Why The Daughter of Smoke and Bone both thrilled and irked me // Book Review

“Have you ever asked yourself, do monsters make war, or does war make monsters?”

Summary:

Karou is a Prague art student raised by chimaeras, but her past is a mystery to her and her human acquaintances. She regularly goes on teeth-collecting errands for her surrogate father Brimstone, but when she is confronted by Akiva the angel one day, her life is upended from there on out.

Genre: Young adult, Romance, Fantasy

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My thoughts: Amazing! But then…

Rarely do I let great openings hype up my expectations for a book, but I was already drooling by the time I hit chapter three: from the vivid oddments of world-building to the wholly colorful cast, the author almost took me back to the days when I discovered Harry Potter for the first time, and that originality really excited me.

Because holy hell, the writing is simply wonderful. Smart, nimble, and beautifully easy to follow, there is a sense of dark, imminent danger lurking around each corner, and that had me geared up in excitement from the get-go. The disturbing yet whimsical tones to the premise lay down a great foundation for Karou’s romps to be fun and dynamic, and the mystery of her origins was juggled with great doses of humor and action.

Furthermore, Karou herself is one of the most compelling heroines I’ve had the pleasure of encountering in YA. She has quiet moments of introspection that give her just the right amount of depth, and yet she still has a self-deprecating sense of humor that made her really cool to me: Karou isn’t above making mistakes, but she knows how to move beyond her flaws and make active choices for herself, and I really appreciated that.

In that, I was mesmerized by this book right out of the gate! There were little touches of wit and imagination to this book that you don’t see too often in YA nowadays, and that legitimately had me bouncing up and down in excitement.

Unfortunately (or is it inevitably?), this book starts to drag in the latter half of this book once Karou meets Akiva, because helloooo romance. There are things revealed later on as to why this supposed insta-love occurs, but as a first-time reader, I was highly taken aback by the abrupt shift in pacing and tone. The author paints this romance as “fated” and “earth-shattering,” but considering Karou’s setup as a cool and autonomous protagonist, I was not expecting a Shakespearean love story to erupt at this point.

Similarly, the author hits readers one time too many with just how beautiful a couple these two characters make, and for a lowly mortal like me, it was rather difficult to swallow. Akiva and Karou’s constant goo-goo eyes at one another admittedly is justified by the end of this book, but the message is muddled considering how incessantly the author perpetuates Karou and Akiva’s physical attraction to one another.

After all, is this attraction largely lust (as seems evidenced by these lovebirds’ excessive comments about how dead-drop gorgeous the other is), or I should take the author’s word for it that it’s not so shallow when she did very little in selling that to me?

Bottom line, it is not so much the romance that is the fatal misstep here, but rather the lack of tonal buffer to facilitate the dramatic shifts in pacing and tone. The transition from action to romance made the latter feel like it escalated out of nowhere, and that was ultimately what jarred me out of love with this book.

“Karou wished she could be the kind of girl who was complete unto herself, comfortable in solitude, serene. But she wasn’t. She was lonely, and she feared the missingness within her as if it might expand and cancel her.”


Recommended? Sure, with an asterisk.*

This book had terrific potential to be an action-filled adventure befitting of its smart and badass heroine, yet it loses its snap once the cheesy romance and draggy flashbacks kick in halfway through. However, the author works very hard to justify the insta-love romance, so I won’t bag this book too much for that; the intentions to create a logical insta-love were there, so I’m perfectly at ease giving this book a pass this time around.

Therefore, recommended for ages 13 and up! If you find some way to forgive the somewhat overbearing romance, you’ll likely enjoy the rest as the cast is lively, and the premise of teeth-collecting AWESOME. There are things to be enjoyed, so do give it a go.


Final thoughts: Predictable but also imaginative

I think my gripes ultimately stem from the fact that I can’t reconcile those little nitpicks in my heart. My brain knows the romance made sense after reading the entire book, but my heart can’t help feeling like the execution of it was somehow slightly off.

Gripes aside though, this book brought a joy to reading I haven’t felt in long time, so I give it 3.5 stars. This book stands notches above most YA reads with delightfully spicy characters, endearing relationships, and smart and lyrical prose, so I’d definitely recommend checking it out and making the call for yourself.

My rating: 3.5/5 frogs (4 stars critically, 3 stars personally.) 

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  ***By the way, is it just me or did anyone else low-key want Karou to end up with Kaz? Kaz is a shitty ex-boyfriend, but I think with a slow-burn redemption arc, he would’ve made for a much more compelling (and funny) love interest. I mean, think about it! The bickering-bantering dynamic would’ve made for a hilarious trash relationship.

***Also, I have yet to continue this series (I was very disappointed by the failure of this potential masterpiece to deliver the goods that I’m still in the process of recovering)  but as it’s been more than a year, I shall get a move on that soon. Cheers, and till next time!

47 Comments

  1. Great review! This book is one of my favorites, but I can see where the romance might’ve been a bit off-putting for some people. I find insta-love to be the case in most of Laini Taylor’s works, but it’s something I overlook since I love her writing so much. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ahh, I understand that! I find that I can overlook a lot of tropes if I find the prose to be beautiful, and that’s actually why I ended up not disliking this book as much I ordinarily would have. 😉 Thanks for dropping by!

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  2. This book conflicted me too. I enjoyed the first half of the story where Karou was flying solo, but the flashback scenes were rather dull I feel. The pacing did improve towards the end though. Excellent review.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, that’s exactly how I felt! I wish this book had been solely about Karou (and that Akiva had been cut out of it), but I agree, the book ended on a high(er) note. 😉 Thank you for dropping by, and cheers!

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  3. I loved this book! But if the romance started to drag for you, you probably won’t like the second or third books as much. I tolerated it in book one because of all the magic and wonder of a series starter, but it eventually got on my nerves as the series went on and I thought things went downhill after this one 😛

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    1. Oh really? Aww shucks, I was buttering myself up to like the sequels a bit better, but I guess that’s down the drain now. 😂 I’ll still try to be open-minded about it, but as romance isn’t my thing, I have a feeling that you’re going to be right lol. Hopefully I’ll latch onto to another element that saves the series for me. 😉 Thank you for the heads up, and cheers!

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  4. I could not agree more. Well articulated and excellent review! 👌❤️

    I absolutely loved that gorgeous writing, the wonderful world building and adored the first half of this book. Then the romance happened and those dreadful and unnecessarily long flashbacks… I quite disliked the second half of this book because of that. I also disliked the Czech aspect of it as I am Czech and it did not feel authentic – it may have been me completely though, maybe I just was in a foul mood. 😉😂
    I started the sequel but DNF it as those annoying flashbacks are even more prevalent there and I got really bored… 🙈

    I felt like a complete minority as people love these books. But sadly, I think there are not my thing… 😊❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh no!! 😂 I was so hoping for those flashbacks to subside in the sequel (I found them sooo predictable and boring) and Ikr? I feel absolutely crazy for not loving this book because literally everybody I know loves it, even my most trusted bloggers. It’s great to hear that I’ve finally found a friend who agrees with me. ❤

      Ooh, and I find the Czech thing so very interesting! Do you by any chance remember what didn't feel authentic about it to you? Just curious. 😛

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      1. It’s always a bit sad when people, we share similar book taste, love a book, which we do not enjoy as much. I think books are such personal thing; sometimes they are meant to be and sometimes they are not. I would give the second book a go, you may enjoy it. 🍀 ❤️

        It’s really hard to put a finger on it, names such as Kaz felt off. Zuzana also didn’t feel that ‘local’. I thought references to places were good, but name choice was stereotypical and it just felt a bit off. Maybe it was me entirely being grumpy about those flashbacks, and picking on anything I could find.. 🙈😂

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        1. I agree! And yes, I think I will give the second book a go; I probably won’t enjoy it, but I’ll go mad with curiosity if I don’t confirm for myself. 😂

          And lol I critique like mad when I am grumpy with a book, but that doesn’t make those critiques any less valid! I think people usually overlook these things if everything is great, but those flaws become much more apparent if everything is bad. Also, you’re a Czech person, so I totally believe you when you say these characters didn’t feel wholly authentic. 😉

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  5. I agree with your review here – yes with asterisk is a great way to put it.
    Karou (and what a dream of a name) was a lovely, lovely character, and the concepts of the book were so original (I think you said it made you bounce up and down?? 😆) – pain for wishes. I loved that, damn I loved that.

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    1. Agggh you have no idea how excited I was! I’d picked it up randomly in a library (I had no idea who the author was, or that the book was popular), but a few pages in and I was thinking “HOLY SHIT THIS IS AMAZING.” I think my downfall was that it didn’t feel like a romance at first, so I was thrown off when it did become that; also, the flashbacks bored me. But yeah, the teeth and the wishing premise was so cool! I was legit bouncing on the spot haha.

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  6. This is a book that I’ve had my eyes on for a while. I love Laini Taylor’s writing from Strange the Dreamer and I’ve been meaning to check this series out cause everyone said it was amazing. I think this was a very fair and very articulate review. It’s a real shame about the romance I think I would find that annoying too. Great review! I look forward to your thoughts on the rest of this series!

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    1. Her writing is so lovely! I was actually floored by how beautiful and easy to read it was. But yeah, I think this book wasn’t for me as I’m verrrrry picky about romances, so I think most people won’t be too bothered by the romance here as I was. 😉 Thank you so much for your lovely comment, and cheers! I really hope you end up loving this book!

      Liked by 1 person

        1. That’s so great to hear! I’ve literally been eyeing Strange the Dreamer for a few months, but I was scared I’d be disappointed by another romance again. 😛 I think I can rest a bit easy after hearing romance isn’t the main thing, so thank you so much for letting me know! ❤

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  7. I want to read this review *so badly* but can’t because the book is on my TBR (literally sat in a pile in front of me) and I have set myself a rule not to read reviews of anything currently pending reading but… Arreklrfhjdhfjdhgkhdfkhg. I want to read your review! I’ll move this one up my pile so I can get to your review and know your thoughts quicker!

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  8. This is an excellently-written review! I read DOSAB when I was much younger and hadn’t yet built up the internal critical awareness that I possess now, but I do acknowledge that the romance was not my favourite part of the book. (Also damn, a redemption arc for ex-beau Kaz would’ve been amazing, because I did love him.) Either way, Laini Taylor’s prose is heads above the standard fare and does continue to be, having only gotten better with time.

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    1. Yay, I’m so glad you agree with me about Kaz! He’s kinda problematic, but there was something about him that just made me laugh. 😛 And I agree, Laini Taylor’s prose is gorgeous! Have you read the entire series or Strange the Dreamer by any chance? (I was wondering how they hold up to this one haha)

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  9. Your reviews are always so well written and detailed! I’ve seen this book a lot, but never got a chance to read it. Maybe it’s time… hahaha even though the romance might not be that believable at first:)

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    1. Haha whew, I’m glad I’m not the only one who found the romance a bit much. I found many elements of this book to be great, but the romance and flashbacks jarred me. 😛 Thank you for commenting, and cheers! ❤

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  10. Amazing review as always! I’m really happy to hear your thoughts on this one, espeically since I’ve been meaning to dive into this book as soon as possible! But I know what you mean about the romance! I’ve read Laini Taylors other book, Strange the Dreamer, and the book was literally perfect up until the romance weaved into the story. I’m glad to be cautious about it when reading this series though!

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    1. Oh my gosh, that literally was my experience with this book! Like, I was worshiping this book one second, and only two minutes later, I was absolutely turned off by the romance. 😂😂 Thank you for letting me know that Strange the Dreamer might be the same! Cheers! ❤

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  11. Brilliant review! *applauds*
    I have read quite a few reviews for this book and quite a few of those mentioned the same thing- great start, then slows down and wth romance! hehehe… I have to say, it is intriguing enough just to make me want to experience it first hand… 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aww thank you so much! I thought my dislike for this book was pretty controversial, so it’s very encouraging to hear that I wasn’t the only one. 😊And haha who know, you might enjoy this book more than I did! I think the hype for it is pretty fair, and I see why people love it, so do give it a go someday. 😉 Cheers!!

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  12. i sadly dnf this book but YES TO Karou+ KAZ!!!!! i love trash relationships w redemption so much. I DEMAND MORE OF THESE IN BOOKS c: c:
    love this review as alwayyyyysys ❤ ❤

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