Happy Monday, guys! 🙂 (I know, I know… But let’s try not starting the week on a negative note, okay?)
So I finally got into the hype train that is Daughter of Smoke and Bone and Laini Taylor… Can you believe it’s been six years since its release? Talk about feeling old!
This review is completely spoiler-free.
- Title: Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #1)
- Author: Laini Taylor
- Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
- Publication Date: September 27th, 2011
- Page Count: 422
Karou is an art student living in Prague. She has a peculiar “family” and a peculiar “job”, both of which she keeps secret – except in her notebook sketches, that is. Zuzana is sick and tired of her best friend’s errands keeping her so busy all the time, but there’s nothing Karou can do about it… Brimstone is always in need of more teeth for his craft, and she’s the only one who can do it. When black hand-prints start to appear on doorways all over the world, it’s only a matter of time before Karou learns the truth…
This book pulled me in in the first few seconds. It took a page or so to envelop me in this cocoon of pure awe and enchantment. Really, that’s what it felt like.
The world building in this is absolutely insane. Absolutely, insanely amazing. The writing was impeccable and some of the best I’ve read in a while. The author had this way of making the most mundane of things sound poetic and wonderful and just genius. Everything, genius!
The way Taylor describes Prague and every other place Karou visits so vividly, one feels like they’re actually there. I found myself wanting to hang out with Karou and her friends, take in the gorgeous surroundings, taste the amazing food, get all these stimuli. It’s one of those books where I almost felt actual, physical teleportation.
All the characters were amazing. All of them. Even the not so great people. Zuzana was a great sidekick, even if we get to see so little of her. Their companionship was so fun and nice and I loved reading about their time together, even if they weren’t doing anything particularly outstanding. Brimstone and the remnant shop workers were incredible and really unique. I loved their relationship with Karou and how, despite all odds, they made such a great close-knit family.
Karou is an awesome heroine, of course. She’s tough, resourceful, independent but also kind, caring and loving. She’s both incredibly mature and immature at times, but she’s only seventeen, and she always owns up to her not so great moments. She’s flawed and vulnerable and that’s what makes her interesting. She’s also deeply artistic, as is the whole book. If you’re a fan of art, you’ll be equal parts amazed and thrilled by the amount of cool references in this book: there’s drawing, dancing, music, acting… Seriously, it’s an artist’s paradise!
The whole story is shrouded in mystery from beginning to end. I was kept on the edge of my seat the entire time, wanting to find out what some hints meant, why did some characters act the way they did, who some people were… Taylor made sure to extend the suspense for as long as humanly possible, and it drove me nuts! But I think it was that expectancy, that build-up, that tension, that really made me appreciate (and be mind-blown by) the big reveals and tiny plot twists.
It was brutal. Amazing, but brutal. The reader’s expecting something major to happen since the very beginning, of course. But I don’t think anyone will be completely ready for it.
Finally, the romance. I loved it – it was so sweet, so adorable, it felt like my heart would burst out of my chest with feels (literally). Yet, once again, it wasn’t perfect… (More on The Bitter section.)
There is instalove in this, and I’m still not sure whether I liked it or not. Probably not. The first part of the story was absolutely fantastic, I have not one bad word to say about the relationship AT ALL. But as the story progressed, those feels dwindled a little. By the end, I just wasn’t feeling it anymore?
It was also a bit confusing in the beginning, as there’s all this stuff we have yet to learn about Karou, her life, what she does, etc. Like I said, it’s a small price to pay in order to be absolutely amazed afterwards. But just a heads up.
Now, the really big peeve (for me):
The last quarter of the book almost ruined the whole story for me. Yup, that’s right. While I adored the big reveals and the unraveling of the plot (both of which were masterful. Masterful, I tell you), it made me feel terribly despondent. Why? Because I had grown horribly attached to Karou and her relationships (both old and new) and everything about her world, and what happened next shattered all those notions.
Don’t get me wrong: it was brilliant. It was spectacular. It blew my mind. But it was also, like I said, disappointing. And heartbreaking. It also seemed completely disconnected from the rest of the story.
The first part of the book mainly targeted character development; the second, plot development. And these two feel a lifetime apart. Not to mention, I didn’t really understand the conflict? I mean, it is explained to some extent but it didn’t make much sense to me. It just felt flat, really. Like a means to an end.
I feel a bit divided. While I was absolutely in love with this book for the first three quarters of it, my feelings changed quite a bit towards the end.
Still, I can’t deny Laini Taylor is a fantastic author: her writing is perfect, her world building is perfect, her characters are perfect, her story-telling is perfect. She made me cry more than once. She made me feel all these things I wasn’t even aware I could feel. She destroyed me and I love her for it.
The pacing is fantastic, the art references are golden, the tension and build-up are off the charts. If you enjoy getting transported to marvelous and vivid worlds, with a genius fantasy backdrop, a very complex and masterful plot, lots of mystery/suspense, and a sweet hate-to-love romance, then this book is for you.
My complaints are: feeling a bit lost in the beginning (totally worth it, though!) and the instalove. Also, the seemingly disconnected storylines and lack of conflict were impossible to ignore and interfered too much with my reading experience, in the end.
I’ll definitely need the sequels to sort out my feelings as this book felt very anticlimactic. But for the time being, yes, I recommend Daughter of Smoke and Bone.
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Thank you so much for reading and until next time!