So yesterday I finished Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor (the first in a trilogy) and oh wow, it was good! I struggled so hard to put this book down for even a second; the world just continued to suck me in minute after minute. The characters were so interesting and the world was incredibly complex and exciting to discover. This book is high fantasy and it was amazing but the it required a lot of world building so I don’t recommend reading this if you are new to the genre. I do recommend it to literally everybody else though because it is amazing. Alright lets get on to the booktalk then. As per usual it will be split into spoiler and non-spoiler sections.
Around the world black hand prints are appearing on doorways, courtesy of the winged strangers who have arrived unannounced. In the streets of Prague, torn between two worlds, a young girl is about to caught in a brutal otherworldly war. Karou is a 17-year-old art student who fills her art books with sketches of monsters who may or may not be real. When beautiful yet haunted Akiva lays eyes on her in the crowded streets of Marrakesh secrets are unveiled and a star-crossed love affair, rooting deep in history, is uncovered. But will Karou want to hear what these secrets are?
This book, for me, was really fast-paced. It does take 150 pages or so to get the world properly built but it was so interesting I honestly didn’t care. Karou and Akiva are characters I had an instant connection with an I feel bound to them in a way I haven’t felt bound to characters in a long while. This book really did just have absolutely everything and I really recommend to those of you who are experienced readers.
So the story opens with Karou and Kazimir, who I kind of disliked instantly but at the same time found fascinating. We learn that Karou lives in Prague and that the images she draws in her sketchbook are actually real but her friends have been led to believe they’re fake. This was interesting in my mind and I could really clearly envision Karou showing her incredible drawings and saying they’re real, with that knowing smile on her face. We meet Zuzanna, who I love instantly, which makes me really anticipate meeting more supporting characters (assuming, of course, that they are as awesome as she).
We then enter the actual art class and Kaz is a model, forcing Karou into drastic measures to embarrass him. She uses her Scuppies (I think) to make his bottom all itchy in front of the entire art class. The scale for the wishes was a little confusing but also really interesting. There were (and I hope these are in order): Scuppies, Shing, Lucknow, Gravriel and Bruxis. Wishes with a lower order can’t be added together to create a larger wish which sucks because with all the Scuppies Karou had she could’ve had a Gavriel, or at least a Lucknow.
The cafe Karou and Zuzanna go to after the class sounded really cool. The decor was really Gothic and it just seemed pretty amazing to be eating at a coffin while a statue of a Greek God looking down on you. The scene after this is the first time we meet Karou’s family and it was amazing.
Karou’s family are all Chimaera, meaning they are sliced up parts of all different animals shoved together to make one person or thing or whatever. This concept was really interesting and I liked seeing what each of the Chimaera looked like. The first member of Karou’s family we met was Kishmish, the weird bird thing, who was really just a pet of Brimstone’s, the family member we know most about. The second person we meet is Issa and I absolutely cannot explain it but I just had this instant love for Issa. I view her as the fun aunt to Karou; the one who gave her all the girly talks and would’ve gone shopping with her had she not have scared anyone after stepping outside.
We then meet Yasri, Twiga and Brimstone. Brimstone is a character a really didn’t trust in the beginning but as we began to learn more about him, I found my trust growing slightly. I still don’t like him completely but that may change as I venture into the second book in the trilogy. Brimstone is the collector of teeth, in return giving clients wishes. Founding out what the teeth were used for and how the magic happened was interesting but disturbing, but we’ll get to that later.
Skipping forward a little, Karou heads to Marrakesh to meet with Izil, an old client who has been cursed with the invisible Razgut after wishing for knowledge. It’s here that we meet Akiva for the first time, the gorgeous angel who has a weird fascination with Karou. We learn that Akiva feels familiar around her; that she reminds him of someone. To be perfectly honest my first guess was that Karou was his unintended daughter, born without his knowledge from Madrigal, the woman we know he once loved. Akiva was a interest to me from the very first moment we officially met him and he continued to be throughout the novel.
Karou is hurt and taken into the shop but then realizes the secret door is open and she sneaks in to take a look at whats in there. It’s there we semi-discover what the teeth are for. We see that all these seemingly dead Chimaera are lying on tables, all bearing the Hamsas (which were really fascinating) that Karou herself wears. Brimstone catches her and throws her out in the snow, which made me really sad and kind of strengthened my distrust of Brimstone.
After that the portals all close for good and Karou is left on her own. She finally tells Zuzanna everything about her life, which I was really glad about, and goes about trying to find another way into Elsewhere, which we later discover is called Eretz. She gathers wishes from the suppliers she has often seen in Brimstone’s shop. She manages to procure two Gavriels and she uses one on the wish of flight. My first thought was that it was going to go horribly wrong and she wouldn’t be able to land and would fly off the earth, eventually dying through lack of oxygen. But no, that isn’t what happened.
She comes face to face with Akiva again and they have a fight mid-air in the middle of Kaz’s vampire tours, so naturally it is all caught on camera. This is the third appearance we have of Kaz and too be honest he was interest as such a central supporting character in the beginning I was sure he would have more appearances. I think he will probably appear in the other books . . . oh joy.
This is where Karou and Akiva’s relationship really starts to develop. I loved the scene where they were in the cafe and Zuzanna joined them and was prepared to start yelling but instead was like “must. mate. now”. Then later Akiva sees the wishbone and his glamour disappears and he becomes so vulnerable. To be honest this was one of my favourite scenes; to see a character I was so interested in stripped down to his core was an intense and delightful experience.
It’s then that we meet Hazael and Liraz, and I cannot have been the only one that thought Hazael was the woman and Liraz was the man. I think I thought that because Hazael is very close to Hazel which is traditionally a woman’s name. Karou is this scene was so fierce and majestic and the image of her standing there with her hands outstretched and her hair blowing around her face was beautiful.
The next few scenes were the ones that were the most integral to the story. We got a lot of history to Akiva and Madrigal and they broke the wishbone, releasing the memories onto Karou. And it turns out she was Madrigal. The history was really fascinating and I was really disgusted with the idea of Thiago; he was pretty much a pervert. Chiro (is that even her name) was a really traitorous character but I understand why she did what she did. She just wanted to be recognized as beautiful for once in her life, and bearing the Hamsas her life was a long one. The beauty and simplicity of Akiva and Madrigal’s love was so peaceful and amazing to read about and experience second hand. We then learnt he full truth about the teeth: they are used to recreate Chimaera who die and wear the Hamsas. This was such a revelation but made a much more intense story seeing as Karou bore the Hamsas too. When Madrigal was being killed I could feel Akiva’s screams deep into my soul. It was the most torturous scene in the novel and it gave me great pain to hear his terror. Akiva said that Karou would be mad by the revelations the wishbone brought but they were all happy things so I thought it must be a mistake.
But no, he had to go drop the bombshell that he had actually killed Karou’s entire family. Good one Akiva. I still love him though. The book ended weirdly, because Karou is flying to Eretz with Razgut despite her families deaths. I don’t understand the point of this because if they are all dead anyway she’ll find nothing there and she won’t have Akiva with her. Who she very clearly is in love with.
Despite the ending I absolutely adored this book and I couldn’t stop thinking about it for hours after I finished it. It is definitely a five star book and I am so excited for the rest of the series to come out. I hope you enjoyed this book and feel free to comment your thoughts on the book, but please no spoilers for either of the sequels.
Signing off, Charlie.