Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Review: Smoulder by Brenna Yovanoff


Smoulder (The Space Between) by Brenna Yovanoff

Pages: 368
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Published: December 1st, 2011
IBSN: 9780857070784

Being the youngest daughter of the Devil has never been easy. Daphne's father has no time for her, her mother no interest, and her status in the upper echelon separates her from the working-class demons that populate Lucifer's metropolis. When her brother and only confidante goes missing, life in the restrictive city of Pandemonium becomes intolerable. Now, in an attempt to find him, Daphne sets out for Earth - and finds it larger and more chaotic than she imagined: a dazzling expanse of noise, dirt and random violence. Despite her bewilderment, she navigates the mortal world with growing fascination, gaining an ally when she saves a dying boy from her father's minions.
For Truman Flynn, the last year has been one long downward spiral, but when Daphne arrives just in time to save his life, he finds himself unexpectedly glad to have another chance. Together, Daphne and Truman go in search of her brother, braving the hazards of Las Vegas and the perils of first love, even as it becomes increasingly clear that her brother might have had a secret and compelling reason for leaving. Lucifer's agents aren't the only creatures on the prowl, and Daphne soon finds herself the target of a plan to rid the world of demons for good. Now she must evade a demon-eating monster, rescue her brother from an angelic zealot, and save the boy she loves from his greatest enemy - himself.

Daphne's never been as comfortable as her sisters with her existence as the daughter of a fallen angel and a demon, but she has a loving half-brother Obie that makes it some shade of okay. Until he tells her he's leaving for the human realm. But his plans go awry, and Daphne's mother sees a vision of him pulled away in a trail of blood. Daphne travels to the human world for the first time, enlisting the help of the self-destructive boy who saw him last, to bring him home.

The prose was ornate and lovely, in a somber mood appropriate to the protagonist's melancholia. Brenna Yovanoff's style of writing is rather spare, yet very effectively builds a vivid atmosphere. Daphne's voice -- full of a kind of naive determination -- was clear, and all of the settings were described in perfect (but not overbearing) detail. It's easy to feel as though you yourself are in them beside the characters; in the Pandemonium terminal, or in a cramped bathroom trying to resuscitate your only hope.

The base idea was unique and imaginative, and the execution lived up to it. Like in the 
Merry Sisters of Fate short stories of Yovanoff's that I've read, Smoulder features tragic and compelling mythology -- dark and gritty in the style of the originals. This mythological premise is the antidote to the straight-forward, dumbed-down versions of regular mythologies that so many YAs feature. The eerie and dark mood of the story and the initial hardship didn't promise an eventual happy ending that you mostly can assume from the cheery-toned majority, and the uncertainty made the story so much more enthralling.

Brenna's first novel,The Replacement, I found lacking only in its dispassionate nature, and so, I was very pleased with how emotionally compelling Smoulder turned out to be. The characters were fleshed out and developed and entirely sympathetic. Through their perspective, and in their head mingling with all their clearly portrayed feelings, you'll become invested in their story.

The conclusion was wonderful, with unpredictable and gasp-inducing twists. The story's resolution was satisfying, while still leaving something to the imagination and maintaining the mysterious and eerie mood. A devastating climax is followed by a slow, unwinding denouement with a certain softness to it, bringing you to the end gently.

Smoulder I recommend to fans of Maggie Stiefvater's faerie books, Holly Black's Tithe series, and Laini Taylor's latest two novels. And if you're on the fence about whether you want to try Brenna Yovanoff's books or not, you should definitely check out her Merry Sisters of Fate short stories. Smoulder was a dark and mysterious paranormal romance that broke the typical PNR mould.