Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Posted March 23, 2014 by Jessica in Jessica, Reviews, Young Adult / 112 Comments

Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor
Series: Daughter of Smoke & Bone #1
Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Published on: September 27 2011
Genres: Young Adult
Pages: 418
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
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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 grown 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 hairactually 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 beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery 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?

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Laini Taylor is a genius. No really. You know how “they” say that all myths and fairytales have an element of truth in them? How that element of truth is where the myths and fairytales originally came from? Well, in Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Laini Taylor treats all the myths like they’re Athena—sprung fully formed from the head of Zeus. Greek, Middle Eastern, Egyptian, various and sundry Pagan belief systems, it doesn’t matter, it all combines to make one glorious whole. There are Mesopotamian Hamsa on the hands of resurrected Naga (Hinduism/Buddhism), Greek Minotaurs, Egyptian jackals, and a multitude of other mythological creatures. Hamsa that repel the mishmash of creatures’ enemy, the Seraphim. Seraphim who are wholly unconnected to Christian, Jewish, or Muslim ideologies.

And the magic that both sides utilize must be paid for in PAIN. This (IMO) is the best and cleverest part b/c in European folklore, both Eastern and Western, there are all kinds of pagan belief systems focused on witchcraft, earth worship, manipulation of the elements, etc. Almost all of those belief systems center on the principle of payback. Karma. The Golden Rule. Pick one. All variants of the same basic idea—if you put good in the world, it will come back to you, and if you put bad in the world, that will come back to you as well. Taylor takes this principle and transforms it into something with tangible, immediate results. In her world, you don’t have to look over your shoulder waiting for your bad deeds to catch up to you, you pay as you go. Or someone pays.

Right. So. Meet Karou. Karou is a blue-haired girl who lives in Prague, where she is in enrolled in a school of the arts. Before that she was somewhere else, and before that, yet another place—rootless, homeless, Karou. When she was a child, she lived in an other-place, surrounded by other-creatures who were her friends and family, but when she got older, Brimstone (the othercreature in charge of those who raised her) sent her out into the human world, to learn human things, and run human errands b/c Karou is human.

But if Karou is human, then how did she become a part of this otherworld? How did she acquire languages as birthday gifts, and why did her hair turn blue when she wished it? Why has she had tattoos of an eye on the palm of each hand for as long as she can remember, and why does she constantly feel like something is missing, that she should be doing something, being something, a part of something, that she is not?

Daughter of Smoke & Bone will make you ache. It will make you clench your hands and clutch your arms around your stomach in trepidation of what Karou will learn, must learn about herself, about the othercreatures she calls family, about the strange, burnt hand prints that show up on the doors that are the gateways to their otherworld, and about the beyond beautiful man with the shadow that has giant wings who put them there.

Inexplicably, I left these books off my list of Top 5 YA Series a few weeks ago. It somehow slipped my mind, though it has clearly earned its place there. It’s simply the most brilliant and unique story I’ve read in recent memory. I love the characters, both main and secondary, I love the world-building, and the romance is simply fantastical. Daughter of Smoke & Bone hits you straight in the feels, and you love every second of it, want more of it, are devastated when it ends.

So it’s a good thing Dreams of Gods & Monsters, the third (and final?) installment of this series will be released in only a few short weeks. Are you ready?

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My name is Jessica and I live in Chattanooga, Tennessee. I’m trying my hand at writing, but mostly I read. My favorite genres are Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, Science Fiction, Urban Fantasy, and the YA versions of those genres, but if there is a book of a different color getting lots of buzz, I’ll read it too, just to be informed. If I’m not reading or writing, I’m probably on Goodreads or Pinterest or baking blueberry pies because I love them.

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112 responses to “Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

  1. I have had Daughter of Smoke and Bone on my TBR for a long time, and as with Skinwalker, you really made me want to read it right now! Excellent review, Jessica 🙂

  2. Oh, I so want to read this one!!! I love mythology and the immediate payment of pain for using magic has my imagination in overdrive. I want to know in what situations the characters are willing to pay. Is it for self preservation? Is it for personal gain? Excellent review. This one is going to the top of my TBR list.

    • It’s so good. I know I’ve been saying that about a lot of books, but that’s mostly b/c I’m re-reading my favorites in prep for the future releases in the series. Like this one. SO good! (and I’m not telling 😉 ).

  3. I so need to re-read this then continue with the series! Definitely not long after the last book is out. I just hope I’m not on the waiting list for too long at the library. I’m glad you loved this book though!

  4. I think you made my mind explode… I’m going to go pull out my Joseph Campbell books to get the pieces of my brain back together again. *tries to shove book in ear*

    Dang, that didn’t work.

    Awesome review! You’re too smart for me!

    I actually own the first two of this series and yeah…. haven’t read them 🙁

    • I’m not too smart for you! I just had to google Joseph Campbell, LOL. And you NEED to read these books. SOOO good. I just looked up my review from book 2 when I read it the first time, and I said I loved it even more than this one 😀

  5. Faye M.  

    I was kind of hesitant to read this first because of all the hype and praising reviews surrounding it. I tend to have a bad luck with those kind of books, but you definitely convinced me here. It’s rather a HUGE thing if a particular book is in your top 5 YA of all time 🙂 I really want to experience what you experienced while reading this book. Thanks for the review and rec, I’ll be buying a book of this next month!

    Faye at The Social Potato Reviews

  6. Wonderful review! This is one of my favorite YA series. This book was an amazing surprise 🙂 I guess we both are anxiously waiting for Dreams of Gods & Monsters

  7. You have the best taste in books, Jessica =) I love this series. I listened to the sequel instead of reading it and it was just as good. I can’t decide if I will read book 3 or get the audio version, but either way I’m excited =)

  8. I did love this one too. I am bad and haven’t read the second book. Which is ridiculous. I even went to her release party and know her personally. So sad and embarrassing. But that’s the life of a reviewer! I’m sure the series will continue to be awesome! I have read her other books and they are quite good as well.. 🙂

    • I have her Lips Touch book, and the first book of her other series (duology?), but I haven’t been able to get ahold of the second book. I’ll have to keep trying, I guess. Glad to hear they were all good as well 🙂

  9. wow it’s wonderful to have all these kinds of feelings during a book. I confess I heard many great things about this one but I haven’t read it and now I know I missed something. Iy sounds sooooo good! And you know, I love stories with mythology like that, it always intrigues me. So curious! Thanks Jessica for the lovely review!

    • You did! You missed a LOT of somethings 😉 And yes, the mythology in this is spectacular. I hope you can find a way to work it in (though I know how hard it is—I’m still trying to work in The Waking Engine, and I KNOW I will L-O-V-E it).

    • Yeah, I was trying to figure out if book 3 is the last book, but I’m not sure. It’s not listed as being a trilogy, but I see no plans for further installments . . . but sometimes they don’t show up until months after the last book was released. I guess it will be obvious by the end of book 3 though 😉

  10. I love this series! I can’t wait for Dreams of Gods & Monsters. After reading your review, I really want to reread the first two books before the last one comes out.

    • That’s the plan, LOL. Although it will be my first time through the Cake & Puppets novella, but everyone I’ve talked to who’s read it, has loved it. I’m gettin’ ready 🙂

  11. I am so glad to hear you enjoyed this Jessica!!!
    I read this one 2ish years ago and it didn’t work .-. I absolutely LOVED her writing and the world building but Karou and Akiva were the downfall for me. As more time passes though, I become more and more intrigued about what happens in the sequel and kind of want to read it. 😛 Your review makes me want to give it a second shot 😛

    Lovely review as always, Jessica!! :

    • I loved it. I can see how people that are meh about romance in YAs don’t like it as much, but you LOVE romance, so I don’t get it. Maybe it was a book funk. Book funks have ruined books for me in the past . . . or maybe it’s just not your thing. Whatever you do, don’t read it now, b/c you’re clearly in another book funk, LOL. Maybe Hex Hall will make it all better 😉

      • It wasn’t a book slump it was just that I couldn’t forgive Akiva for what he’d done in the name of love.. and Karou.. well I thought that Karou fell in love too easily :/

        Their past was beautiful but .. the present not so much.

        I DO love my romance though 😛

        Me hopes so… so far so good ^_^

        I am really looking forward to re-reading a certain book later on though (Nevermore.. If you haven’t read it, TBR.. NOW)

  12. I want to read this sooo bad. I thought I WAS but I borrowed out Smoke and Bone and was reading it thinking, “Isn’t there a character supposed to be called Karou in here??” DUH MOMENT. But I’m still attempting to read this too. 😉

    • Whoopsie 😉 Do you mean Shadow and Bone? With Alina and Mal? That’s another re-read of mine, LOL. Just a few days ago, I think. So hey, at least the accidental book is still a good one, right?

  13. I’ve been meaning to read this book for every long time and I actually have the second one approved on Netgalley. Of course I can’t read it because I haven’t read the first book LOL. I kind of skimmed your review since I plan to read this soon but your rating got me really excited 🙂

  14. Oh I didn’t know the third book was coming out soon or that it was the last one! Looks like I’ve picked the right time to add this to my reading calendar. I grabbed it in an audible sale a few weeks ago and immediately stuck it on my calendar for June 15 (which means I’ll probably read it in May). Guess I might just blow through the whole series. This is a fantastic review – makes me want to go and move my calendar around so I can get to the book sooner!

    • Well, whether you read it sooner OR later, I predict that you will indeed blow through the whole series—gotta love YA cliffys 😉 I can’t wait to see what you think about them!

  15. Woohoo, 5 stars! I loved this one too, I think this was one of the few YAs that actually nailed “Forbidden Love” perfectly, though I think the romance lost a bit of its magic once we hit book 2. I’m still really looking forward to the third book though 🙂

    • Yep! I’m really bad about lowering ratings with re-reads, but this one held fast. And I think Taylor did an excellent job nailing “Forbidden Love” too. I don’t remember if I thought book 2 lost some of the magic, but I’ll be re-reading it in the next week or so, so we’ll see 😉 And of course all of this is getting ready for book 3!

  16. Pabkins  

    Zow, if I had to literally pay for bad deeds….well hmmm evil mastermind plans dont count if I never hatch them. I know i know why havent I read it yet!!?

  17. Full disclosure, I rarely read books with magical elements, except maybe for Harry Potter. You’re making me want to venture out of my comfort zone, We’ll see!! 😉

    • Full disclosure, I rarely read books WITHOUT magical elements, lol. I guess scifi/dystopians don’t have magical elements but they are futuristic which can be almost the same thing. No worries 😉 Every reader is different, but hey, we all love books, and that’s what I think matters.

  18. bookaholiccat  

    Yes! Yes! I’m more than ready. Dreams of Gods & Monsters is my most anticipated book (audiobook) of the year.
    I loved Daughter of Smoke & Bone not only because it’s a masterpiece, I also loved it because it made me discover the talented Khristine Hvam.
    I’m sure the book is a good read, but the audiobook, thanks to Khristine Hvam, is extraordinary. If you can, I recommend you to listen to it.

    • You’re like the third person who has told me that! I have to take two separate 12(ish) hour road trips this summer, and it looks like this is audio is what I’ll be listening to 😉

  19. Omg I love this series. SO READY FOR DOGM. It’s almost here it’s almost here it’s almost here 😀
    I really loved the concept of pain being used as the cost for magic too! It’s just so clever. I loved the writing in general too- so lyrical :’)

    • I loved it all. I loved it so much that I was actually surprised I was able to coherently explain all the things that I loved, LOL. A lot of times after a book like this, I just kind of sit there dumbfounded. And I am SO ready for DOGM. TWO WEEKS!

  20. Yessssssss!!!!! I LOVED THIS BOOK SO MUCH JESSICA!!! It makes me so happy to see that you did as well. I agree completely, this book was as unique as they come, and I love how she combined so many different elements into one new mythology in this story. This book definitely did make me ache, as did book two and, inevitably, as will book three. I can’t wait. Glutton for beautiful punishment, party of one!

  21. I’ve heard such good things about Daughter of Smoke & Bone and really the whole series. I haven’t started it yet, but if the last one is coming out in a few weeks I’ll be able to do a marathon with the books! Woot! Great review Jessica 🙂

    • Thanks, Traci! And I’m almost sure that book 3 is the last book, but I haven’t really done enough looking around to say for certain. It will probably be obvious from my review of it though 😉

  22. I totally agree with you—Laini Taylor IS a genius. The entire book is full of magic, as in, leaping off the pages magic. And it truly does make you ache. Great review, Jessica, I couldn’t have said it any better.

    Hafsah @ IceyBooks

  23. Totally agreed that Laini Taylor is a freakin’ genius! Love this story so so so much. I think that the “paying for magic” is a clever thing as well since magic just doesn’t exist there for everyone to use, it comes with a price because it’s not normal so I love that it makes it more real, you know? I’m probably not making any sense haha. Agreed! This book is so emotional and pulls at one’s heartstrings like no other. It’s a gorgeous book with great characters, wonderful world building and an awesome plot. Sooooooo happy you loved it, Jessica 🙂 Haha, and yes! I’m beyond ready for the conclusion 😉 Great review, you!

    • Thank you, Siiri 🙂 And I think that “paying for magic” makes it more real too. That’s just one of many amazing things about this book—that something so completely magical and unique can somehow still seem real. I love it. And I’m beyond ready for the conclusion as well. I think a bunch of us are going to be stalking each others GR statuses when it comes out 😉

  24. I was never attracted to this book at all Jessica, but your review really makes me want to read it. I could buy it for my stepdaughter and then read it myself of course …

    • That sounds like an excellent way to feel it out. And even if you don’t like it, you’re stepdaughter probably will, so someone will appreciate it, and it won’t be a total loss 😉

  25. Gosh I love this book and I have been waiting far too long for the third book. I cannot wait. Laini is brilliant and her writing is so gorgeous, yes you are right this book makess you ache. Let’s hope the third book brings everything we want.

  26. This is one of those series I know I have to read but somehow there is always something else to be read first. But after this glowing review, I don’t think I’ll be able to resist. Unique is my fave word used to describe a book. Great review, Jessica 🙂

    • I’ve had three different people comment that this series is excellent on audio. Jennifer @ The Book Nympho even said that it’s her favorite narrator—Kristine Hvam? I’m almost convinced to get it on audio myself 🙂

  27. Christy

    Holy crap, I obviously need to read this. I remember when it first came out, I wasn’t too sure if I wanted to read it. Er, I guess I should have! Actually, I’m glad I waited, because now I can read the books close together. I think I’ll grab this book now.

  28. Alise (Readers in Wonderland)

    Am I ready? HA! I can’t wait to see how she ties all this up, it’s going to be great 🙂 The world building is incredibly fleshed out, which is surprising but awesome, just like you said 😀 The characters are probably my favorite part of the series, as they are just so complex!

  29. I really enjoyed this one too and I looved the whole teeth concept and I never would have guessed what they were used for! I also LOVE Karou so hard! I love her personality and her blur hair and her tough ass self! Glad you read this one and I hope you love the sequel! I think book 3 will be amazeballs!

    • I KNOW! I was like, “what’s the friggin’ deal the with teeth?!” over and over again, and then when you find out it’s just–WUAH. And I DID love book 2! I’m re-reading for DOGM 😉

  30. I’m still the odd one out, I suppose. I didn’t like this book at all. I felt that the beautiful writing hid some major issues and tropes I’m sick and tired of. However, most of my friends are huge fans, so it’s probably just that I didn’t connect to it emotionally, although I very much appreciate the gorgeous prose.
    Lovely review!

  31. I can see you gearing up for book three already! How awesome. I liked this book a lot, but I felt like the first half was stronger so I ended up with rather mixed feelings about some things. I’m curious about where the story goes, though, so I might pick it up again once all the books are out. I hope GODS AND MONSTERS lives up to your expectations!

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

    • Yeah, a lot of people had issues with it for various reasons, and I think that happens a lot with books that cross genres—is it fantasy or is it UF (and other issues besides)? This one just happened to really work for me. And yes, I hope DOGM lives up to my expectations too!

  32. YES! So happy to see that this one was a 5 star book for you! I absolutely adore the world that Taylor painted in this book…just the feel of it makes it one of my favorites. I wish so hard that it would be made into a movie!

  33. This is a book. You put is perfectly when you said it makes you “ache” because ooh, does it ever. I’ve not read the second yet because with the cliff hanger ending of this book I decided to wait until the last book came out before starting the second. It’s such torture!

  34. I loved this book so much. When I first read Daughter of Smoke and Bone I was amazed. I knew immediately that this author was going to be something special, and the fact that she incorporates so many elements from mythology/beliefs had me so excited. Like Kristin said it makes you want to pull out that old Joseph Campbell book out. Wonderful review, Jessica 🙂

    • Thank you! And I completely agree—I instantly knew Taylor was someone to watch. Sometimes you come across books that are so deliberately different that that’s all they are (weird and strange, but w/o substance), and then there are the times when the uniqueness is simply indicative of the author’s brilliance . . . Daughter of Smoke & Bone was like that for me 🙂