The Power of Pain: Thoughts Inspired by The Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
***Spoiler Alert*** For those of you who have not read The Daughter of Smoke and Bone and have intentions of doing so, please be warned that there may be mild spoilers in this article.
The Daughter of Smoke and Bone is a novel that digs its claws deep into your imagination and forces it to the surface. Laini Taylor creates a magical world where angels and devils aren't defined as simply being good or evil; they are prejudiced races in a parallel universe, enemies in a war that has lasted for centuries.
Magic is at the center of these two worlds. It's a powerful weapon and ally, performing acts as simple as changing the color of one's hair to as complex as reincarnating souls into newly formed bodies, and everything else in between.
We've all heard of magic in one form or another, both beneficial and destructive, and it usually consists of a an unexplained miracle possessed by some powerful being who can wield it to his or her heart's desire.
What's interesting about The Daughter of Smoke and Bone is the concept that magic can only ride in on the backbone of pain. It's not something that a person or a monster just harbors unconsciously. There's always a price.
Why would that be? Pain, whether physical or emotional, is probably one of the most compelling sensations a creature can feel. Some might argue that love or fear could compete, but doesn't pain stem from those emotions as well? The knowledge of love can be experienced through the pain of wanting or missing, and fear is caused by the thought of the tragic loss.
It's a driving force for action or reaction, however you want to see it. I've read dozens of stories that include a character who recently discovers a dormant power within themselves, something they can use and help resolve whatever conflict they are experiencing. They always try to conjure this power, usually failing miserably at first, unable to connect with this strange magic. They continue failing, making little progress until some outside factor forces them to focus. Most of the time that factor has a lot to do with the fear of agony or panic that they're loved ones will hurt.
In addition to fictional characters, how many of us have been compelled into action we would have otherwise thought impossible of our selves to avoid harm?
Laini Taylor connects pain and magic in a more literal way, making it impossible to have magic without affliction. And it makes such beautiful and appalling sense. One of the best descriptions of it can be found through the angel Akiva's eyes.
He learned to go into his pain, like it was a place. From within it, things looked different ~ sharp-edged ~ and felt and sounded different too. Pain was like a lens that honed everything, his senses and instincts, and it was there, through relentless trial and repetition, that he did it. (Page 285)
Akiva learns to use the constant pain he endures due to a battle wound to his advantage. He uses it to generate magic, even though he's a soldier and should know nothing of such things. Magic is possible if you have something just as powerful to focus you.
The lengths that some of these people, monsters, and angels would go to just to have a little touch of it leaves me, not surprised, but... I guess speechless would be the only word for it. They mutilate themselves or trade another's torture for the limited magic it will give them. It's crazy, ugly, and amazing, the imagination with which Laini Taylor has saturated this novel.
In The Daughter of Smoke and Bone, pain creates magic as we imagine it ~ the power to alter and bend the factors around you at your will. But what if there are other kinds of magic? Subtle, but real? Magic that doesn't require pain?
I think that's a topic for a Part Two hub...