Daughter of Smoke and Bone is written by Laini Taylor. It was published in 2011 by Little, Brown and Company. It is the first in a, yes, you guessed it, trilogy. Taylor’s website/blog can be found here.
“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 grows dangerously low.
And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherworldly war.
Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; 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.”
What I Liked:
Kudos to Taylor for the worldbuilding, which was really quite impressive. The writing was decent, too, when I didn’t have a problem with it.
What I Didn’t Like:
So, where do I start?
I knew on page 18 that I would not like this book. On page 18 Karou is described. The moment I read that description, I immediately thought, “Uh-oh.” Just take a look at this: “Creamy and leggy, with long azure hair and the eyes of a silent-movie star, she moved like a poem and smiled like a sphinx” (18, emphasis added). Who describes someone like that? Seriously? What the heck does it mean to “move like a poem?” What type of poem? What exactly are silent-movie stars’ eyes like? Which silent-movie star? Karou is also about as perfect as you can make someone while still trying to stay marginally realistic, which only adds to the Mary Sue vibe. Really, the girl has no flaws.
I hated the fighting scenes. By that point, though, I didn’t really like Karou, so it only makes sense that seeing her fight so…perfectly…would make me grit my teeth. Oh my goodness, those fighting scenes. She’s beautiful and mysterious and she can hold her own in a fight (even against supernatural forces)? Blarg. Excuse me while I try to erase all the bad fanfiction vibes I’m getting.
Really, this whole book screamed “bad fanfiction” at me. Karou is exactly the type of protagonist you would find in a (bad) Harry Potter or a Lord of the Rings fanfic. Blue hair and all, because normal hair color is so last year. I mean, blue hair. BLUE HAIR. Just…why?
The italics killed me. Taylor really went overboard on them. I never realized I could hate the use of italics so much. What’s wrong with using an adjective every once in a while? I got so sick of hearing about Karou’s “lostness.” Why must everything—and I mean everything—be italicized for emphasis and repetition? That last sentence was an example of how Taylor utilizes italics in the book. Really. That was another example.
The romance—sorry, the lust and soul-mate-y business—made me want to vomit. I am so tired of reading about sparks and tingles and aches. One of them should have been ugly. It would have been so much better.
Some of the dialogue was cringe-worthy. It was meant to be slick/witty/funny/charming, but it just sounded all wrong.
Didn’t really appreciate how all the hunters were depicted as Gross, Sleazy Men because they kill Poor Defenseless Animals. Karou even calls them “subhuman.” No, I don’t think so. What’s terribly ironic is that Karou later describes “inhumanity” as “the absolute absence of mercy.” Not being very merciful to hunters, now, are we? Also, “the invaders are always the bad guys?” I’m surprised you didn’t start ranting about colonialism, Karou, since that’s obviously what you were trying to imply. And no, the invaders are NOT always the bad guys, my dear. Also, “She had the dead eyes of a jihadist?” What is that supposed to mean? Have you seen a jihadist’s eyes to qualify that they are, in fact, “dead”, instead of, say, “fevered” or “passionate” or “crazed” or any number of words that could describe a jihadist’s eyes?
Recommended Age Range: 16+ (although I recommend not letting anyone even touch this book, least of all a teenager)
Warnings: Kissing and sensual scenes and descriptions, violence.
Genre: Supernatural, Young Adult
On the surface of the door was a large black handprint. That wouldn’t have been so very strange, except that it gave every appearance of having been burned into the wood. Burned, but in the perfect contours of a hand. This must be what the rabbis were talking about. She traced it with her fingertips, finding that it was actually scored into the wood, so that her own hand fit inside it, though dwarfed by it, and came away dusted with fine ash. She brushed off her fingers, puzzled.
What had made the print? A cleverly shaped brand? It sometimes happened that Brimstone’s traders left a mark by which to find portals on their next visit, but that was usually just a smear of pain or a knife-gouged X-marks-the-spot. This was a bit sophisticated for them.
At the same moment, though Karou didn’t know it, across the world, at every door emblazoned with the black handprint, fires raged. They couldn’t be doused, and yet they didn’t spread. Flame ate away the doors and the magic that clung to them and then swallowed itself, leaving charred holes in dozens of buildings. Metal doors melted, so hot was the fire, and witnesses who stared at the flames saw, in the nimbus of their dazzled retinas, the silhouettes of wings.
Karou saw them and understood. The way to Elsewhere had been severed, and she was cast adrift.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone made me never want to read another book about angels/demons again. I should have learned my lesson from Hush, Hush. What an absolute terrible book. The problem is that it’s disguised as a good one.
Coming Up Next: Aunt Maria by Diana Wynne Jones