My family has always had a very good relationship with the owner of our local book store. He always had a reading suggestion for my sister and me when we were kids, and the last time I was in the shop was no exception. Knowing that I’ve always had a thing for YA fantasy (I was 12 when Twilight came out, sue me), he recently suggested that I check out the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy by Laini Taylor. He warned me that it would start out sounding like a vampire book but that it’s not a vampire book and that it would be worth it if I could make it through the first chapter or two, and he was right.
Without giving away too much, the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy is about a centuries long war between angels (though not quite as we know them) and chimera (half human/half animals) in a universe parallel to our own. The protagonist, Karou, is a 17 year old girl living in Prague who finds herself caught up in the war in ways that she never expected. Daughter of Smoke and Bone is an engaging read, full of enough romance and adventure that I was Googling for the sequel as soon as I finished reading. Days of Blood and Starlight, book 2 of the trilogy, fell slightly flat, but it honestly wasn’t the plot’s fault – I’ve found this happens often in sequels (it took me three tries to get through The Two Towers). While it’s full of action and character & plot development, it drags without much actual movement as most of the characters are stuck in one place for almost the whole book. Remember the camping chapters from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows? It’s kind of like that. Days of Blood and Starlight was also a lot darker than Daughter of Smoke and Bone – I’d be remiss if I didn’t include a trigger warning for attempted rape in my review. Things get a little bit lighter and the momentum picks back up in book 3, Dreams of Gods and Monsters. The trilogy actually ends in such a way that could have left the possibility for at least a book 4, but instead Taylor wraps things up in an epilogue, leaving the reader to assume future successes rather than dragging the plot out past where anyone could even want to follow (hem hem Supernatural, Pretty Little Liars, I could go on).
The Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy was very well thought out, with specific language and terminology invented for the plot’s mythology. The tone felt very reminiscent of fan fiction – there were a lot of tropes and cliches that I’ve seen before (teenage girl somehow allowed to live completely on her own even in high school, her spunky best friend who is of course only 5 feet tall but who comes with twice the personality to make up for it, romance with little present development based on a past life, etc.), and some of the dialogue definitely seemed stylistically familiar. As I’ve said before, you can wait and try to pry fan fiction from my cold dead hands, so the stylistic choices and tropes didn’t bother me at all, but they were noticeable and I can see where another reader could be turned off by the tone before getting far enough to be engaged by the actual plot (see: my sister).
Despite how much I did enjoy the trilogy, I was frustrated and disappointed by a romance that seemed very shoehorned in at the end of the last book. SPOILERISH: A character who definitely seemed coded as aromantic ends up surprising even herself by falling for someone at the end of the war. Is it really too much to ask to have some queer representation in a YA series? I mean especially in fantasy, out of everything that we read in the whole trilogy, having a character who isn’t romantically attracted to other people doesn’t seem like the most far-fetched thing in the world.
Overall, despite my disappointment with some of the romantic subplots, the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy was a super entertaining read that I devoured in about three days, and I would definitely recommend it to other lovers of YA fantasy.
Comment below if you’ve read it – what did you think?