Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Review: Daughter of Smoke and BoneDaughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor
Series: Daughter of Smoke & Bone #1
on September 27, 2011
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 418
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased

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 grown 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 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?

First Sentence: “Walking to school over the snow-muffled cobbles, Karou had no sinister premonitions about the day.”

One of the interesting things about being late to read a really hyped book is that everyone reports to you with their predictions of and hope for your reaction to the title. There’s no doubt that Daughter of Smoke and Bone has been heavily hyped. Despite that, my expectations remained relatively low, because I’d heard of instalove and angels, neither of which generally work for me. While this book did not turn out to be a five star read for me as it has been for so many, DOSAB actually impressed much more than I ever could have anticipated.

Laini Taylor writes beautifully. Her prose has an edge to it that results in an entirely different atmosphere than I’m used to reading, and that was so unbelievably refreshing. Something about the phrasing really sold me on the foreign setting as well. The characters and setting and syntax did not feel American. Taylor’s writing bursts with dark humor, which I just love. Seriously, the amount that I love her writing can hardly be overstated.

If I had to use a single word to sum up DOSAB, I met say ‘refreshing,’ because this book has a feeling all its own. Though on the surface, the plot seems somewhat ho-hum, another special snowflake set to fall in love with the super gorgeous paranormal hero, that barely scratches the surface. Laini has clearly put a ridiculous amount of thought into the building of this world. She has created an incredibly vivid landscape that came alive in my mind.

Karou sets herself apart from the garden variety heroine very quickly. Yes, she can make wishes and have them come true because of the chimaeras that raised her, and, yes, she will fall in instalove with a sexy paranormal, but she has so much verve that makes her just Karou and like no one else. Karou has blue hair (thanks to a wish), tattoos, and speaks numerous languages (also thanks to wishes). She attends art school in Prague, and has a clear passion for drawing. Brimstone, Karou’s chimaera guardian taught her how to defend herself too, so she also kicks ass. When we meet her, Karou has recently dumped her first boyfriend Kaz, whom she thought she loved and with whom she had sex for the first time. Karou is a much edgier, darker heroine than can generally be found in young adult fiction and I loved her snark.

Her best friend, Zuzana, however, totally stole the show. I freaking adore Zuzana. For one thing, it’s completely wonderful to get to read about a real friendship like theirs. They share ideas for projects, play delightful-sounding games together at their favorite cafe (for example How much would your life have to suck to want the Apocalypse?), and actually talk about stresses in Zuzana’s life, not just those in Karou’s. In fact, Karou cares so much that she scheduled a trip out of her way just to buy a present for Zuzana. This was such a delight after so many YA heroine using their supposed BFFs as doormats. Zuzana has an even darker, dirtier wit than Karou. Also, she and Mik are so completely adorable, although a bit to prone to PDA.

As much as I geared up to hate the instalove in DOSAB, that aspect of the book really did not bother me. Karou and Akiva certainly do trade some eyerollingly cheesy lines, but they’re not nearly as ridiculous as most instaloving characters. They do at least both show some evidence of a personality, which always help. What really made this okay, though, was Taylor’s writing and the fact that there’s sort of a reason for all of this.

Oh, also, I need to mention again how cool the creatures in here are. The chimaeras are like nothing I’ve read about before. More surprisingly, so are the angels. Taylor’s seraphs are definitely my favorite angels thus far. Why? Because they have nothing whatsoever to do with religion! That reminds me of another thing I loved: each group of creatures had their own explanation for the creation of the universe.

Up to this point, I have pretty much been raving. Here’s where I had to mark the book down. Through roughly the first half of the book, DOSAB could even conceivably have earned a 4.5 from me. However, most of the last half consisted of flashbacks to Akiva’s relationship with his first love, the late Madrigal. While I see that these contained necessary information for the reader, they bored me quite a bit. Akive evinces a bit more personality, but does not have enough charisma to carry my interest. Madrigal, sadly, interested me not at all; she seems to have so little to her. Basically, as long as these flashbacks continued, I kept hoping that the end of the next chapter would bring me back to the present time with Karou. When they’re finally over, so is the book. Le sigh.

Anyway, I ordered Days of Blood and Starlight when I was only partway through and will be devouring that very soon. From the reviews and statuses I’ve seen about that one, I suspect it will be a much stronger read for me.

Favorite Quote:

“‘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.’
Inessential penises?‘ Karou had repeated, delighted with the phrase in spite of her grief. ‘Is there any such thing as an essential one?’
‘When an essential one comes along, you’ll know,’ he’d replied.”

20 responses to “Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone”

  1. I’ve been looking forward to your review, so yay!

    I loved this book, but at the same time it had some flaws that took away a couple stars from my rating. The first and second halves of DOSAB read like two different books altogether. Like you said, the first half is quality, and definitely worthy of 4.5.

    What I didn’t like about this was the instalove. I just can’t believe it hasn’t gotten that much criticism, especially in this community where were all complain about it over and over again. I mean, he even watches her while she sleeps, and SPOILERkillsherfamily. I mean, I don’t know, those seem like things that would get a lot of heat from the YA reviewer crowd, but I guess the writing was enough to make up for it.

    From what I’ve seen in the reviews for Blood and Starlight, there’s less romance, since now the two will be on separate sides of the fence after the big reveal (read: duh, I thought we knew that already) at the end of Smoke and Bone.

    I’m most excited about seeing more chimaera and their world.

    • Christina says:

      Exactly! I loved it, but… It really, really does read like two entirely different books.

      The instalove, as I mentioned, didn’t bother me so much, since, as you find out, there is a reason for it, at least in Karou and Akiva’s case. I don’t know why Akiva and Madrigal instaloved. I’m actually not bothered by his watching her sleep, because she knew he was there in her tiny apartment. Plus, he wasn’t like actively watching her so far as we know; he was examining the knives. It’s like when you’re at someone’s house for a sleepover and wake up first: you go start looking at all their shit. The SPOILERkillingherfamily bit is bad, obvi, but it seems like she will actually be pissed off about it, so I’m giving a pass on that too. So far, Akiva means nothing to me at all.

      Yes! I am so excited about the next one. I think it should be WAY better. I also heard a character dies. Holla!

      More chimaera would be awesome! I bet the wolf dude’s going to make a play for her again.

  2. Nori says:

    I loved your review! It makes total sense! I’m going to start book two soon, so it was a really nice rewind on book 1. What I loved most about Karou was not her snark, or her amazing best friend, or even her art and intelligence. It was her choices. I loved that she made some stupid/vapid teenage wishes come true. I love the pay back she gave her boyfriend. And I love that despite some silly choices, she still always chooses her family and her friends first. And I think this is why the instant love didn’t bother me that much. Because Karou cannot in any circumstances drop her entire world for a boy. She chooses to place other things and people before her notion of falling in love, and I love her for this.

    • Christina says:

      Yay! Me too. I just got book two yesterday. I may have stroked it.

      You make an awesome point: the fact that she made all those silly wishes, like anal itches, totally humanized her. I wish I’d thought to say that.

      Agreed on the instalove too.

  3. It’s funny because I started to really enjoy the story once the wishbone was broken. To me it felt like, at that point, we were finally getting somewhere with the plot and I got really into it.

    I agree that the writing is absolutely stunning and like your point about it making the setting much more believable, that’s very true. But at some point it just went over the top for me. I think that if MORE was actually HAPPENING in the beautiful prose I would have enjoyed it a lot more.

    I’m still going to read Blood & Starlight, but maybe in small spurts.

    Great review, review twin!

    • Christina says:

      Wow, really? I am totally going to check out your review next. Madrigal was SO BORING.

      See, I don’t mind a really slow pace as long as there is lovely writing and vibrant characters. During the flashbacks, there was just the lovely writing left, because the pace was slow AND I didn’t like the characters.

    • I side with Jenni, I couldn’t wait for them to friggin’ just PULL the wishbone. Then, the story took off for me, for sure.

    • Christina says:

      So funny that people who didn’t love the whole book differ on which half was better.

  4. Renae says:

    It’s been a while since I read this one, but I remember my initial reaction being pretty similar to yours. Laini Taylor blew my expectations for an “angel book” out of the water. Her prose was wonderful, too. But when all the flashbacks came toward the end, I thought the plot lost momentum and some of my interest was lost.

    Not a perfect book, but I’m interested in reading the sequel all the same.

  5. You know what funny about your favorite quote, Christina? It was my favorite one too when I read and reviewed DOSAB! :)))
    Doing a little happy dance now, so glad you’ve appreciated Laini’s gorgeous writing. I’ve heard good things about her Lips Touch as well but haven’t read it yet. Anyway, I fell in love with Prague after that book and really want to visit. Also Karou’s bedroom! How gorgeous was it?!
    If you want another good book in European setting, grab Vodnik by Bryce Moore. *hugs*

    • Christina says:

      Haha, awesome! There were a lot of good quotes, but that one was by far the best.

      Yes, her writing! *swoons* Her bedroom sounded so cool. I liked her little secret space above the bookshelf!!

      Added to my list!

  6. Bookworm1858 says:

    The romance part was definitely the weakest for me; I hated Akiva and did not want to read much about him.

  7. What a great review! I mean, I loved this book, I didn’t mind the instalove and I did not mind Madrigal, so my rating was a 5 star one.

    ALSO! Didn’t you just love her writing style? It was so utterly fantastic and delicious and it made me wish every other YA book I read could have such delicious prose.

    • Christina says:

      Awww, thanks April!

      Haha, yeah, I didn’t mind the instalove too much, but Madrigal ugh! If I had been more interested in the flashback, this would have been a 4.5 for sure.

      YES. HER WRITING IS SO GLORIOUS. Love, love, love.

  8. We rated this book the same! Interstingly, the Madrigal part didn’t really bother me that much, though many of my other friends have said it bored them, too. I was one of those bored to tears by the romance, though. It’s a shame, since I liked the book so much up until all that started taking over the main plot.

    I do agree that it’s quite unusual in its feel, though. I need to get off my butt and read this sequel.

    • Christina says:

      Yeah, of the people who rated it lower, about half liked Madrigal’s part but not the beginning, and half liked the beginning but not Madrigal’s bit. Weird.

      The romance was frustrating. I was sure I was going to get some deliciously-written sexy times but no dice!

  9. I’m working on my review for this one tonight. I don’t have a problem with the instalove because there is a believable explanation for it. I don’t appreciate love at first sight, or instalove’s of that variety. This one makes sense to me because of Karou’s background, I felt it was justified, it had roots which grew deep.

    Have you started to read book #2, I HIGHLY recommend you do! I’m half way through it. It deals more with the war than the romance. So, for me this one, thus far has been even better!

    • Christina says:

      Yeah, the instalove between Karou and Akiva was okay with me here too, because there was a reason for it, though the instalove between Madrigal and Akiva not so much.

      I have book two, but I think it will have to wait for the new year, because it’s long and I’m going to finish my book challenge, damn it!

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