Monday, November 19, 2012

"It's a bird. It's a plane. It's a...what the f*** is it?"

Good Monday,

Today’s Media Monday is my class post for “Daughter of Smoke and Bone” by Laini Taylor. I chose to focus on genre (since the book seems to span the lines between so many). And so here is my analysis.

NOTE: At Barnes and Noble, the book is in fact shelved under young adult fantasy and adventure. Not where I would have put it, but to each his own.

Who needs this genre thing anyway?

Unfortunately, we do, so I’m going to attempt to figure out what genre this book falls into. Wish me luck.

At this point, I’m toying with a few different ideas. I’ve got romantic fantasy, urban fantasy, and parallel universe.

Romantic Fantasy

Is this romantic fantasy? Oh yeah….

There is debate to whether this book is a story with a mid-show flash back, a late-coming story with a too-long prologue, or two stories in one. To say that this is definitely romantic fantasy, I think, would require to view it as two stories. The part that takes place in the past is an other-world romantic fantasy. The plot is driven by Madrigal and Akiva’s meeting and subsequent “flights in the night” (no pun intended, the characters have wings). The high point is when their love is discovered and madrigal is sentenced and killed. It’s got a “Romeo and Juliet” feel to it. “Two households (worlds) both alike in dignity….” In fact, if the Chimaera and Seraph were replaced by humans with shamanistic powers of reincarnation, I wouldn’t even feel like it was fantasy. I’d label it as paranormal romance.

Urban Fantasy

Is this urban fantasy? Don’t think so.

My first answer was “yes.” Upon closer examination, it dawned on me, however, that, aside from Karou’s wishes, there’s no actual magic in Prague. It’s in the workshop and the world beyond and just happens to slip into the real world sometimes. So even though the book takes place in a city (one of the characteristics of urban fantasy) I’m not sure I’d classify it as such. It’s more like “urban fiction with a single girl who was born of ‘demons,’ who collects teeth, and who travels to an alternate world via a magical door that can sometimes be found in her city.”

Parallel universe

Is it parallel universe? Very possibly, and here’s why I say that.

I can’t find the exact quotation, but somewhere in there it was said of the Seraph that they and their history are not what humans believe them to be. And this is what their history/lives really are (vastly different from what is believed in our reality). So it’s a real-life religion in a different universe. There’s talk about fallen and demons and angels and warriors. And amidst that, there’s one girl who was punished in a former life, moved to Earth, and given a new life. And then there’s the angel that finds her, makes her remember her old life, and explains that everything isn’t as she thinks it is. It seems like a romantic retelling of religion and, more importantly, a retelling that requires someone on each side of the war to realize that there’s more than war. Furthermore, these individuals need to show everyone else that.

***Not part of my original post*** Someone in my class suggested that it’s “portal fiction,” which is fantasy where the magical world is gotten to by going through a type of door or portal. This seems to fit since the way for Karou to get to the Shop (which technically isn’t on Earth) is through a door that only certain people can access.

Is it young adult?

Putting aside the debate of whether ya is a genre or an audience, I’d say it’s aimed at younger readers. There’s no over-the-top violence, but there’s plenty of “love at first sight” and “feeling of missing everything when his/her other half isn’t there.” The first I feel more fit to comment on. The entire story’s based around a war. Karou herself is injured pretty badly. Madrigal is killed. But it’s not shown in excruciating detail.

The romance thing—it’s “love” rather than “lust.” I have never claimed to be a romance writer or know much about the conventions of writing romance. All I can say is I’ve noticed that more books geared for adults have less “true love” and more “love and lust/sex.” Books geared for younger readers (teens) may mention sex but don’t feature it specifically. And the relationship between the romantic characters in ya works is more of “soul mates/true love.” Karou’s seventeen, and her relationship with Akiva (both as Karou and Madrigal) is more reminiscent of ya trends.

So I’d say (based on what philosophy you subscribe to) that Daughter of Smoke and Bone is of the ya genre or aimed at a ya audience.

Where would I house it on the shelves?

As I said above, it can be found under young adult fantasy and adventure. I’d keep it in the ya section, but I’d seriously consider moving it to the paranormal romance area. Just my two cents.

Oh, and if anyone’s wondering where my title came from, it’s paraphrased from Robin Williams’s comedy skit where he talks about kids’ toys. He’s goes on about how you can’t get high when you have kids because they have toys like transformers…”It’s a truck. It’s a plane. It’s a…what the f*** is it?” I used it as my title because that’s sort of how I felt with the question of “what genre is this book?”

See you out of the box,

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