Binge watching is the new black, but as we deal in books we’ll binge read a whole bunch of series for you and write about them. Be aware though, we’ll discuss the entire series, so expect there to be spoilers. Skip the books-section if you don’t want to know what happens.
What is the series about?
Daughter of Smoke & Bone is a YA fantasy trilogy, tackling angels and chimaeras. A young girl with a mysterious background is living in Prague, studying at an art school. No one really knows where Karou comes from, but with her bright blue hair that never seems to grow out and strange drawings of monsters, she’s definitely the subject of lots of rumors. Together with her best friend, snippy/amazing Zuzana, they hang out at their favorite death-themed restaurant and enjoy drawing and puppetry. But Karou gets called out on mysterious errands of which one leads her to Marrakesh. Here she locks eyes with Akiva, a seraphim (angel), and the mystery of Karou slowly starts to unravel. What follows is a great mythology of ‘angels & demons’ written with wit and excitement. I have to say that the synopsis and subject matter didn’t immediately catch my interest and I went into this series with low expectations, but I was wrong and I will admit it. I enjoyed the hell out of this! Also, I got obsessed with having blue hair for a little while…
So who wrote this?
Laini Taylor is an American author, living in Portland and sporting bright pink hair. She writes fantasy novels for young adults and has written 17 books, containing 2 series, and a bunch of short stories.
Tell me about the books!
Daughter of Smoke & Bone: Here we meet Karou, her best friend and her strange, strange family. We find out that she was raised by chimaera, particularly one called Brimstone, and that she goes out on dangerous missions to gather teeth for him. Obviously this book is the setup, introducing us to magic, angels, chimaera and Eretz, the mysterious world where they all come from. The story sets up the love interest Akiva, a seraphim who also has magical abilities and comes straight out of the dark-handsome-and-brooding department. The story has some cliches, such as the instant connection between Akiva and Karou and the fact that they are supposed to be arch nemesis-es, The story sounds like too many other books that I’ve read, but when I did actually read it, I found that it contains something more. Taylor does a great job creating the characters, especially the female ones, as none of them are typical YA heroines. She creates distinct and funny voices for all of them and spins a story that is entertaining and interesting. I liked the first book more than enough to keep reading, but the ending did feel a bit jarring. It ended somewhat too sudden for my taste and I didn’t like the big revelation that much.
Days of Blood & Starlight: That is, until we get to the second book. We pick up the story a bit into the future, leaving it a mystery what exactly happened with Karou and Akiva after finding out he killed Brimstone and the rest of her makeshift family. This book really focuses on the world-building, introducing us to many new characters and deepening all the existing ones. We also get a whole lot of back story that, for me, put the big revelation in perspective. Second books are often my favorite for this reason, because I love getting to know the people, and this is no exception. I was very scared that we wouldn’t get any Zuzana and her awesome boyfriend Mik in this book, but luckily they quickly find their way to Karou and her monsters. From there on it’s fun with chimaera and angels alike, as we meet warlord Thiago and his merry band of monsters, but also Liraz and Hazael, who are Akiva’s siblings. We get a good idea of their relationships and personalities and the book does a great job setting up the final book. On it’s own though, this book feels like the dark one of the series. Karou and Akiva have to find a way to get passed the whole ‘murdering her family thing’ and then near the end when Karou almost gets raped by a half-wolf… that’s some dark shit. This second book is gritty and it definitely doesn’t gloss over the bad things that happen when your life is a fantasy story. Luckily there is enough Mik & Zuzana fun to offset the drama and the best part is that Zuzana and Liraz get to meet. They are both stone-cold bad asses and I wish they would go on an adventure together.
Dreams of Gods and Monsters: Book 3 feels the most ambitious and the set up of the finale is pretty amazing. Taylor adds a new character, Eliza, who turns out to be a descendant from the seraphim and unfortunately functions as a deus ex machina. I loved the start of this book, enjoying how angels and chimaera were becoming friends and how Karou and Akiva were mending their ways. There were some minor annoyances, like the lovers constantly being dragged apart, but nothing I couldn’t handle. Then a massive battle ensued and the stakes were raised. Liraz was about to lose the only man she might ever fall in love with and the good guys seemed to be losing. It was very exciting until there was still about a fifth left in the book and the battle was won. All there was left was to deal with the Stelians and the book kind of doesn’t deal with it at all. The ending was the biggest disappointment of the series. Writing endings is hard and I think Taylor does a decent job at wrapping up the story, but I was left wanting to know more. I also didn’t like that Akiva turned out to be the central hero of the story, instead of Karou. It all felt a little too much like the chosen one, adding yet another destiny for someone who already had too many destinies to fulfill.
So, why should I read this series?
Daughter of Smoke & Bone really surprised me. I read quite some YA fantasy (always on the lookout for the new Harry Potter) and mostly I find the same thing. A young girl in need of a boy who will save her. Even though the girl seems to kick ass, she still desperately wants to be saved. This series has none of that. Karou needs Akiva, but he needs her just as much to save the world (except for that ending, but I’m ignoring that here). The characters really felt like actual people instead of shipping machines for teen romances. I like how Karou and Akiva’s relationship never got to take center stage. They are star-crossed lovers clearly, but the faith of the world(s) is also in their hands and this is much more important than two people being in love. Besides this, Taylor does an amazing job writing the side characters. Mik, Zuzana, Liraz and Zhiri are all amazing and I was not once bored when the story veered away from our two protagonists. And can Laini please write that short story about the adventures of Zuzana and Liraz? I need to read that so bad. This whole series is just good fun, besides being exciting and inventive. I laughed and cheered for all of them and was sad to see them go.
Series rating: 4/5
Are there any special features/extras, because I need more?!
Yes! Laini Taylor wrote a short story called Night of Cake and Puppets about Mik and Zuzana, narrating the night they met and had their first date. Helped with a little bit of magic, Zuzana creates the perfect scavenger hunt, leading to herself as the prize. It is too adorable. The story is so sweet it hurts. It’s like eating an entire cake made out of cupcakes and even though it is making you feel nauseous, you can’t stop because it is so delicious. I love Mik and Zuzana. They are such a no-nonsense couple, especially compared to Karou and Akiva. They don’t have immense obstacles to overcome, besides the regular relationship troubles and that makes them relatable. But they are also so cute. Mik has a really weird fear of cats and Zuzana might act all cool on the outside, but on the inside she’s so nervous about kissing someone for the first time. This story is a 100 pages full of cuteness, that will make any real first date pale in comparison.
Is there a box/gift set?
Of course there is. And it’s so pretty! But it doesn’t include the Mik/Zuzana story as this was published as an ebook and audiobook only.
How do I fill the Daughter of Smoke & Bone void?
In tone it reminded me of The Grisha Trilogy and also I will never stop recommending those books to anyone who loves fantasy YA. But assuming you’ve already read those, I’m going to recommend Seraphina by Rachel Hartman. I still have to read that one myself though, so expect another boring series recommendation soon.