Daughter of Smoke & Bone - Laini Taylor

“It is a condition of monsters that they do not perceive themselves as such. The dragon, you know, hunkered in the village devouring maidens, heard the townsfolk cry 'Monster!' and looked behind him.”

~~Moved from GR~~

Daughter of Smoke and Bone

by Laini Taylor


Daughter of Smoke and Bone is as haunting and evocative as its title. The writing is as lyrical and mysterious and beautiful as the book's cover, and the story is creative and original, opening a curtain to provide a glimpse of a rich and textured world. This promises to be a fantastic trilogy, especially for any reader interested in paranormal romance. If I weren't so badly prejudiced against certain types romance, this would probably be a five.

Angels have been seen again on the earth: beautiful seraphs with burning wings and haunted eyes have been glimpsed throughout the globe, leaving behind only a cryptic clues to their real aims: a series of burnt handprints on an apparently arbitrary set of doorways. Despite her own strange origins, the seventeen-year-old Karou is as mystified as everyone else. Karou has grown up under the care of chimaera: strange, monstrous creatures that combine the forms of human and animal who live in hiding. Karou acts as one of their human agents, gathering their strange crop from earth: teeth. Brimstone, a chimera sorcerer, transforms the teeth into the magic of wishes. Karou is content to balance her strange role with the mundanities of student life and the simple enjoyment of good friendship. But the coming of the seraphs, cold-eyed and cold-hearted angelic beings, will irrevocably alter Karou's world. We are drawn into a mystical world where magic is fueled by pain, where angels and revenants fight an unending war, where true love can withstand even death.

My major issue with the book will most likely be the greatest attraction for the intended audience: it is, above all, a romance. Although I enjoyed the incredible creativity in this new spin on Romeo and Juliet, to me, it felt like an egregious number of pages were spent on describing yearning glances, jealous ex-boyfriends, beautiful bodies, romantic dilemmas, passionate desire, etc, etc. Not just that; the story uses InstaLove Extra Strength (TM) , guaranteed to transform an adversarial knife fight into kisses and liquid glances with only one touch! I have no romance in my soul, and this is the second InstaLove book I've read in a row. I think I don't like InstaLove books because, as Karou herself realizes, this type of passion erodes or even removes the heroine's power, self-control, and ultimately, her agency. As she says, her reaction "made no sense at all." 

[Yes, I know the explanation is reincarnation and previous love, but note that this initial love story was also a case of InstaLove. In addition, it doesn't really remove my issue with destruction of individual agency and self-control.]

(show spoiler)

 I don't believe such obsessions are healthy or real, and I hate that our society casts them as desirable and attainable. Perhaps some people really do experience InstaLove and end up happily ever after, but I feel that it is dangerous to perpetuate the belief that this is what love should look like. (In addition, for a book with several female main characters, it comes scarily close to failing the Bechdel test, as well as not even making it past the first step of the POC!Bechdel test.)

The power and emotion of the story, for me, came not from the romance, but from the other relationships that add such sweetness and depth to the story. Taylor captures the true beauty of parental love and acceptance, the power of trust and friendship. It makes the story poignant and touching in a way that, for me, no romantic passion can ever achieve.

I was drawn in by the richness and beauty and intricacy and magic of the world that Taylor created. Her mythology is complex and complete, full of small details and legends that embellish the culture she has created. For a while, I was afraid that Taylor would go for moral simplicity, allowing all justice and truth to be on one side of the fight. Instead, however, she weaves a story that is infinitely more complex and intricate, where neither side has a monopoly on righteousness. The story captures some of the deep truths and problems of real conflict. I love the rich world and cultures that Taylor has created, but the language is one of the greatest gems of the story. It is as lyrical as a poem, as graceful as a song. It is the perfect fit for the world of shadowed dreams that Taylor creates. Overall, despite my own allergy to love at first sight, I am enchanted and entranced by the magic and pathos of this story. Highly recommended for anyone looking for a love story with a foundation of rich mythos and potent magic.

(Note: I listened to this via the free audiobook download from AudiobookSync.)