Saturday, May 25, 2013

Review: The Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

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?

Hardcover, US, 418 pages

Published September 27th 2011 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
(info grabbed from GoodReads)

I’m not one to throw around the term Mary Sue, but… Mary Sue.  Mary Sue Mary Sue Mary Sue.  MARY SUE LIKE WOAH.  Fo’ rizzle.  What makes her a Mary Sue, you might ask?  Per Wiktionary, it is defined as a fictional character, usually female and especially in fanfic, whose implausible talents and likeableness weaken the story.  Karou fits this bill, minus the bit about fanfiction.  She is graceful, beautiful, smart, physically strong and tough, idealized by her classmates as an artist in an art school, and a bunch of other positive traits.  However, you can have a “flawless” character and still make it work.  For example, June in Legend by Marie Lu is a prodigy, but cocky and impulsive.  Another example is Clara from Unearthly by Cynthia Hand, where in the book it is a problem how she is too perfect.  I read almost half of The Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and not one issue arose from how perfect Karou was.  Seriously, Karou is not a real person, there is no confusion over that.  The issue for me was that she couldn't be a real person.  Because perfect people spontaneously combust in real life -- everyone knows that.

For me, her perfection weakened the story.  I couldn’t connect to her.  I like characters to have problems other than external ones; some inner conflict is much loved.  Maybe it developed later in the story, and I really went back and forth with finishing the book.  It boiled down to me thinking that the promise of better was not worth it.  A book should be able to hold my attention and make me care within two hundred pages.  Since it didn’t, I decided it wasn’t worth my time.  There are too many books to read, and no time to waste on a book that I may have to struggle the rest of the way through.

I do love the use of chimeras, though.  Chimeras are not everywhere in YA lit so far (but who knows, maybe they’re the next mermaids), and I wanted to like this book based on that fact alone.  But even the underused mythological creatures combined with the mystery forming around them in the story were not enough to pull me in.  Even sitting here thinking of the premise, I’m like, “Why don’t you like it?  I mean, read that synopsis again.  There’s something wrong with you, Momo.”  Because I do often talk to myself using third person.  Aloud.  Anyway, I think Karou’s lack of imperfections repelled me from the book.  And it is just so sad.

This book is much loved, but it isn’t for everyone.  Maybe it’s for everyone except me, and that’s fine.  But here’s my opinion, internet.  Hope you enjoyed it.

Final Thought: 2 out of 5 sparkly perfect toadstools

This review is also posted on GoodReads


  1. OMG. I found someone else who didn't like this book?!?

    I thought I may be the only one on this planet that really, really did not like this! You're right, I too couldn't connect with Karou, and as soon as we discovered what Akiva was I got bored again. The whole last half of the book? Sappy and boring for me.

    I agree. I agree. I agree.

    Miss J @ Miss Book Reviews

    1. I'm super glad I tapped out when I did then. And I am so glad you didn't like the book either since it seems EVERYONE ELSE LOVES IT.

  2. Once upon a time, I was so excited to read this book.

    It did not end well.

    This is the first time the book sense of my best friend - the friend who gave me the Divergent Trilogy - has failed me. And I'm so relieved that I'm not the only person who doesn't like this book! I HATED Sue - I mean, Karou - and wanted her to die. Then, after the corny romance, pseudo-flaws and the groundbreaking discovery that this perfect girl and her perfect love were literally meant to be. Oh, and the whole time I was thinking: seriously, Tris would not do that, or be like that. *sob*

    1. I really have to read the Divergent Trilogy -- everyone is raving about it. I've been scared because everyone raved about this book too... and look what happened. Sorry you were disappointed as well. Here's to our next books being better *hold figurative glass in toast*