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Daughter of Smoke & Bone (Daughter of Smoke and Bone Book 1) Kindle Edition
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|Length: 420 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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Ahh. 2011. What a crappy time to be an adult reading young adult literature.
Like many, I suspect, I had been burned by the young adult genre, and burned badly. I bought books in series where the plot was stretched thin to accommodate the obligatory three other books in the quartet (all hoping for a film franchise because, come on). I read books where the unbelievably plain girl (who everyone else thinks is amazingly gorgeous) ends up with the male co-lead who treated her like dirt for a quarter of the book. I read books that found ridiculous, convoluted reasons for the couple to not get together, so that I had to keep reading in “hopes” that they did. I rolled my eyes at the number of Duckie, best-friend-who-passive-aggresively-wants-to-be-more-and-glowers-about-it-while-insisting-he’s-a-nice-guy’s. Books with love triangles for no reason other than to give readers something to argue over.
A lot of these books, I was sort of asking for it from. Some of them, I really wasn’t. Most of them went back and I continued my search. I wanted to find ones I honestly liked, but I was losing faith and getting burnt out.
It was dark, dark times, friends.
I knew about Daughter of Smoke and Bone when it first was published. I avoided it like the plague. Nay. I avoided it like the young adult supernatural romance genre because that was more terrifying than bubonic. At least, it had spread like bubonic and made me feel dirty to come into contact with it. I didn’t read the series until 2013 when I borrowed it from the public library. Ha! Disappoint me if you will, at least I would be disappointed for free.
I was not disappointed.
I wish I had read Daughter of Smoke and Bone earlier. It’s pretty much exactly what I was combing through endless clones for. It had plot and character, length without filler, a prose I could actually love, and something I’d found oddly missing from the fantasy genre: worldbuilding.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone is equal parts teen romance and Jim Henson. And I mean dark Jim Henson, circa Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal. The fantasy elements of the book are so dark but so grounded and easy to except. There was no suspension of disbelief because Laini Taylor makes the world live and breathe and bleed. You know that wide-eyed look most of us had with Diagon Alley in the first Harry Potter book? That’s the one.
Best of all, it’s one of those young adult entries that earns the title young adult. Karou’s quest for identity, love, and family and truth feels personal, and I can care about it because it’s so humanized. Karous herself is likeable because she stands out as a heroine. Her insecurities feel real without the need to make her sound self-loathing, which is a real plus in a genre with female leads who must find themselves ugly and stupid and boring so as to appear humble. Because you can only earn your unbelievably, enviously hot boyfriend if you don’t like yourself too much. I mean, how else can you devout all your time to him? How else can he rebuild your self-esteem?
I’m getting off point.
There is a romance in the book, but it’s more on the back burner because Karou first and foremost is concerned for her family of monsters, most concerned with finding out who she is, and most concerned with staying alive. Akiva’s arrival is at best a catalyst at this point, not the sum total of Karou’s concerns. There isn’t much to him yet, and that might be a problem for some readers. For me, I was braced to wait until the next book to pass judgment. Series, I usually rationalize, are one big story. If the payoff is there, I can wait. As long as my goodwill is not squandered. Besides, Karou is who I cared about here.
If I had to point to any detractors, I think others have pointed out the latter half of the book contains a reveal that is less of a twist and more an ‘of course’. I won’t outright call it a cliché, but I spent a good chunk of the book hoping that wasn’t the twist, just so that it would be something else. It isn’t disappointing, per se, I had just wanted the book to aspire to be a little different. It’s a small nit to pick, but there it is.
You could also find fault with the fact that Akiva almost falls in line with the other hostile male leads that inexplicably fall in love with the heroine after attempting to harm them in some way. For me, context mattered, and context was there later in the series. I can see it being an issue for others, it just wasn’t for me (it also mattered that he outright showed remorse. He didn’t shrug his shoulders and expect Karou to get over it. So point to him). She also doesn’t handwave his attack. There is introspection and not just, I’m not fussed about it, let’s just move on.
Lastly, I can see putting an age on the book of fifteen or sixteen and up because of references to sex that aren’t exactly oblique. For some that could be a deal breaker. Others will find it refreshing: teenage girls do talk about sex. They have their hearts broken. They get suckered in by emotional conartists. In my eyes, the more fantastic the story, the more grounded the human experience needs to be. Karou has a hell of a story in front of her, but she also has very human, believable experiences that have formed her. it’s what makes reading about a schoolgirl having adventures work: she’s recognizable.
And for what it’s worth, the next book in the series might be even better. This is my favorite for reasons I can’t get into, but I can say that the next book does not fall into that trap of filler middle book syndrome so many series suffer from.
I really really loved this book. I started reading it on a weekend and it took me a few chapters to get into it, but once I did I could not put it down! I read for 6 hours straight and was completely oblivious to everything else around me. That’s when you know you’ve got a good book.
The setting is unique and set in Prague with some beautiful descriptions. Laini Taylor’s writing is lovely and I thoroughly enjoyed this story in part because of her excellent writing and descriptions.
“…and Gothic steeples stood ready to impale fallen angels. The wind carried the memory of magic, revolution, violins, and the cobbles lanes meandered like creeks. Thugs wore Mozart wigs and pushed chamber music on street corners, and marionettes hung in windows, making the whole city seem like a theater with unseen puppeteers crouched behind velvet”
I think her writing is beautiful! She made Karou’s world feel very real- from the Gothic architecture to Karou’s favorite cafe Poison, where she and her friend Zuzana would enjoy goulash and catch up. Karou’s relationship with Zuzana was authentic and I thoroughly enjoyed their ridiculous dialogue. Karou is quite lonely in her world and Zuzana is her only companion apart from her chimaera, monster-like “family.” Zuzana and Karou would make absurd jokes and get carried away with it, which felt very real and unscripted.
Moving on, while Karou very much has a home in the human world, she was raised by strange part-animal, part-human monsters called chimaera. She runs errands for Brimstone, her surrogate father, to help him with his magic shop. While Karou truly loves her strange family, she does not understand who they are, where they come from, and why she runs these errands for Brimstone. She has so many questions, yet they are the only family she has so she accepts her life, for now. I loved the mystery in the first half of the book, there was so much build-up with just enough hints and clues to keep me satisfied. Karou is clearly not normal, but even she doesn’t understand her past although she does often comment that she feels she is “missing something.”
“This was her life: magic and shame and secrets and teeth and a deep, nagging hollow at the center of herself where something was most certainly missing.”
I loved Karou as a character- she is brave, sarcastic, eccentric, tattooed and has bright blue hair- not your typical heroine! I also love her chimaera family. They clearly love her as well but it is obvious they are keeping secrets from her, which only adds to the mystery.
While Karou herself is not magical, Brimstone’s shop deals wishes out to traders in different denominations, similar to money. Karou can never make big wishes, but she does have a necklace of scuppies (the lowest denomination) to make small wishes. She also speaks a number of languages, which mostly come from wishes, but I think its awesome!
We also meet Akiva fairly early on, and soon learn that he is a kind of angel. Yes, there are angels but Taylor does it very well! The angels are beautiful, but their wings are more like flames and Akiva is constantly being described as having fiery eyes. They are fighting an eternal war, but we don’t really know where they come from or who they answer to. Karou and Akiva do have some insta-love moments, but I realized I was actually okay with it once I finished the book. Their relationship was sweet.
The plot itself is wonderful- aside from the mystery that carries us through most of the book, we are constantly being introduced to different creatures and places. The whole book had an otherworldly feel to it. I also wanted to touch on what a few other bloggers had warned me about- the 50% slump. The book is absolutely wonderful for the first half. There’s beautiful imagery, great character development and mystery surrounding Karou’s origins and the world Brimstone keeps hidden from her. However, about halfway through something happens and I now understand why people said they didn’t enjoy it as much. The focus and pacing change completely, and it was difficult for me to keep reading when everything slowed down so abruptly. I would give this book five stars, but I too unfortunately felt the slump and I will probably have to go re-read parts of it because I was too eager for answers to read patiently. However, I do believe it was necessary for the series! There was so much build up, and the entire time I was thinking, “There better be a great explanation for everything!” And for me, there was. Its absolutely worth the read, in my opinion.
I flew through this book and I thought it was fantastic. It was exciting, unique and a little strange at times. I will happily pick up the second book and I definitely recommend to anyone who is interested!
The book is a wonderful fantasy that is both complicated, but easy to read. It has a lot of twists and turns, but they are worth waiting for and often very unexpected. The book does a good job of making you believe the fantastical.
Karou is a good heroine. She’s strong, but not bitchy. She does kind of do some bratty things (a la Bella or Clary) but I didn’t find myself getting too mad at her for it because she was kept in the dark the her whole life and needed to find out what was happening on her own. She also pretty much takes control once the s*** hits the fan and doesn’t just mope around like a damsel in distress.
Akiva is the ideal love interest. He’s very stoic and mysterious, but as you learn more of his back story, he becomes such a sweet, romantic character. He’s the type of character girls swoon about even while they know that he’s a fictional character.
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