive reaction to Akiva is "enemy, enemy, enemy", while Akiva learns that Karou knows those who dwell behind the secret doors: his enemies, the chimaera or beasts.

Eventually, Karou and Akiva work out that they were once lovers, when Karou was the chimaera, Madrigal -- a love that crossed the bitter divide of the war-to-the-death between seraphim and chimaera and transgressed the codes of both their peoples.

In perhaps the ultimate expression of "my enemy, my love", they first meet on a battlefield where Madrigal is gathering the souls of the chimaera dead and a wounded Akiva is close to dead. She saves his life, and the rest of their story and their love unfolds from there, until the secret lovers are betrayed. It is a long time afterward before Akiva encounters Karou and discovers that she is also Madrigal...

The rest of Karou and Akiva's story you will have to read for yourselves, if you have not done so already. I can promise you, however, that their story is sorrowful and joyful, magical and adventurous -- and above all, intensely romantic:

'His head bent toward her, his mask muzzle brushing her ear. In his nearness, there was an aura of warmth. He said, "I know who you are. I came here for you."... His face was only inches from her own, his head tilted down so that now she could see into his mask.

His eyes blazed like flames.

She whispered,
"You." '

Daughter of Smoke and Bone has a whole raft of great secondary characters, too, such as Zuzana and Brimstone -- there are definitely no "cardboard cutouts" in this book. And I have to mention the lyrical writing, which enhanced the beauty and mystery of the story.

So whether you love Romance or Fantasy best, I think you'll find a lot to like in Daughter of Smoke and Bone, which was definitely an easy choice for my #YOR: Year of Romance and #RIFF: Romance in Fantasy Fiction bookshelf.

I'll be back on 1 May with another personal #YOR #RIFF favorite. In the meantime, be careful out there -- and keep reading!


Helen Lowe is a novelist, poet, and blogger whose first novel, Thornspell (Knopf), was published to critical praise in 2008. Her second, The Heir of Night (The Wall Of Night Series, Book One) won the Gemmell Morningstar Award 2012. The sequel, The Gathering Of The Lost, was shortlisted for the Gemmell Legend Award in 2013. Daughter Of Blood, (The Wall Of Night, Book Three) is Helen's most recent book and she is currently working on the fourth and final novel in The Wall Of Night series. Helen posts regularly on her “…on Anything, Really” blog and is also on Twitter: @helenl0we

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