Look readers! A book I didn’t give five stars!
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers reprinted on June 5th 2012
Genres: Fantasy, Demons, Family, Romance, Identity, War, Heaven and Hell
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Noble
Final Review: 3 out of 5 ★★★☆☆
Ouch, three out of five stars. It’s been a while since I’ve written a review on a book I didn’t like! And what’s so odd, I love Laini Taylor’s Strange the Dreamer; so much so, I have all the pictures taken and my standard review template for the novel set up, but no words–I have no words for Strange’s overwhelmingly beautiful and captivating world. But that is not the case for Taylor’s first series.
I’m going to begin with the “bad” stuff first–at least, the things that I am not the biggest fan of before I discuss what I did actually like. I want to preface this section by noting that I am not simply an avid reader; I am trying to make my blog / review page different than those that read, review, repeat. While on the surface that’s what I do, I’m trying to connect the books I read–mostly unintentionally when first picked–to that of my current life, but more importantly to the world around me. Additionally, I have been conditioned into really reading. As in, marking up pages, taking notes (physical and mental), and truly critically thinking about the text–as a fellow writer and a grad student in literature. So the issues I have with Taylor’s piece isn’t the story itself, it’s the execution.
My biggest issue is that the flow is…off. The chronological progression of the plot will be rudely interrupted by information that is somewhat unnecessary for that situation as if Karou’s state of consciousness takes over to remind the reader of information we didn’t really need. Naturally, I can’t find the first specific instance of this, but near the beginning, Karou is narrating something happening in the present, and then suddenly says something along the lines of “but I’ve been trained in all forms of martial arts.” During this scene, she’s not in a battle or going into one, so why does the reader need to know about Karou’s random training? To me, these bits of character development–Karou’s upbringing, and when Brimstone leaves her enormous dollar amounts–should come naturally, not thrown at the reader for them to pin and remember.
The other issues I have are pretty trivial, more just personal preference, but I feel as if the storyline relied heavily on cliches and unoriginal thoughts–completely unlike Strange the Dreamer which is seriously soooo good. And I wasn’t a fan of the cover art. I know, I know–unfair and trivial, but hey! I wasn’t a fan of the cover art, and I wasn’t a fan of the book. I think there is something to be said for judging a book by its cover! We as readers, know what we like and dislike, or else who would read the blurbs on the back? Also, you cannot tell me that you don’t giggle and blush when you pass the romance section, where a half-naked man with a cowboy hat on, leans gracefully, all while flexing every ab muscle, against a horse with a barn and a sunset in the background? I totally judge those covers, but not necessarily in a bad way! In fact, if a classic romance novel didn’t have that type of cover, then would it really be a romance novel?
Anyway, enough with the bad, and onto the pieces that I did like. I noticed two correlations between this book and Victoria Schwab’s This Savage Song. Something I discussed in my last review, of Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic, is that there is a subgenre in the umbrella YA genre, one being adult fantasy or epic fantasy. I made the case that books like ADSOM and Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows would fit into that genre, whereas This Savage Song and Daughter of Smoke and Bone are examples of classic young adult fiction. That isn’t the only connection I made between Schwab and Taylor’s works, but also the overarching question of monsterhood–what makes someone human? versus what makes someone a monster?
In Taylor’s tale, there is a consistent war between the angels and the chimera race, a war that had been raging for centuries and yet the two main characters, aren’t really sure why, they just know that they’re supposed to be enemies and as of right now, I don’t really have an answer. I’m assuming that this theme will continue throughout the next two books and will hopefully be answered by then, but the question remains, regardless of being answered. Is Karou evil because she does evil things before she even realizes what she’s doing? Is Madrigal not a monster because she saves the enemy even though she’s clearly a monster (as in she’s a chimera and stitched together of different creatures).
“Have you ever asked yourself, do monsters make war, or does war make monsters?” (122).
Additionally, Schwab and Taylor both implore the classic Romeo and Juliet complex. Some might think this is cliched, and true, it is easily spotted and overused to some extent. But! Do remember, dear reader, that my graduate education is catered to the Early Modern era, therefore I read Shakespeare and other contemporaries constantly–and hope to forever be reading their works–and to me, seeing two modern day writers, potentially not even making the connection, but using this template that Shakespeare set forth for us is outstanding to me. Schools across our nation and even some overseas are suggesting we stop teaching Shakespeare–he’s too difficult, he doesn’t have anything to offer modern-day readers, he’s a bigot, racist, sexist–and NONE OF THESE ARE TRUE! We have been taught to read Shakespeare wrong in our high school classrooms and he is incredibly crucial to understanding any modern-day writing because literature builds on itself. The modern writers built on the nineteenth-century writers, who built on the eighteenth-century writers, who built on the Victorian era of writers, who built on the Early Modern period, who built on the medieval writers and so on. We cannot simply take out an entire era of literature, nothing will make sense!
I haven’t decided if I’m going to read the next two books, I think I might. I do believe that the storyline and characters are enough to keep me going, and I believe that Taylor’s writing gets better with age, like wine!, so I think the next books in this series could be better than the first one, especially since we’ll have had all the background information already.
I would recommend this book if you’re looking for something fun and easy; it’s not a challenge nor is it the best book I’ve ever read, but if you’re curious about Taylor’s other characters, then give this book a try–you’ll probably like it more than me!
And of course, a connection to Star Wars.
“Because hope froms from in you, and wishes are just magic.”
“Wishes are false hope. Hope is true. Hope makes its own magic.” (143).