DAUGHTER OF SMOKE & BONE (Daughter of Smoke & Bone, #1): Review

8490112Daughter of Smoke & Bone (Daughter of Smoke & Bone, #1) by Laini Taylor
Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers on September 27, 2011
Genres: young adult, paranormal romance, fantasy
Pages: 422
Format: Hardcover
Amazon Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | IndieBound

Rating: ★★★


Mm. Hmm.

I’m chewing my lip at what to say here, folks. It’s been almost a year since I read this book, and I don’t feel much toward it. Except disappointment.

This book has been on my radar for years. Almost all my favorite reviewers love it and Laini Taylor. They praise the vivid world-building, the complex love story, the enchanting way Taylor weaves her words. About 25% through the book, I almost found myself agreeing with them.

But then the romance happened, and my reaction to the rest of the book can be described in just one word: Huh?

Taylor gives us a lush, atmospheric setting for her novel: Prague. We learn about Karou, the unusual girl with the blue hair; her friend, Zuzana; Karou’s work collecting teeth for her chimera father figure, Brimstone, and his cohorts, the family Karou never had. And, on top of it all, there’s an angel named Akiva in Prague, looking for Brimstone and Karou–an angel who may know more about Karou than she knows about herself.

All in all, it’s a captivating, unique story, and it drew me right in, because I’ve never quite read anything like it. The setting, the writing, the mythology–all of it was unique and engaging, and I wanted more.

But that’s where my praises for this book end. Because then the romance takes center stage, and this book goes from fascinating paranormal story to a book about star-crossed lovers who, you guessed it, were star-crossed in a previous life, as well, causing a rift between their two worlds.

Maybe I could get behind this if it was something that’s not incredibly overdone in YA paranormal literature. But Karou and Akiva’s first romance wasn’t even very interesting, because there wasn’t anything to base it off of. Karou saves Akiva during a battle between his kind and hers, and all of the sudden, he’s in love? I don’t know. The progression seemed too hasty for me, and, seeing as the majority of this book’s appeal rests on your ability to engage in the romance from about 30% on, such a progression resulted in my growing disinterest with the story.

Then, some other drama gets thrown into the book (no spoilers here) which threatens the existence of Karou and Akiva’s relationship. Again, this is normal. This is okay. Maybe it might peeve me a little bit, but it wouldn’t bother me too much if we hadn’t spent so much time building up this romance instead of focusing on the other aspects of the story. Why are the doors closing? Exactly what does Brimstone do? I want to know more about him and the chimera and their relationship with Karou. I wanted to see more of Prague and all its magic. I wanted Karou to show us more of her abilities. As far as I was concerned, the romance, while initially intriguing, can take a hike. As soon as the “star-crossed lovers” slant is given to it, their relationship becomes incredibly generic. And tiresome, because we’ve seen this type of relationship before.

In short: With creative mythology, spell-binding prose, and interesting characters, this book had great potential to be an engaging, fresh look at angels and demons in a modern-day/fantasy setting. However, by focusing more on a cliched, overwhelmingly star-crossed romance, this book inadvertently hides the qualities that make it so unique for a story element not impressive enough to take the place of those qualities. I’m disappointed in this decision, and probably won’t be continuing the series.

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