I feel very conflicted right now.
Some parts of this book I loved, and some parts I hated. But strangely, they weren’t the usual parts of love and hate that I have for a book.
In some ways, you could say it’s the opposite of Unearthly.
Unearthly is a story with a terrible premise and altogether bad initial reaction from the first few pages of bland prose and cliché prologue, but makes a realistic and interesting story as it goes on, as well as really likeable characters, even though it had all the trademarks of a bad book.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone has amazing premise and amazing reviews and incredible initial reaction as well as gorgeous writing style, but as it progresses, more and more clichés from bad books get stuck onto it, and the characters get less and less likeable.
But you’ll find out more about that later.
Karou is basically this girl who was raised by demons, yet knows nothing about her past or what the demons do. Then something bad happens and she falls into insta-love with this sexy, brooding, angsty angel guy. Oh, and flashbacks.
So this review is going to be structured a little bit differently. Instead of Pros and Cons, I’m gonna deal with three sections of the book separately, and see how this goes. Then we’ll cover the usual of characters and plot and writing style.
Part 1 (up to doors burning)
Part 1 of the book is what sucked me into it and hooked me. I loved Karou’s attitude, her acknowledgement of using the wishes for the wrong things, her humour, and her backstory. I loved the potential for this book. I loved the chimaeras, and the characteristics, and basically I thought the entire set up was so intriguing and interesting.
There was basically so much potential in the first part, and interesting interactions between Karou and Kaz, and the vivid description of the chimaeras was awesome. It set a lot of questions up, and really made me want to read more.
The only problem I had with this first part was Akiva, since it was so plainly obvious to me that he was going to be the love interest, and I thought he was boring and angsty and cliché. Not to worry, though, since I convinced myself he would become awesome in Laini Taylor’s world.
And the scene when Kishmish delivers the wishbone? Awesome. So haunting and amazing and I loved it.
From the first part, I thought I would be putting this on my favourites list for sure. However…
Part 2 (up to breaking the wishbone)
And this is when everything went downhill.
It is so surprising to me at how my reactions to part 1 and part 2 differ so much.
It just shows how much I hate insta-love (yes I know it’s kind of technically not insta-love but I’ll explain later)
God, the romance bugged me so much. Karou went from wanting to kill this dude in her first meeting, to taking him to her apartment in her second meeting and actually falling asleep with him there. I’m sorry, but people do not fall asleep in the same room as people who are going to kill you voluntarily. I would not be comfortable falling asleep in front of some guy I’d only met twice, let alone a guy I knew wanted to kill me. And then she just wants to touch him again and kiss him and they have this romantic date even though a few days ago they WANTED TO MURDER EACH OTHER RUTHLESSLY.
THAT IS NOT HOW ROMANCE SHOULD WORK.
Sorry, I’m getting annoyed. Just that the first part was so good and then… this. I was left with this.
Also, look what happened, IT WAS THE MAGNETIC CONNECTION AGAIN.
YA AUTHORS STOP USING THIS MAGNETIC CONNECTION THING TO EXCUSE NOT WRITING REAL CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT.
And onto Part 3.
Part 3 (the flashbacks of Madrigal)
This part was more interesting, but only because it felt completely separate from the book. It was like a whole other fairytale that just happened to be an extra in this book.
The problem is (SPOILER ALERT) with Madrigal being Karou, I just couldn’t grasp that they were the same person. Karou had seventeen years of not knowing her past life. She probably developed into a whole other person. Just because she remembered her past life, doesn’t mean that she suddenly is that same person from all those years ago. She lived for seventeen years without knowing any of it, she lived for seventeen years without even knowing Akiva existed, she’s not going to revert back to being Madrigal when she’s spent seventeen years being Karou, this whole other girl.
It just seemed too far-fetched to me, maybe because Madrigal and Karou acted so differently.
And though the magnetic connection was kind of explained, it also wasn’t.
So Karou is in love with Akiva because she feels this magnetic connection and compulsion to touch him and stroke his abs and whatever, so we get explained that she used to be Madrigal, who was in love with Akiva. This makes sense, I suppose, that her old feelings as Madrigal are catching up on her and so that’s why the love between her and Akiva moves at freaking lightspeed (they say they love each other after literally three meetings. THREE. AND ONE OF THEM WAS WHEN THEY TRIED TO KILL EACH OTHER.).
So this would make sense, Akiva and Madrigal’s relationship developed, except oh wait it didn’t.
First meeting, Madrigal saves Akiva from dying because she likes his face.
Second meeting, Madrigal sees him at this ball thing and they dance, and every time she clasps hands with him she feels safe and loved and she falls in love with him because of this MAGNETIC CONNECTION SHE FEELS.
“Madrigal had no answer. For two years she had been haunted by it, by the feeling, when she had found him dying, that somehow he was hers to protect. Hers. And now here he was, alive and, impossibly, here. She was still grappling with disbelief, that it was him, his face – of which she remembered every plane and angle – hidden behind that mask.”
They had a thirty second conversation with each other when he was dying, by the way. So that compulsion that he was hers is from a thirty second conversation where they both admired how pretty each other were, and then left. And then he stalked her for two years.
So obviously the magnetic connection is still a mystery, since she got it both times she met Akiva.
Apart from that, I liked this bit. I liked Madrigal (even if I didn’t like creepy Akiva), I love fairytales, and the entire backstory and setting.
Writing Style – gorgeous. Perhaps, sometimes, it could get a little overdone, but for the most part, awesome.
Humour – awesome. It’s nice to see a protagonist that’s got more of a personality than one or two sarcastic remarks to make her seem funny.
Setting – awesome awesome awesome. It requires three awesomes. It was that awesome.
Characters – Now here is where it gets complicated.
For the most part, I loved all the characters. Especially Brimstone, I mean, he is a demon, he causes pain, so you’d expect him to be a malicious scary, character, and sometimes he is. But for the most part he is, on the inside, this loving, great, awesome father figure who wants peace, and just as you discover this he (SPOILERS) dies. The entire chimaera family was awesome and lovely and well developed and well thought out.
I loved Zuzana, which was a surprise, since usually the best friend of the protagonist is either really shallow and ugly to make the protagonist look better, or the best friend in the world who sometimes comes off as slightly pathetic and whiny. But Zuzana was her own person. I loved her humour and her personality and how close and accepting she was of Karou’s life.
I even loved Madrigal and Chiro and Nwella, who were only in the book for the last quarter. I especially love the character of Chiro, she’s so interesting and developed and shows Madrigal in a completely different light. Madrigal is seen as perfect but we see, through Chiro’s eyes, that she’s actually quite naive and takes her blessings for granted. I even liked Kaz for as stupid and annoying as he was, he was fun to read about and interesting.
The only two characters I really couldn’t connect with or enjoy or care about, were Karou and Akiva. The two characters I was supposed to like.
I’m still trying to work out why I don’t like Karou.
For some reason, I feel like she is too perfect, though I don’t know why, because it’s not that she’s without flaws (she says so herself that she can be shallow, arrogant and selfish), and it’s not like she makes all the right choices. Maybe it’s because it felt like everyone in the book was basically worshipping Karou. Including the author.
Find one character who doesn’t think Karou is exceptionally beautiful, or smart, or creative. Find one description of Karou that doesn’t make her seem beautiful or deep or aching on the inside or intelligent or artistic. Or perhaps it’s because everything comes to her so easily. Her drawing skills, her fighting, her knowledge of languages, her undeniable beauty, and it makes her so incredible and godlike in this universe. And I always prefer reading about an underdog, about someone with more problems than just not knowing what species they are. So maybe it’s just me, because other reviewers love Karou.
And then we have Akiva.
Good god, Akiva freaks me out.
So he meets this chimaera, who is beautiful and kind and helpful, and he’s like wow, maybe chimaera aren’t so bad, they have a few seconds of a conversation, she leaves, and he dedicates the next two years of his life to stalking her trying to find her again. He breaks into this ball she’s at, dances with her and tells her how they should be together even though she’s betrothed to the scary wolf-dude, and then they make out and fall in love in a month (or something like that). Some people find out and they get sentenced to die. He survives, gets really sad, and sees this mega beautiful blue-haired girl, walk out of the chimaera portal, and follows her for SOME UNKNOWN COMPULSION which is probably that she’s really pretty. Oh, and she looks sad when no one is looking which makes him really like her.
So then he tries to kill her, but she ends up injuring him and runs away. He still thinks she’s pretty so he stalks her and watches her sleep, thinking about his last girlfriend who was also working for his enemy, and then decides that he really wants to kiss this hot girl he tried to kill. She then tries to kill him later, they decide not to, he goes to her apartment, they go on a date. He sees this necklace that makes him realise that this is his old girlfriend, cries on her legs, then fights his brother and sister (like full on epic battle) for this girl he met A FEW DAYS AGO AND BARELY KNOWS.
Then he makes out with her and tells her he loves her, not because she’s his old girlfriend, but because she’s all beautiful and stuff. She finds out who she used to be, they make out, and then he lets it slip that he kind of murdered her family.
That’s the book.
That’s the entire book concerning Akiva.
Do you see why I do not like him?
Not only does he obviously not love Karou (come on, I doubt you can fall in a love that intense that fast), but he also is a creepy stalker following this random girl, making out with her even though he did essentially try to murder her. And did murder her family. And only likes her because she reminds him of his old girlfriend and that she’s always pretty. He follows this random girl FROM THE ENEMY LINES to a party where there is a WAR GENERAL WHO WILL TRY TO KILL HIM, just so he can woo this girl he barely knows who could be like a psychotic serial killer or something. She could have bodies hanging in her basement, and he wouldn’t know.
That and his name reminds me of Akila (a non-talking dog from Maximum Ride).
Why are angels always so damn creepy in YA fiction?
- “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.”
- “Hope can be a powerful force. Maybe there’s no actual magic in it, but when you know what you hope for most and hold it like a light within you, you can make things happen, almost like magic.”
- “Once upon a time, an angel lay dying in the mist.
And a devil knelt over him and smiled.”
I am very conflicted about this book.
A third of it, I loved.
A third, I hated.
And a third was meh.
Though, admittedly, that ending was awesome.
It’s the type of book that I’m not sure I want to read the sequel to, just because I don’t know if I can take that much more Akiva and Karou making googly eyes, no matter how much Zuzana makes up for it. And now that Brimstone and Issa are probably not going to appear again, it makes me even less likely to want to read it, as part of the reason was to see more of them.
While I did like the book, I felt like I was reading an entire trilogy from the feelings I had, as each reaction was so separate and different.
God, what do I give this?
Ok, for the first part, 5 shuriken stars. Loved the first part so much.
The second part, maybe 2, for how hard it was for me to get through it.
And the third, I guess it would be a 3.
Which, doing the maths, makes it… a really difficult number. I wanted halves. Let’s round up to 3 1/2 shuriken stars.
Lots of people will love this, and probably love the romance, I just could not stand the romance which is what was the downer for me, however I will say that Laini Taylor can definitely write and I’ll see if I can stand enough Akiva for a second book (maybe).
Happy Reading! 😀