[ Book Review ] A book of multiple personalities

Meg’s Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

(Audiobook performed by Khristine Hvam)

Daughter of Smoke and Bone was on pace to be pretty much the most amazing YA I’ve read since the Hunger Games. The world was enthralling, the characters vibrant, the plot so off-the-wall mysterious that I positively could not stop listening. I did the most mind-numblingly menial tasks at work so that I could keep my entire focus on the narration, hanging on every single word the reader, Khristine Hvam, spoke.

And then I hit about the halfway point and the story took a hard right into romance territory. Yeah, okay, fine. It happens sometimes. I figured that it would dawdle about in lovey-dovey land for a bit and then pick the narrative right back up, and we’d move on with the action. Then an hour drew on. I had to switch to the second part of the audiobook, still under the assumption that I was about to dive back into a superb story. Then another hour. And then four. And I was 50 minutes from the end when I started cursing a blue streak; the carefully molded plot of the first half of the book really was going to be completely abandoned in favor of an other-worldly love story.

And what a plot it was. It’s practically impossible to explain without major spoilers, but here goes:

Daughter of Smoke and Bone follows Karou, oddball daughter of a demon wish-mongerer, who lives in Prague, a city so chock-full of quirks and mysteries that it comes as no surprise that it contains an entryway into the World of Beasts. Art-student by day, errand girl by night, Karou fetches the teeth of different creatures (including humans) for her adoptive father, Brimstone, without ever really knowing why. In exchange, she gets small wishes–little bits of magic that can turn her hair blue or cause a rival’s eyebrows to grow out of control. But all the while, she feels this longing, like a bit of her soul is missing. No, no, wait. That sounds way more emo than it really is. In fact, that bit of her soul that is missing makes for one stellar plot twist, one amazing character, one astounding….

Look. The ending was pretty much a big disappointment. And the reasoning comes back to one of my biggest YA pet peeves: pacing. But this time, it wasn’t because the author was trying to stretch a paper-thin plot across five books. For the first time in a long, long time, I wished the novel had been split into two books right down the middle. As it stands, I cannot in good conscience recommend this book until the sequel arrives.

But even with all that said, each half builds up a wonderful story. We are talking about the ultimate star-crossed lover trope mixed up with great turns of phrase and absolutely lovely prose. The reader, Hvam, did a fantastic job of capturing the wry humor and pain with which Karou approached her life–not to mention doing a lovely array of accents and inflections for every other character along the way.

I just wish Taylor could go back, re-outline the book and figure out a way that she could have woven the narratives of both halves of the story into one rich tale to transcended the story she gave us. Without ruining the mystery, of course.

Perhaps we can just call this the biggest set-up novel this side of The Fellowship of the Ring. Here’s hoping that the sequel can live up to the promise of the first six hours of Daughter of Smoke and Bone.

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One thought on “[ Book Review ] A book of multiple personalities

  1. Yeah, that ending (really, the whole second half of the book) comes WAY out of left field, and I really wish Taylor had worked it into the main narrative a little more seamlessly, too. That said, even though I normally hate romantic plots (and especially the Romeo-and-Juliet-ish kind of plot that emerges), the world in which this one was set was so weirdly and brilliantly constructed that I loved it once I got used to the switch. Hvam is a fantastic reader, too! I loved listening to her Zuzana and Brimstone, especially.

    Not sure if you’ve made it to Days of Blood and Starlight yet, but it’s worth a read if you’re at all curious to revisit the worlds of the angels and chimera. The third book, though, is kind of a letdown by the end. 😦

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