Sunday, December 1, 2013

Short stories are awesome.  They give us in-depth insight into characters, providing anecdotal proof of why some characters are they way they are.  They entertain by creating a certain mood or focusing on a singular effect...some instance in a previous body of work (or one to follow) that might have been glossed over or ignored completely in a longer novel. 

And so I would like to highlight some short stories and novellas set in worlds I've already come to love and learn a little more about some of the secondary characters in my favorite novels.   In addition to offering up a mini review of these short works of fiction,  I'll be underscoring some of my favorite aspects.

This week I'm featuring a companion novella from Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke & Bone series:

Title: Night of Cake & Puppets
Author: Laini Taylor
Series: Daughter of Smoke & Bone, book #2.5
Publisher: Little, Brown BFYR
Publication Date: November 26, 2013
Source: purchased
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Add to Goodreads
In Night of Cake & Puppets, Taylor brings to life a night only hinted at in the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy—the magical first date of fan-favorites Zuzana and Mik. Told in alternating perspectives, it’s the perfect love story for fans of the series and new readers alike. Petite though she may be, Zuzana is not known for timidity. Her best friend, Karou, calls her “rabid fairy,” her “voodoo eyes” are said to freeze blood, and even her older brother fears her wrath. But when it comes to the simple matter of talking to Mik, or “Violin Boy,” her courage deserts her. Now, enough is enough. Zuzana is determined to meet him, and she has a fistful of magic and a plan. It’s a wonderfully elaborate treasure hunt of a plan that will take Mik all over Prague on a cold winter’s night before finally leading him to the treasure: herself! Violin Boy’s not going to know what hit him.

Oh, wow.  I didn't think it was possible to love Laini Taylor or this series any more than I already did, but this short story was absolutely adorable.  It was beyond cute and sweet and completely romantic.  If you've never been swept up in a love affair like this, then this is exactly what you're hoping for one day.  Or, at least, you should be.

Zuzana and Mik are some of my favorite secondary characters, and this novella just served to emphasize why they're so beloved.  It's been awhile since I first read Daughter of Smoke & Bone, but honestly, I can't remember a time when it wasn't Zuzana & Mik.  It feels like they've always been together, that they've always been part of an ampersand.  Which makes their little adventure in Prague even more delightful.
"I mean, who would I be if I'd been raised on milquetoast bedtime stories and not forced to dust the glass prison of a psychotic undead fox Cossack?  I shudder to think."
I adored reading from Zuzana's point-of-view.  As I said, she's a favorite side character of mine, but actually getting in the Rabid Fairy's head was something else.  It was almost as if we were kindred spirits, the way her mind works.  And oh, all the trouble she went to in order to actually "meet" Mik!  I love her even more now.
"I've seen Zuzana out of her outermost layers at least, at the theater, but I've only known her in winter, so:  sweaters, scarves, jeans, boots.  Nary a glimpse of ankle or clavicle, those miracles of girl geometry.  It's very Victorian, but in the depths of a girlfriendless winter, a glimpse of ankle would probably excite me."
And I felt like I really got to know Mik with this story.  He's sweet and perfect for Zuze, but he's also a guy, and he isn't pretending like he doesn't have those "guy nature" type impulses.  A fact for which I am very grateful because even worse than a bad boy who only thinks about one thing is a too saccharine-sweet guy who acts like he never thinks about it. Mik is the perfect amount of guy for, Zuzana.

And, oh, the writing!  The writing is as brilliant as I've come to expect from Taylor, but maybe it's just been so long since the last book that I've forgotten just how brilliant it is.  I mean, she's got these two kids on a collision course of love, and they're feeling the same things and doing the same things, but both sound completely different as they describe the experience, and there's no lack in originality in how they do so:
Mik:  "A little war commences in my brain, "rational self" versus "hopeful self," cage match.  I'm not religious; I don't believe in things -- not out of any determination not to.  It's more like a default setting:  My brain is an inhospitable environment for belief, but I've always said -- and really meant -- that life would be more interesting if those unseen things were real (and dragons, too, please), and of course death would be less of a bummer if there were a heave (hell not so much).  I've just never been able to believe any of it.  Right now, though, to some small detectable degree, it feels like the pH balance in my mind is shifting.  Like my skepticism is being neutralized.  Hopeful self is sitting on rational shelf's chest."

Zuzana:  "I know it's all brain chemicals -- everything is brain chemicals -- but my excitement and dread feel like tiny wrestlers in my heart right now.  I picture Excitement choking out Dread and gently, almost lovingly, lowering his intert body to the ground."
I mean, they're not even describing the same thing here, but they both use the same basic metaphor, and it is delightful. Wait, I think I've used that adjective already, but it's true.  Also, they use poetry and Latin and a treasure map, and it's all just so damn romantic.  They even made me google lines of a poem:  'anyone who's woken up to find the wet footprints of a peacock across their kitchen floor.'  I mean, what?

And what it all boils down to is this:  these two are just so unbelievably in love, and they have been from the very beginning.  There's just no stopping this kind of love, and I hope the elation I feel after reading this short story bodes well for the final book in the trilogy.  Pleasepleaseplease let Karou and Akiva get an ending reminiscent of Zuzana and Mik's beginning!

the Daughter of Smoke & Bone series
Daughter of Smoke & Bone (Daughter of Smoke & Bone, #1)Days of Blood & Starlight (Daughter of Smoke & Bone, #2)Night of Cake & Puppets (Daughter of Smoke and Bone, #2.5)Dreams of Gods & Monsters (Daughter of Smoke & Bone, #3)
About the author:

Hi! I'm Laini Taylor. I am a writer-artist-daydreamer-nerd-person, and simultaneously a mom-wife-sister-daughter-person. I can do a lot of things at once, like for example: I can sleep and dream and also lie very still, all while also breathing and ever-so-slowly growing ten distinct toenails.

I write books for youngish people, but they can also be read and enjoyed by oldish people, aka grown-ups. You know grown-ups? They tend to be a little bigger and hairier than kids. But not always.

I live in Portland, Oregon, USA, with my husband Jim Di Bartolo, who is an amazing illustrator and who I'm always begging to draw me things, and with our wee droll genius, Clementine Pie, age three.

Find Laini:

WebsiteTwitter | Goodreads


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