Daughter of Smoke & Bone
by Laini Taylor
Series: Daughter of Smoke & Bone #1
Publication Date: 27 September 2011
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, Hardcover, 418 pages
Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.
In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grows dangerously low.
And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.
Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real, she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”, she speaks many languages – not all of them human – and her bright blue hairactually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.
When beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?
“Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love. It did not end well.”
How can anyone not read a book that starts off that way? And that was exactly why I knew I had to read Daughter of Smoke & Bone upon seeing that very first page. As the quote above hinted at, Laini Taylor wrote the entire book in such gorgeous, lyrical and unique prose. Although I’ve never been to Prague, Marrakesh nor any of the alternate realms mentioned in the novel, the magical writing literally transported me to every one of the destinations.
The story started off intriguing and mysterious, making it so hard for me to put down. It was an uncommon but captivating take on the angel-devil/heaven-hell genre and I actually went through almost half the book within the first day! Unfortunately, the leftover pages took me another five days to finish as the plot got rather dull and slow towards the middle and end. There had been too much focus on the romance, which also seemed overly dramatic at time. I really expected more elements of adventure in Daughter of Smoke & Bone instead of romance, and that not being so put me off a little.
Moreover, I did not enjoy Karou and Akiva’s relationship at all. Which was a shame seeing as how that was pretty much the main focus of the book. That, and Karou’s journey of self-discovery.
The number one reason I could barely stand the romance was the insta-love between Karou and Akiva. Sure, they tried to kill each other at first but within 24 hours of their fight, the are inexplicably and intensely drawn to one another. It was sort of obvious throughout the entire build-up—or the lousy excuse of a build-up—of their relationship there was a reason behind their instantaneous attraction but it still felt too convenient and lazy on the author’s part. I was not convinced there was any true love between them.
Despite that, Karou herself had been an amazing character. Appropriately lonely, slightly lost, and equipped with the curiosity of a kitten, her personality definitely fitted the unconventional way she had been raised. Although I couldn’t truly connect with Karou’s character, she was still vibrant in a unique way—as if I had been observing the life of an interesting stranger. I also loved her chimaera family! Yes, I found them rather creepy (understatement) at first but their warmness and love for Karou gradually grew on me.
With Akiva, he was a mysterious character towards the start and might have even come off a little villain-ish. However, as more was revealed about his life and past, he turned out slightly disappointing. Sometimes it almost felt as if the only things that defined him as an individual was the wars he had fought, his horrible childhood, and his love affair with Madrigal. Rather pathetic, I daresay.
Which leads me to yet another area of the story that not just rubbed, but shoved me the wrong way: Madrigal and Akiva’s relationship. Actually, I can sum up their love affair in four sentences. (Do not read the below four sentences if you want to avoid slight spoilers)
She saves his life.
He tracks her down after a few years.
They party and have sex.
They have clandestine sex every night for a short period of time and call that love.
Kids, that’s not love; that’s lust. And for those of you who have already read Daughter of Smoke & Bone, you may infer why Madrigal and Akiva’s rubbish relationship led me to have issues with the one between Karou and Akiva. For those of you who have not read this book, lets just say Madrigal and Akiva’s “love” had been extremely exaggerated and completely unrealistic.
Alas, I did not enjoy this book as much as I had wanted to but in the face of all my objections, I’m still quite enchanted by Laini Taylor’s writing style. Hence, as unexpected as it may be, I will be continuing with the trilogy—just for the writing alone. Anyway, since this first installment has already revealed a load of backstory (almost half the book was given to backstories), it seems likely the later two books will capture the adventure I had been deprived of. The abrupt but full-of-possibilities ending gives hope to that outcome too.
Personally, I wouldn’t recommend Daughter of Smoke & Bone to anyone who can’t tolerate insta-love. However, if you’re looking for a dark fairytale-esque read and realism isn’t high on your priority list, you just might want to take a chance on this one.