Monday, July 30, 2012

YAck Attack: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Daughter of Smoke and Bone
by Laini Taylor

Published: September 27th, 2011
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company

Add it- Goodreads | Buy it- IndieBound

From Goodreads: 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 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?

Welcome all to our discussion of July's read - Daughter of Smoke and Bone.  DoSaB was held by Steph as Keeper of the Book (you can find out about her - and the rest of us - here).  Before you proceed please note that this discussion may well contain SPOILERS, CYNICISM and BAD LANGUAGE.  You have been warned.

Nicole: So I just finished Daughter of Smoke and Bone. When do we get to talk about this? Because I have thoughts. *pokes books*

Donna: Well, looks like you've just started the chain. I too have thoughts although I'm not quite finished yet. Not all of my thoughts are entirely good.

Nicole: DID I? I feel FANCY. *maniacal laughter* I had a few little issues with it, but for the most part I really enjoyed it.

Steph: I want to run off to Prague and dye my hair blue!

Janice: That was my favorite part. Pragguee!

Melissa: Yep. Totally.

Angie: Yep. It was all downhill from there . . .

Sya: We should totally do that as a holiday - it would be awesome. Angie  -  I take it you didn't like?

Angie: Sadly no.

Sandy: I want her hamsa tattooes!

Laura: I read this book and totally spent one drunken night on Bourbon street hunting down an exact replica of the aqua mask on the book cover. I never found an exact one, but I did find a pretty blue one and several more Hand Grenades....

Donna: The more I read it the less I love it. I was talking about this with Angie and Cassandra earlier. The insta-love thing is really getting to me although there appears to be a hearty excuse for it and it's written in such a way that I feel distanced from it all. I like the story and the world is pretty cool but I'm not connecting with it at all. I have a feeling that I much prefer Taylor's voice when it's short and sweet, like in Lips Touch. I'll have more thoughts once I'm done.

Nicole: That was one of the things I didn't like -- the insta-love is explained, yes, but that didn't make it any less annoying. I thought it took away from Karou, who seemed awfully sensible up until that point.

Donna: I'm at the point where Akiva's like "I know who you are" and of course I can hazard a guess but I don't know the details. I'm assuming Brimstone, as a punishment to Akiva, somehow ripped the soul out of his love, put it in Karou's body, set those hamsas on her and it's basically playing out as a weird Romeo and Juliet. EXCEPT EVERYONE ALWAYS FORGETS ROMEO & JULIET ISN'T ACTUALLY ABOUT ROMANCE. *headdesk* I need to keep reading but I'm worried that even with an explanation it's still not going to really matter. I'm saddened.

Nicole: I don't want to give you any spoilers but that is an awfully good guess.

Donna: Son of a bitch.

Angie: I agree. It may have been "explained," but by that point I just didn't care anymore. The writing felt remote and cold to me the entire time. Taylor's style can be beautiful. But like Donna that disconnect prevents me from caring about the characters. Then there's the matter of the millennia-old ancient being falling for the TEENAGER. It's been done before and never works for me. I just cannot suspend my disbelief enough to buy it.

Nicole: I loved her writing at times, and I loved the world. The writing at the beginning was much better, I thought, and much easier to connect to Karou, but as it went on... I just couldn't believe that Karou would ditch her common sense and that this random angel just zomg! couldn't leave her!

Donna: I thought he's only about 50 (as if that's much better). I'm reading an ARC so mine might be different from a finished copy but I distinctly remember her saying "You're fifty?" He talks about his world's past a lot though as if he lived it although he does mention he was born, something I didn't think angels could do. I'm not a religion buff but I was always under the impression that angels are created, not born, and as "anatomically impaired as a Ken doll." And that souls are reserved for humans but the book mentions Akiva having a soul once. What? I base this on my knowledge of Supernatural and Dogma, of which I take as wholly truthful.

Nicole: Yeah, they didn't make it clear whether or not angels have souls or if they're sacrificed for their power or if they just don't have them or what. And Akiva's age is never clarified; I kept picturing him as a thousand years old because that's how long the war lasted, but he's supposed to be 50 or so, but he looks like he's 18, and I just... I can't keep track.

Janice: I'm going to have to re-look-over the book before I jump into this discussion because it's been a while, but I do remember having similar issues with the romance. I think it ended in a way that left the door open for the romance actually working for me in the next book though. So I have hope.

Angie: Too little too late for me. You guys will have to let me know if things work out to your satisfaction in book 2.

Nicole: Why didn't you like it, Angie?

Melissa: Ah, am I the only unequivocal fan of this book? I didn't reread it (shame on me), but I remember thinking the writing was gorgeous (then again, I've been reading her work since she started, and I've read everything she's written, so I think that qualifies me as a fan), and I don't even remember being put off by the insta-love. Which usually annoys me. I think what I liked best, however, was the unique way which Taylor approached angels and demons. The politics of that conflict, and the mystery surrounding who Karou is superseded (in my brain) the romance, which (as y'all have pointed out) wasn't that interesting.

Nicole: See, I LOVED the world! Loved it. And her writing style is undoubtedly beautiful. But the insta-love on both parts annoyed me, simply because it always does (though I appreciated the story).

Angie: The part in Prague (pre-angelfatuation) was great. The teeth, Brimstone . . . all very cool. I was in it until Akiva, despite the fact that I didn't feel all that close to anyone. Something about her writing seems to erects a barrier between me and its pretty facade. The same thing happened when I read Lips Touch. Pretty, but sort of coldly empty when it comes to real emotion. For me. Awesome names and great ideas aren't enough to carry me through when the characters leave me cold. And then the insta-love hit. And it was compounded by the fact that he was a ultra-gorgeous, ultra-powerful way-too-old-for-her ANGEL.

Nicole: Yeah, I felt like Akiva took AWAY from the story. The story could have been about a badass woman exploring and discovering that she was one of the 'demons' and that they were fighting the 'angels' and she might have tried to chase down peace of her own accord. Instead we got LOL LOVE IS GR8 RIGHT!?

Angie: I'm sorry. That guy doesn't fall for that girl. And the whole beloved's soul placed in her body thing didn't fix it for me. I love a really well done angel book. But I rarely find them.

Melissa: I think this is the closest thing to a well-done angel book that I've ever read.

Angie: I am a large fan of Archangel by Sharon Shinn. That is the very best I've seen it done. And the principals are very much adults and EQUALS. I mean, he can fly and she can't. But they both have so many flaws and are so damn real despite the fantastical setup. It's not everyone's cuppa. But it sure is mine.

Sya: Unusually for me, I didn't feel annoyed by the insta-love because I felt that it was ultimately very well explained. However, it did come a bit too late in the game... My main issue was with Akiva - I just found him really dour (Scottish word, describes Andy Murray very well, look it up) and hard to get a bead on. I loved Karou, I LOVED the world building and the writing was gorgeous (especially that scene with the puppet scene on the bridge) and God knows I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED Brimstone but the romance aspect didn't work for me mainly due to Akiva's characterisation. Saying that, the book ends at an interesting point and I'm interested to see where the sequel takes things...

Nicole: Brimstone was the best part of the book, which is probably why I'm so interested in the sequel -- I'm hoping he somehow evaded death!

Angie: I love Andy Murray.

Melissa: The puppet scene of the bridge was especially memorable.

Sya: It's just so frustrating re. Akiva, but at the same time I think that the overall storytelling/world building was so very good that the series as a whole could be recovered. While he bothered me, I still believe that he could go on to be an interesting aspect.

Donna: I'm starting to claw my way to the end now. 1) I want to murder all of the -ness words. WTF is up with that usage? It started off quirky and now I just want to skin cats every time I see it. 2) I'm finding Madrigal a bit on the boring side and it's getting harder for me to finish. 2) We're coming up on some kind of ball. Why the FUCK is there always a ball? I don't understand. I still don't not like DoSaB; I do love the world although Taylor's angels are inconsistent. I liked Karou until her world started centering around Akiva, Zuzana's still pretty cool and I wish she'd come back in and be all like WTF? Akiva is a killjoy. I could deal with the distance I was reading with. Like Angie I'm just not connecting with the characters but I like the writing and world enough that it's carrying me along. But because of that disconnect, because I'm not really invested in the characters, I just don't give a basket of testicles about the outcome of this romance. I really don't. Add in insta-love and soul mate and I've pretty much checked out on that aspect.

Sya: I think it's quite telling that only a few weeks after reading the book, I've completely forgotten who Madrigal is... Is she the boring sister-y girl in the Brimstone world? And yes, Zuzana is more than a little bit excellent.

Nicole: I connected more to Zuzana than anybody because she reminded me of one of my good friends in real life. I found Karou interesting until Akiva, then she became predictable -- and Madrigal was utterly boring. I loved the world she was in, but really, I could have used less Madrigal and more Karou.

Holly: Melissa, you are not alone! It's been about a year since I read DoSaB but I loved it at the time. If the insta-love hadn't had the explanation it did I would've felt very differently. Since Twilight the hundred-something age difference rarely works for me.

Donna: So either my abject cynicism is contagious or we truly are a group of crotchety crotches. I'll get the basket of feral cats for us to huck as passing children.

Angie: I think if I'd had more time with Karou pre-angelfatuation... Instead of glossing the imbalance over like I think it was meant to, the SOUL MATES thing smacked of imprinting a la Twilight to me. They can't resist? Oh yeah. Sign me up. I love it when characters sign away their agency! *commence eyeroll*

Donna: IS IT OVER YET? I find I'm still reading but the story isn't ending. Madrigal is BORING.

Nicole: Madrigal screams Mary Sue to me. "Oh, she's pretty AND she can do this AND all the boys want her AND all the girls want to be her AND she's got a strong spirit AND the angel's in love with her AND she doesn't spend her wishes on frivolous things AND she's good to her friends AND..." We don't see her with any flaws, and as she's supposed to become Karou (who HAS flaws), that's awfully frustrating to me.

Sandy: Madrigal as Karou is better. She's more active, travels around the WORLD through PORTALS, lives with demons...and has blue hair. Oh and I haven't seen this mentioned but did anyone else kind of like Karou's ex-boyfriend in the beginning? I didn't like his character but I like HOW his character impacted Karou (the drawing scene in the beginning was awesome). I'm with Holly and Melissa--I didn't mind the insta-romance since the twist about Karou's identity justified it (for me). I'm pretty much in lurve with this book.

Donna: I liked Kaz's aspect in making her uncomfortable. I think the scene came across really well and it added depth to the story but I lost that depth once the angel got involved. I just hope this doesn't mean Karou re-becoming Madrigal turns her into the boring drone Madrigal is in the story. That'll make me sad.

Nicole: Karou at the end still identified as Karou, though, and she seemed more badass than patient and all that jazz. I think she's still Karou.

Melissa: Agreed, Donna. I have hope that Taylor won't screw things up in the sequel.

Laura: I have thoughts on this book. I will think about them out loud shortly.

Donna:  She does have a beautiful way with words a lot of the times. I just finished the chapter explaining how the chimaera were born and it was just flat out gorgeous. And that little scene, out of context with the rest of the story, with Akiva and Madrigal removing their masks was reminiscent of the passion I read in Lips Touch. But it only further confirms my thinking that her writing, at least to me, is better, and carries more impact, in small, short story, doses. She writes gloriously and has created such a wonderful world but I fail to connect to the characters, I fail to care about them and as a result I'm not ultimately not invested in what happens to Akiva or Madrigal. Awesome names, everyone, but I need to CARE about the characters. That's rather crucial to the success of a book for me.

Nicole: That.

Janice: OK. I am back at home and I have gone digging for my copy of DoSaB so I can join in this discussion and not be kicked out of the group. *cracks fingers*. Madrigal boring? Dude, I disagree! OK yes the enemies falling in love is a trope, and she does seem really "good" at first, but I liked her romance over Karou's (it was more of a courtship than the other romance). What did it for me: I really got into the sibling rivalry aspect of her story. That whole dynamic there, with her step-sister's jealousy that is so strong you can TASTE it, and Karou's initial cluelessness that turns into awareness? *shivers happily*. What she ends up doing in response to Chiro's betrayal: I loved that bit. She suddenly became a grown-up at that point, and the Heroine Doing What She Has To Do is also why I loved where this book left off because I felt like where Karou had to do linked with Madrigal's betrayal. It was awesomely mirrored. And the possibilities now. I have hopes for the romance but I like that there's no obvious way it's going to go from the way DoSaB ended. So basically I guess what I said before: issues with Karou and Akiva (it's explained as more than Insta-love but too late for me), really like the writing, and am hopeful for the next book. I really hope the next time romance is introduced, there's more meat to the relationship growth. I think this has to be the case though - Karou should be less naive now. You'd think.

Donna: Okay, I really liked how the book ended. Anything that shatters dreams makes me happy. I'm not s fan of sugary sweetness and that ending was DEFINITELY NOT sugary sweet. It put a major menstrual cramp in their relationship and I'm really hoping the animosity remains. With that being said I'm NOT a fan of the good = beautiful bad = ugly dichotomy Taylor kept playing at. There was some play at redemption regarding the chimaera but ultimately they're death dealers using pain as currency to further their own seemingly worthless ends. Brimstone knew all that resurrection was pointless yet he kept doing it. If he was GOOD, like Madrigal and Akiva he would have stopped it all. Plus Chiro's whole ugly step-sister routine but me way off. I just never like it when that trope is played because it's never done to justice.

Sandy:  CHIRO. *breathes fire* I wanted to kick something REALLY HARD when I read that part about what. she. did. And UIDJISUADHASD. And did anyone else love when Brimstone would impart words of wisdom to both Madrigal and Karou? That scene when Madrigal learns of Chiro's betrayal and she's bitter that she wasted diamonds on her and Brimstone's like "Never repent of your own goodness." And then there was that other gem of a quote where he's lecturing Karou about not putting inessential things into her body. Sigh. I really hope he appears in the second book. Team Brimstone FTW!

Sya: Ah, yeah - now I remember who Madrigal was. I found her DULL, clearly. And Chiro was just very predictable. But again, Brimstone lifts even the moments with them into something else. I agree with Donna that the ending lifts the book out of possible romancy blahness and gives hope for the future. Gar, I can't use my words today AT ALL... I am so terribly poorly so Steph will have to step in and express our thoughts, as they are THE SAME. I suspect she may not realise that the book discussion has fully taken off so will give her a prod and back out gracefully of this one before I ramble you all to death.

Nicole: I agree -- Brimstone made everything better, and I want to read the sequel just out of curiosity from where this would go. We didn't spend much time with Madrigal, but I only liked her at the very very end when she was acting more like Karou.

Laura: I enjoyed the first part of this book. It was entertaining and I was all about the blue hair and the story and I were having a happy, if some what, uneventful relationship. Then there was a brief pause when our two long lost love birds where reconnecting that I believe he mentioned that he might have to kill her. I had to think long and hard about whether or not I wanted to continue on after this BECAUSE I AM SO FUCKING OVER THAT SHIT......breathing.....Anyway, I kept reading for Brimstone because I loved him so. You can't tell me that you didn't want to hang out in his tooth fairy room with him and play with the teeth. As morbid as it sounds, YOU KNOW YOU WANTED TO HANG WITH BRIMSTONE. It was the second half of the story that brought the love for me. I could have lived with Madrigal and Akiva in the chimera’s world forever. It was so vibrant and bold- the dress, the dance...I was like a kid watching fireworks- all oooohs and aaaahs and "preeetttttttyyyyy." I haven't read anything else by Taylor but damn she could really sling some words when she was knee deep in the fantasy aspect of her story. Her urban paranormal whatsit that she had happening at the beginning and I just weren't connecting- she could have set the whole thing in the way-back-when and I would have licked the words off the page. My little copy is battered and beaten with dog-ears from some of the passages. I like to think that she typed those bits in peacock blue. I'm afraid that the sequel has to take us back to the future, since that is where the story is actually happening and this makes me sad.

Steph: Completely agreeing with the general consensus ladies. Very much a book of 2 halfs for me - first I'm think magic portals and beast/men and secret missions and OMG THIS IS AWESOME then I get slapped in the face with the insta-love and the momentum of the story just died. I really had to force myself through the last 50 pages which really saddened me since the start was so promising. I also felt that Taylor invested far more heavily in Prague than in the chimera/seraphim world which I found a bit peculiar - I could visualise the scenes in Prague far more clearly from her descriptions than the other worldly scenes (that may very well have just been me!) But most importantly Brimstone rocked my world. Totally playing the wise grandpa type role, just with added beast parts.

Donna: I felt the same way, Steph. I think once it was in the chimaera world is was all about Madrigal and her love for Akiva and Akiva and his love for Madrigal and the rest fell by the wayside.

Nicole: Which makes me sad, because less Brimstone.

Donna: I'm pretty sure this has been the most YAcked book yet.

Laura: Yes. Which is going to make it a bitch to transfer to the blog.


Angie: I so agree with you, Steph. I mentally checked out after a few pages of Madrigal/Akiva Otherworld. Just wanted to be back in Prague and it was a slog to finish the thing.

Janice: I'm actually really surprised by the general consensus in this group (the romance not working, liking Prague but not feeling the Chimera world). Well mostly because until now I usually see an overwhelmingly positive response to this book. In this group Melissa and Holly are the two who had more positive responses, and everyone else has a mixed or lukewarm one. This feels so unexpected. O_O

Nicole: I probably wouldn't have thought about it too hard if I hadn't actually thought about it FOR the group. My initial response was loving the writing and the worlds; it was only when I thought about it that I realized that, as much as I love the mythology, I hadn't connected to Prague.

Angie: I was fully prepared to be the lone voice of dissent, as up until now I had seen not a single nay from any sayers. NOT ONE. Feel less like a curmudgeon. Thanks for that, YAcks.

Holly: ‎Janice, I am surprised too, but I'm kind of glad the majority of YAcks are in the minority, even if I'm excluded. We're just cool that way, standing out without even trying! Since I wasn't able to reread the book, I reread my review today, and I found it interesting that my focus was on the basic world concept, the characteristics of the chimaera and the angels, and the beauty of the prose. Some of the specifics I mentioned were how much I liked Karou's friend Zusana, the teeth wishes, and the plot twists. No mention of Akiva, Madrigal, or Karou, which means they probably didn't either irk me OR wow me. And Laura, I'm more than up for hanging at Brimstone's shop. Or the chimaera world for that matter. Or for Angie and anyone who wants to join us, Prague.

Melissa: What Holly said. The end.

Donna: We have an unbridled ability to suck the joy out of most books if we're so inclined. I'm pretty sure it's a talent none of us knew we had until we joined forces and started YAcked. Synchronistic soul-sucking, I believe it's called.

Nicole: What if you were already soulless before joining the group?

Sya: I think soulnessless was a pre-requisite.

Donna: Step 1 complete.

Sya: By all.

The Spread1:
Thumbs up
In between
Thumbs down

YAckers Daughter of Smoke and Bone reviews:

Holly's review at The Book Harbinger
Laura's review at A Jane of All Reads
Melissa's review at The Book Nut
Janice's review at Janicu's Book Blog
Sandy's review at Pirate Penguin's Reads

1 We strongly condemn those who just skip to the rating to an end of fiery torment.


  1. We couldn't shut up about this one, could we? I also think it's the first book that kind of divided us like this. Everything else we've pretty much unanimously liked it or hated it.

  2. What a fun review! And funny that you were all so varied in your opinions. I've mostly heard good things about this book.

  3. I loved the book, but I probably would have loved it MORE if the second half of the book hadn't been focused on the romance. Karou and her chimera family were THE BEST, and I'm not particularly into insta-love plotlines. I mean, the insta-love was validated in a way that let me enjoy the rest of the book, but Brimstone and Karou and the hunt for teeth was just much more interesting to me.

  4. I've been divided on reading this series. Your reviews were awesome and well thought out. Articulate. I still don't

  5. I loved the story up until the last 100 pages or so where it seemed to devolve into insipid romance. Loved the setting and the magic system using wishes though. Laini Taylor can certainly write well. Loved this YAck :)

  6. Daughter of Smoke and Bone is a thrilling fantasy with mystery, love, and adventure. The plot is perfectly paced to reveal answers throughout, rather than a large build up with everything at the end. Can't wait to read the second book!

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