Sep 9, 2012
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Publication Date: September 27, 2011
Around the world, black hand prints 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 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?
Going into DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE, I had no idea what it was about. And that’s how I prefer it, especially with paranormal or fantasy books. I like to discover the world and the twists and turns as they happen. Which is why DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE turned out to be a pleasant surprise. It took an old trope (angels and demons) and put a unique spin to it, creating a strange and dark and mysterious story with a world full of depth and allure.
A huge part of this comes from setting the book in Prague. Amazing how refreshing a book can become just by giving it a unique setting and using that setting to help build the world.
The mystery is, of course, also helped by the awesome premise; Karou’s “imaginary friends,” her unexplained background, and the unanswered questions surrounding the devil who raised Karou and his constant need for teeth, not to mention the wishes he’s able to grant people. All of that was awesome. Awesome, awesome, awesome. I loved that DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE flipped the age old angels and demons story by making the demons the “good guys,” or at least the main focus of the story. Certainly gets you thinking just how far you should root for these guys.
But while the premise was really awesome, I did find the story lacking. There wasn’t a whole lot in the way of plot. See, there’s these doors that lead to the devil’s headquarters, where humans go to give the devil teeth in exchange for wishes. Of course, Karou, being raised by these demons, uses these doors often. So I guess the story comes in when angels (and our love interest guy Akiva) start setting these doors on fire, which . . . no one seems to really notice or do anything about. Besides that, even when I finished the book, I wasn’t really sure what it was about. Aside from a battle between the angels and demons.
That was disappointing.
Because even though this book is kind of long, I didn’t really think a whole lot happened plot-wise.
As for the characters, I did really like Karou, which is not something I often say about female main characters in paranormal/fantasy books. Sometimes they can just be so boring, you know? But Karou wasn’t. She was strong, she had a personality, she had friends! She also wasn’t constantly falling over boys, which was nice to see. Oh, er, except when she was. See, while Karou wasn’t one of those girls who had no interests outside of boys, DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE does employ that overused trope of an unexplained, impossible-to-resist attract between the girl and the love interest. A sort of “I’m sure we’ve met in another life and I can’t help but loving you” type thing. So. That’s what’s took a half a star to a star off my rating. I like seeing the romance develop organically and over time, but that wasn’t really what happened here.
I liked this book. Just liked. I could have loved it, but the problems with the plot and the infuriating romance had to lower my rating. Which is sad because this book was really well written and had a lot LOT of potential for something truly amazing. I’ve truly never read something like this. The whole dark and dangerous and alluring atmosphere is right up my alley, and I loved watching most of the characters interact.
But the one HUGE thing that lowered my grade significantly? While the first half of the book was really good, the second half felt like an entirely different book.
And it’s in part because of this:
The last one hundred or so pages. Sigh. People, it is all flashback! Literally over one hundred pages of overly-detailed, why-should-I-care-about-this-I-already-know-how-it-turns-out-from-reading-the-rest-of-the-book flashbacks! One chapter of it I could handle. It certainly answered a lot. And then there was another chapter. And another. And so on. At multiple times I had to stop reading and say, “What? What the heck is going on? I can’t follow any of this.” So very confusing. I kept flipping through the pages looking for when Karou would show up again. She is our main character. She is the one I cared about. Finally, Karou showed up again in the last couple of pages, but by that point I was so over the book because of this confusing mess of the last part of the novel. The last one hundred or so pages should have been where the climax of the plot was. Instead, the climax was a FLASHBACK? Something that had already happened and I knew the outcome of from the beginning of the book? Yeah. I wanted to throw something across the room. I just felt majorly cheated.
But in the end, the great writing, dark atmosphere, and unique premise did win me over. I’ll read the next book. And I do recommend this book if you love paranormal novels.