Title: Daughter of Smoke and Bone (2011)
Series: Daughter of Smoke and Bone – Book 1
Author: Laini Taylor
Publisher: Little Brown Books
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Extent: 418 pages
Release Date: September 27, 2011
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?
Daughter of Smoke and Bone was one of the longest-standing books on my TBR. I’ve wanted to read it the moment it was published — five years ago — but put it off for various reasons. Last month, though, I finally picked up a copy from the library and got around to reading it. Was I blown away? Well… not really.
Daughter is the story of Karou, an art student living in Prague who has no real recollection of where she came from. The only family she has is these three chimaeras (hybrid creatures) who live in Elsewhere, an area that can only be accessed by portals. Don’t believe what the blurb tells you: the monsters are real, her errands are not as mysterious as they are creepy and occasionally dangerous, and she is definitely magical. In this book, Karou meets a seraphim (angel) called Akiva and discovers who, and what, she really is.
Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love.
It did not end well.
I’m going to start with praises first: the world-building in this book is really, really good. Laini Taylor describes the setting in very vivid ways and it’s an imaginative world that she has built for us here — a world involving angels, chimaeras, war, and magic with pain as a currency. The mythology runs deep, and I enjoyed getting to know the world Karou lives in.
Taylor’s writing is also beautiful, though it has a tendency of delving too far into things not directly relevant to the plot. Often the characters would be doing something or talking about something in the present, and the writing will suddenly shift and take us to the past to give us a history lesson. I’m personally 50/50 with this — in some scenes this backstory is welcome, great even, but in others I feel like it’s inconsistent and distracting, making the whole book, overall, more slow-paced than it could’ve been.
“Have you ever asked yourself, do monsters make war, or does war make monsters?”
Unfortunately, the book got less interesting and gripping for me as I read on. I started Daughter being very involved in the story, but nearing the end, my excitement just tapered off. There were flashbacks where the climax should be, and I found myself flipping through the pages because I almost didn’t really care what was going on — I just wanted to get back into the present and join our characters in what they’re doing (or what they’re about to do), instead of what they have done in the past.
Furthermore, my least favourite part is probably the main part of the plot: the romance between Karou and Akiva. The insta-love is very strong with these two — from the moment they met, there were lots of focus on how beautiful and fascinating one was to the other, lots of “I’m not sure why but I’m so drawn to him/her”. Given that I also didn’t really connect to either of them as a character, their relationship was unconvincing to me and a bit of a turn-off, even after I discovered why they were enchanted by one another.
“Your soul sings to mine. My soul is yours, and it always will be, in any world. No matter what happens. I need you to remember that I love you.”
Daughter ended in a cliffhanger — one that, unfortunately, didn’t entice me to immediately pick up the sequel. In fact, I’m not sure I will at all. Maybe if I see it in the library and have nothing else to read? I enjoyed this book and am glad that I read it but aside from that, I’m just not convinced that I want more.