Book Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone – Laini Taylor


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
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Goodreads Description

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.

45 thoughts on “Book Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone – Laini Taylor

  1. I bought this trilogy back in March and it has just sat on my shelf ever since! I need to pick it up soon although the flash backs sound like they’re going to seriously annoy me, especially when where in the middle of a action scene or the ending! Still there is so much hype around this series I’m excited to see what I think of it 🙂

    Great review Reg! Xx


    • Ahhh you bought the whole trilogy? You’re a much braver person than I am! I got it from the library because I wasn’t sure it’s for me… and it wasn’t, not really.

      It IS a hyped series, though, and not at all badly written – there are things about it that I like; it’s mostly just that the romance sucked it all out for me. I hope you enjoy it more than I did when you get to it. 💓

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I read the book as an ARC years ago, but never continued the series until last month. I remember being interested in the story, but not enough to pick up with the sequel. That is, until I got the audio books for my commute and fell in love with the story again. I finished the series with the assistance of the audio book and the narrator sold the story for me! I really enjoyed the second and third books much more than the first. If you get the chance, I would recommend reading them, the story gets much better.


    • Oooh, perhaps I should check out the audiobooks! I’m not super into the characters and the plot so it might be a hard-sell, but on quiet days in the office it’ll be great to have something extra to listen to (I usually do podcasts). Who was the narrator you listened to?


  3. I really enjoyed this one! I love the incredible world build build and mythology, which I am glad to see you were able to appreciate ☺ Not normally as fan of live stories, this one totally worked for me when I discovered the rich background and history. Great review! Always fun to read contrasting opinions.


  4. I was quite underwhelmed by this one too. Nothing really had me wanting to pick it up in my free time. I Enjoyed it but I don’t think I’ll be finishing the series because I’m just not that interested in what happens next


  5. Aww I’m so sorry you didn’t enjoy this one! I really enjoyed it when I read it the first time , like years ago, but remember feeling underwhelmed by the second book. Maybe a re-read would give me a definite feel. I really like the whole mythology and admittedly, the romance even though it’s very insta-love ish. I agree with your point that sometimes the writing just delves too deep into things that are not relevant. I hope your next read would be better!


    • Eep, sorry to hear that the second book was underwhelming! I’ve heard mostly good things about it, but I don’t think I’ll be picking up the rest of the series after all – I’m just not interested enough to commit, and the books get thicker and thicker every time. 😂


  6. I read this book and thought I loved it. Then as time went by and I thought about it more clearly, I realized that I really didn’t love it as much as I thought I did. I never read further in the series.


  7. Okay so I had NO idea that book was published so long ago?! It’s too bad it didn’t meet your expectations. The world seems interesting, but when you’re feeling a bit bored because of all the flashbacks dragging you away from all the real action, well, it’s never too great :/ Great review! 🙂


  8. I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy this book much Reg! I read this one so long ago I can’t remember too much about the pacing but this is one of my favourite series (one of my friends read it more recently and she said that it started out slow but once she got into it she couldn’t put it down, then she dived straight into the second and third books).
    I do remember how much I loved the world building though, this was the book that made me want to visit Prague, and even today I still want to go back to that city because of this book! I can also see what you mean about the flashbacks as well. I think in books you have to be careful that they’re in the right place and I guess it’s hit and miss sometimes whether they are.
    Great review though. 🙂


  9. I’ve binge read this series about two years ago and I liked the fantasy part of it. I’d have to agree that I wasn’t that much of a big fan of Akiva and Karou’s instalove. I found myself rooting for other ships instead lol


  10. I’ve had it on my tbr for so long, too! I still haven’t read it though and I guess I’m just gonna have to wait and see if it lives up to all the hype surrounding it 😕


  11. I 100% feel you on the flashback-frustration. The first time I read it, I was engrossed in the story until the major flashback section–which, when it arrived, nearly made me chuck the book across the room. I appreciated it more when I later reread the book (I did like knowing the backstory), but I still feel it was clumsily/exasperatingly/infuriatingly handled. Oh, well. The premise and the world are neat, at least.

    Fantastic review, of course! =)


  12. Wow it’s like you read my mind! I finally picked up Daughter this summer with high hopes. I’m making my way through YA fantasy and thought this would be a shoo in to become a favourite… but it really didn’t. I got frustrated with the exact same things – how the novel was basically a Akiva/Madrigal story in disguise. I wanted to know more about Karou and her current world and just did not care for the flashbacks (found they really weighed down the whole book). I’ve actually not written the review for it even months later because I can’t articulate just how I feel about it. Not sure when I’ll be picking up the next book either… great review!


    • I’m glad to hear that you agreed! Yeah, the flashbacks I found just slowed down the pacing and took away from the suspense… and I’m not a huge fan of either Akiva/Madrigal’s characters (though I like Karou). I hope you enjoy the second book better if you do pick it up! I don’t think I will – the sequels are so thick, and I’m just not into the story enough. 😂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah I just felt a little deceived because the book was actually about Akiva and Madrigal and the transition to this story just felt a little heavy handed… I’ve yet to talk myself into the next book but I’ll volunteer as tribute. 😜


        • I didn’t feel deceived, exactly, but I was like “ehhh”. I felt a disconnect between Karou and Madrigal and see them as two separate people, so it was a bit weird for me. I hope you like the next book – your volunteering is very much appreciated. 😂

          Liked by 1 person

  13. Sorry you didn’t enjoy this on too much, Reg! I was so not a fan of the romance either. I feel like the whole past lives thing just never really works for me. I think my favourite part of this book was the writing style and Zuzana, haha. Great review!


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