Book Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton

Published: 29th September 2011

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 418

Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal, YA

Recommended Reading Age: 16+

Rating: 8.5/10

Amazon/Goodreads

”Errand requiring immediate attention. Come.’

The note was on vellum, pierced by the talons of the almost-crow that delivered it. Karou read the message. ‘He never says please’, she sighed, but she gathered up her things. 

When Brimstone called, she always came. 

In general, Karou has managed to keep her two lives in balance. On the one hand, she’s a seventeen-year-old art student in Prague; on the other, errand-girl to a monstrous creature who is the closest thing she has to family. Raised half in our world, half in ‘Elsewhere’, she has never understood Brimstone’s dark work – buying teeth from hunters and murderers – nor how she came into his keeping. She is a secret even to herself, plagued by the sensation that she isn’t whole.

Now the doors to Elsewhere are closing, and Karou must choose between the safety of her human life and the dangers of a war-ravaged world that may hold the answers she has always sought.’

Young adult paranormal is always such a hit and miss for me, as much as I want to love the genre. I always pick them up hoping just once to find something original, with a romance that isn’t melodramatic, angsty and doomed before it even begins. Unfortunately that seems to have become the required tick list in these books. I have come to loath the words ‘epic love’ or ‘forbidden romance’.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone is possibly one of the best paranormal books out there and it certainly delivered on the unique world building. However, I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I nearly lost interest halfway through and I’ll give you three guesses why.

Elements of this book were simply gorgeous. The world building was creative, dark and enthralling. I adored Brimstone (my favourite character) with his gruff, terrifying manner who seemed like a bit of a sweetie-pie underneath it all and his disturbing shop of teeth (which I need to illustrate). One of the best parts of Daughter of Smoke and Bone was reading about Karou’s mismatched, otherworldly family and their surprisingly human interactions with one another (I found it amusing that Brimstones sends Karou off to bring some elephant tusks on the Metro). I wished Taylor had spent more time with them and on Karou’s childhood. These were the important, real relationships within the book that I wanted to explore and that will, I imagine, hold great significance in later books.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone has this rich, atmospheric feel to it, set in Prague (unique in itself), and shrouded in mythology and lore, with the chimera and the seraphim in the middle of a centuries-old war, a gruesome fallen angel and a human child raised by beasts.

Unfortunately, all this is completely overshadowed, or perhaps smothered would be a more apt word, by a contrived, soppy, painfully clichéd romance that made me want to throw the book across the room.

Both love stories in this book suffer from an extreme case of insta-love. I love grand romances where the characters have to overcome amazing, heartbreaking odds to be together as much as the next person, I do. But please, give me a relationship I can care about. Having two characters who are drawn to one another immediately and can’t stop drinking the sight of one another because they are both so perfect is nauseating. And it irritates the hell out of me. I want a romance with a foundation, not to just be told they are destined to be.

Akiva, I’m sorry, but you are as dull as a grasshopper. What can I tell you about Akiva other than he is all eaten up with angst, is bent on revenge, has a widow’s peak and is so beautiful people stare at him in the street? I think that about covers it.

Karou, had a lot more promise. She’s an artist for one and actually starts the novel with personality and self-awareness. I enjoyed the way she handled her ex and didn’t put up with his games, unlike a lot of YA heroines. Karou had maturity about her but also made immature and selfish decisions, such as her wishes, that reflected her age. Aside from the fact she was another typically stunning heroine, I genuinely liked her. Sadly, this potentially interesting character all but disappears the moment Akiva turns up.

The pacing of Daughter of Smoke and Bone is strange. It starts off brilliantly, slows right down in the middle with Karou and Akiva and then we have one gigantic flashback, really a second story within this one, that’s takes up roughly a third of the book, pulling you right out of Karou’s story at a crucial moment. I actually enjoyed Madrigal’s tale a lot, it includes a fascinating glimpse of the chimera, introduces some great characters and ties everything together in a way I didn’t see coming, but I don’t think it belonged in this book. There was so much going on, everything was too rushed, and, again, the key relationship needed more time to evolve naturally because I actually loved where this romance went, (and I’m being deliberately vague with all this so as not to spoil anything) but it could have been truly fantastic, had Taylor spent more time developing it.

Despite my issues with certain parts, Daughter of Smoke and Bone is a great read, touching on war, sacrifice, prejudice, hate and love, along with the age-old concept of ‘good vs evil’ – all wrapped up in a generous fantasy world. Not everyone will be bored and annoyed with the romance as I was and that’s really only where it fell down for me. Unfortunately, it forms the pivotal point of the book and prevented me from giving this one a 9 rating.

Taylor’s writing is very distinct and quite beautiful at times, I adored the opening line,

 ‘Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love.

It did not end well.’

Though when it came to any romantic scenes, Taylor did have a tendency to become convoluted, sentimental and overblown. I would definitely recommend it, even if, like me, you find yourself exasperated by these kinds of love stories – there’s much to make up for it. The cover alone is simply stunning and the photo here doesn’t do it justice.

I leave you with my favourite quote of the book, advice from Brimstone himself.

 ‘I don’t know many rules to live by,’ he’d said. ‘But here’s one. It’s simple. Don’t put anything unnecessary into yourself. No poisons or chemicals, no fumes or smoke or alcohol, no sharp objects, no inessential needles – drug or tattoo – and… no inessential penises, either.’ ~ page 22

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3 thoughts on “Book Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

  1. The quote from page 22 is my favourite. And I completely agree with you about the romance. but I did love reading Madrigal’s story. It could’ve been a novella or something, though. Great review!

  2. Great review! I agree about the romance, as well. The second time around, I suppose it made a little more sense it was so sudden because there was the first time around, but overall it seemed as if Taylor were cheating. And although Madrigal’s story was quite wonderful, I have never been a huge fan of flashbacks because I get antsy waiting for the “main” story to come back! As a whole, the book is quite good, however, and definitely one of the most creative YA books I have read.

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