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Book Review: Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor (4/5)

18 Apr

It seemed like this book was everywhere for a while. And, as is my custom, I added it to my TBR with the knowledge that I wouldn’t read it for years. And that’s exactly what happened. Better late than never.

Cover image via Goodreads

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor

Summary from Goodreads:

Around the world, black hand prints 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 otherworldly 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 hair actually 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?

Parts of this book I really liked. I enjoyed the Chimaera and their backstory. It was interesting to hear how they endured the fight with the Seraphs but I liked learning about them through Karou’s eyes when they were family to her. I disliked the insta-love. It’s something that always takes me right out of a book and there were two cases of it in this book that made it hard for me to keep on believing the characters and story. I’ll get into both of these later. In the end, I’m iffy on if I want to continue on with the series. I feel like this book was a big build-up but that there wasn’t any resolution. This is another thing that frustrates me with series. I felt like there needed to be something more definitive to end this book before the second one began. I’m left really on the fence.

Character credibility is hard to judge in a fantasy book like this one. Karou seemed credible as a human as far as she could be considered a normal human. But her world was so warped and different that anything she did that was unusual or inhuman could be contributed to that. The same can be said for Akiva. It was the insta-love that did me in. Unless it’s a part of the fantasy, that two beings can tell if they’ll be compatible by seeing each other, I don’t buy it. Especially because in both cases, they were mortal enemies. I can’t imagine any circumstances where someone attacked me and I fell in love or where I was dying on a battlefield and a medic from the other side gave me some small assistance and I risked my life to find that person. Maybe the second is more probable, but it was still too much for me to process. It stopped me caring about the characters for the last third of the book.

Zuzana was my favorite character. She was fierce and a great friend. I’m sad to think she won’t be as involved in the later books as Karou heads to Eretz. I liked her (not instant) relationship with Mik and the puppet show she put on. It was fun to think of a character so small and strong spending the day with Karou and Akiva on a prolonged double date.

There wasn’t a lot I could relate to in this story. The best would be the opening scenes where Karou is putting up with Kaz. I had a high school boyfriend who was equally cocky and flippant and unrelenting and I wish I had wishes to make him itchy and uncomfortable. That would have been awesome. Other than that, I didn’t have much to relate to and it didn’t bother me much. I don’t look for a lot of relatable life experiences in fantasy. It’s escapist for a reason.

I liked the richness of the Chimaera world best. It was well described inside Brimstone’s shop and the details that were presented throughout the story were wonderful. Taylor did an amazing job of building a very unique fantasy race and giving it regional variations within the race. It was really a joy to read.

I’m going to insta-love bash again. It was just too much for me. Call me unromantic if you like, but I think two characters need more than instant attraction to build the kind of relationships that you risk your life for or go to battle for. Romeo and Juliet was unrealistic to me and this wasn’t much better. Madrigal and Akiva shared a moment. And that moment led to a year-long mission and a life-risking decision. It was too much. And I’m a bit afraid to keep reading this series and see how much was risked over a shared moment.

The audiobook I listened to was narrated by Khristine Hvam. For the most part, I enjoyed her narration but there was one notable exception. The voice she used for Razgut had me pulling my earbuds out and almost falling off of my bike. It was so grating and terrible and I understand why she chose to do such an altered voice, but it was way too much for me to handle. I wish she’d gone with something a bit quieter at least.

Unfortunately, I think the major theme in this book was love. It scares me a little when I can only find that theme in a YA novel. Karou does want to save her family, but that desire was pushed aside. I’m being hopeful that a desire to reconnect with the Chimaera will continue to drive her forward but the end of the novel isn’t giving me a lot of hope. Honestly, I’m surprised she didn’t give up and decide to stay human.

Writer’s Takeaway: I’ve not been brave enough to attempt a trilogy or to even give serious thought to doing so. I believe a well-written trilogy needs to have two mini-endings before there’s an overall ending to the series. Harry Potter accomplished this with school years, the Hunger Games did it with subsequent games. I often grow frustrated when there’s no discernible ending between books and it feels like a long chapter break. That’s how I feel about this series now. Using the last third of the book for a prolonged flashback and then ending abruptly left me with a sour taste in my mouth.

Because of a lackluster ending and a bit too much insta-love, I had to go with Four out of Five Stars for this one. And I have to know, should I continue the series? Will it get better?

Until next time, write on.

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