Saturday, 14 January 2012

Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor


The Story:
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 one of the strangers--beautiful, haunted Akiva--fixes his fire-colored 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? - Goodreads


My Thoughts:
Daughter of Smoke and Bone (DSB) is a head scratcher of a book to review. I read it a  month ago and have been sitting on writing this up for a while. I think my hesitation comes down to the 'I wanted to love this so much but I only liked it so how am I going to justify that in a review so I don't look like a moron' factor. Let's start off with some indisputable truths:

- Laini Taylor sure knows how to write. The prose in DSB is absolutely beautiful. It's just one of those books that's a pleasure to read because it feels like every single word is crafted perfectly and nothing is there without a reason. The descriptions almost make the scenes jump out of the book and I almost caught the travel bug from some of the location descriptions.
-DSB is undoubtedly unique in it's premise and also storytelling. I really enjoyed the idea of there being doors that could be opened to different locations all around the world (very much like in Howl's Moving Castle). 


There are many things to love about DSB. The dialogue is witty and realistic, the characters are enjoyable and the ideas are brilliant. Karou lives an amazing double life. On one hand she is a blue haired, boho art student living in Prague. On the other, she is a tooth gathering errand girl for Brimstone, the Chimera who brought her up. Karou is beautiful, smart and talented and yet she feels as if there is something missing in her life. I loved the underlying listlessness in which the first part of the story is told and felt as if it was all building up to some cataclysmic juncture. 
        And yet there were a few things which almost spoiled the book for me. After much thought, I've finally deduced the core of my problem: Akiva and more specifically, the turn of the plot once he was introduced.There was so much potential for DSB to be something completely incredible and it disappointed me that Taylor built it all up only to have the book turn into a typical star crossed, insta-love cliche.  Everyone we're supposed to like is just too perfect and the ones we're not supposed to like have no redeeming qualities. I know the idea of having someone powerful and gorgeous fall irrevocably in love with you is intoxicating, but when said person has no loyalty to the people who care about them, it leaves a very bitter aftertaste in my mouth. For this reason, Akiva felt like he had very little depth to him and since he was such a pivotal character, I can't help but feel as if he was only there to be good looking and not much more. 
        It's hard to express some of my other concerns without spoilers so let's just say that the motivations and aspirations of certain Chimera didn't ring true to me due to their intense hatred of the seraphim. Also, I've never been a hater of back stories because I love reading about the events that got the characters to the point of the book, but the substantial amount of back story in DSB felt like way too much even for me.  
        For the most part, I enjoyed DSB and I only hope that the next book in the series will flesh out the characters more and will give me something to relate to.


The Rating:
7/10

23 comments:

  1. Oh, thank you, Lan! I've heard nothing but good things about this one and I was really trying but my hopes were still way too high. Since you and I have such similar opinions I will now go into it with lowered expectations.

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    1. I'm glad I could be of assistance! The first half was completely awesome but then it kind of fizzled out and I had to skin read the 4-5 pages at a time of romantic description. I'm very curious to see what you think of this one when you read it because everyone else is falling over themselves for it.

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  2. I agree with Jenny! I'm on the waiting list for this at my library, and I appreciate your insights. Will adjust expectations accordingly!

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    1. I feel kind of bad now spoiling this one for everybody. I think I'm becoming something of a YA love cynic but these kinds of all consuming romances just don't do it for me anymore. Especially if you're going to turn your back on family just because someone is hot.

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  3. I felt the exact same way!! :( I went into this book thinking I would love it but ended up only thinking it was okay, and for the same reasons as you! I LOVED the way Laini Taylor writes (and I read this during my whole love-for-third-person-books phase haha!), but the romance between Karou and Akiva didn't do it for me either. (On the other hand, I totally loved Zuzana and her beau LOL!)

    Thank you so much for the awesome honest review, Lan! :) I'm still really excited to see where Laini Taylor takes this too, especially after that ending! x)

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    1. DSB was probably the only third person book I've enjoyed in a while. Laini Taylor does such a great job with some characters. Karou, Zazuna and Mik? were fantastic. Even Brimstone and the other Chimera were great. But Akiva....I don't know, he wasn't an anti-hero, he wasn't a proper hero, he was just...there.

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  4. This is one of my favorite books of 2011, I loved the writing and the plot and I can't wait for book two. Thank you for your review!

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    1. I loved the writing too. The plot was great until that part I mentioned in the review and then it kinda just stopped for the flashback!

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  5. I bought this one over Christmas and plan on reading it later on this year and have been hoping I'd really like it. It has a rad premise, after all, but I'm worried about the YA romantic angle, and how much that cliche is getting on my nerves lately. Is this a romance disguised as something else? That's just every YA book these days!

    But, no worries that you're ruining anything for me. I will be reading my copy as I must read the books I own. I will just try not to have such high expectations/hopes for it, then.

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    1. I had high hopes for this one as well. Especially since Chimera are creatures I've been thinking about writing about as well. And truly Taylor did a great job of it with her world building. I just wished it didn't turn into a romance half way through. Especially since it makes me feel as if Karou is all the more shallow for it, and I loved her in the beginning.

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  6. Seems like this book is pretty black and white. I swear, I have heard some of the most black and white reviews about this, haha! Yours is one of the few I've seen in the middle. I do really want to read it, though, because she has pink hair. ;)

    I don't think I said this before, but new follower! I like your style. :)

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    1. I had such a hard time writing this review so I'm glad someone appreciates it. There was so much to love and hate about this book that I was conflicted. Laini Taylor does sound very cool with her pink hair doesn't she? Thanks for the follow. I am going the same for you.

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  7. I love books with fleshed-out characters and character growth. I dislike books with flat characters, so I definitely can see how you might have had trouble with this one! I can't wait to give it a try!

    Molli | Once Upon a Prologue

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    1. It's a good book for the most part. There are just a few aspects which really fell flat for me. I want some depth to a relationship not just "you're so pretty and stuff that would annoy me about someone else is so cool when you do it". No!

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  8. I may have squealed just a little when I saw you were reviewing this book because I was so curious to see what you thought. I definitely agree with you, though. Especially about the excessive amount of backstory and the insta-love. I really hope that the second one will be a little more to my taste since the backstory will be out of the way.

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    1. I can totally see a horrible love triangle happening in the next one and I pray that it's not true. I read your review a while back and felt that you were spot on when I finally picked this up.

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  9. this book sounds interesting, I've heard a lot of amazing things about it but I confess I didn't chect it. I'm glad you enjoyed it, sorry about the little problems, I hope it will improve. Great review

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    1. It is a very interesting book and I enjoyed it for the most part. Am hoping the second book will be a bit more meaty.

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  10. I have had this on my bookshelf for awhile and have been antsy about reading it. Thank you for being honest in your review. I have the same feelings toward romances in books. It seems there cannot be a book without some romance. Some are good, some are not. Now that I have heard something other than "this book is great," I'm more interested to read it.

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    1. I don't mind books with romances and sometimes as you've said, the romance enriches the story. I just felt in the end that the book was written to build up to the romance which is a shame because it's all the other aspects which were more interesting.

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  11. Good to know! I've been wanting to read it forever, but just had a friend give it a review that, in a few words, was about the same as your opening. A head scratcher of a book. I love how honest you are with your critiques! Helps me know what I'm going into. :)

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  12. Excellent review! I've put this one on the back burner since there was so much buzz surrounding the release, so glad I waited. Insta-love is one of my pet peeves, but I'll still read this one for the writing. And because the author has pink hair. ;)

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  13. Great review. I was pretty glowing about this one, but I see where you're coming from with your critiques. I was a little disappointed with the backstory, especially because it seemed like the story shifted from being about Karou to being about... other people. I also thought Akiva was a girl briefly, which left me confused. Basically I guessed nearly everyone's gender wrong in the book.

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