My Review of Daughter of Smoke and Bone

tumblr_nr6rlhia261rkciaro1_1280At OhSoCleverReads, I recently reviewed the fantasy novel Daughter of Smoke and Bone:

I was really into this book. Was. As in I stopped. Because it didn’t work out between us. I will explain why.
This book started off weird and abrupt – kinda like a cheesy pickup line. But I kept on reading. I flirted with it. I was excited to read it. It made me all giggly and warm inside. [Insert the stomach-butterflies reference from the book here]. It’s rare I ever get so excited about a book. I wanted more. But in the end it was shallow and not spousal material. Though, it was a nice little fling: 
Though the subject was cliché, I’d never actually read about an art student before – always another bookworm (bookworms write about bookworms, you see. It’s only easy). Despite that the main character, Karou, had the stereotypical artist tattoos and blue hair – all toooooo cliché (but then again what art student isn’t?) – I was willing to give her a chance. 
Too many “magical” elements were foreshadowed in first chapter. It was information overload. Yay for jumping right into the story, but I was overwhelmed by what the reader’s supposed to pick up on. For example: the chimerical BEINGS and their NAMES and VOCATIONS, the strange TATOOS and the African bead-WISHES, the normal human FRIENDSHIPS Karou’s involved in.
I had to refer back to the first part later on because it got confusing. But, I was able to look past that because the story was fun and, all things considered, undemanding. It was so freaking entertaining!
By chapter four I was rolling my eyes at the VERBOSE and SMARTY-PANTS knowledge of Prague art/architecture/setting the author not only knew about but called upon. She uses “Rococo,” “Baroque,” and “Gothic” all in one paragraph. There were probably no vocab words left in the humanities dictionary. This (to me) was the equivalent of a New Yorker rambling on about Soho or coffee or the subway. I wanted to barf all over like I do Lena Dunham’s nepotism (but not Lena Dunham herself – love you gurl! …Wow. What a passive-aggressive thing I just did. You make me hate myself). That’s what Taylor’s “world-building” was to me. 
However (despite all of these pretentious faults), I was willing to overlook it. And I kept on reading. See, Taylor’s faults aren’t egregious. They weren’t something I couldn’t swallow…Even though they had an aftertaste. For example, I had never HEARD of Taylor before this book. I thought this was her first novel. I was willing to be nicer because I thought she was a cute pink-haired baby that needed love and support. When I later discovered that this WASN’T her first, I was a little embarrassed for her. BUT I kept on reading. Shamefully. 
Around page 100, however, Taylor introduces ideas about the Christian mythos and it’s around this point that the story starts to lose some of its magic – just a lil bit. IMO, she didn’t have to get into any of “that.” She didn’t HAVE to explain herself. I already believed. And I already had my mythos created that made sense of her world. She was kind of shoving her religion (or lack thereof) down my throat. It’d be like J.K. Rowling saying that witches and wizards are actually mortal descendants of some god and that’s where they get their magic from. Because then I’d have to believe in gods and not what I already believe. Writers shouldn’t create such a narrow view because it not only limits my imagination but it limits their story’s affect. If it doesn’t need to be explained, then don’t. 
The angels in the story are built up and up and up and then, when demystified, were less fun. The main angel in the story falls for Karou too quickly. It was gross. It was too simple and too easy for Taylor to “do” it as she did. At this point, I was expecting more from her. Taylor’s novel ended up being like the rabbit in the RABBIT VS. TURTLE RACE – the one that made good progress at the beginning but lost to Mr. T who kept its natural pace. 
On page about 151 the story [small spoilers] says that Karou’s demon-chimera adoptive father left her a BUNCH of inheritance. So, she’s rich. But Taylor never really says how Karou found out that she was rich. Yes, I guess it’s possible she could have figured it out on her own but…If Brimstone had been hiding it from her and then Brimstone died (as well as her entire connection to the chimera world)… How would she ever find out?  DOES NOT COMPUTE.
I also didn’t like how the angels made it into mainstream news. I don’t like it when my fantasy doesn’t make sense with reality. I want there to be no proof that this book didn’t happen. And it didn’t. Because angels were never in the news or all over the internet. This makes the book illogical and therefore less likable. 

It was also around the angels-in-the-news part that I noticed the editing of the book became…less. I noticed not only typos but no content editing. It was like her editor(s) read the first half and saw that it was so good that they were like “Why bother with the rest of it? This half is good – the last half must be great too! Let’s just shove this onto shelves because we’re more interested in making money than promoting good stories. Nap time for us!”
Seriously, I would have been a better beta reader than what you got, girl. I’m offering my services. Fo free. 

…The whole “war” concept between the chimeras and angels got a little hard to believe/pity/not laugh at. Maybe if it hadn’t been a full-fledged war, I would have liked it. Maybe if chimeras and angels didn’t have their own WORLDS, I would have accepted it. But what started out as an urban fantasy became an epic fantasy – an epic fantasy that came close to needing a MOTHER-EFFING map. And me no gusta maps. 

The chimera-angel conflict could/should have been more like… “This small group of creatures over here can just hate this other small group of creatures that also live in our world alongside us but that we never notice.” THAT SORT OF UNCOMPLICATED THING.
I had already invested myself so much into one concept-setting (Prague) that I was a little pissed I had to leave it for the angel-chimera world(s) – WAS there more than one world even? I found it hard to tell. I was bored. And pissed. 
And then when Karou falls in love with Mr. Prettyfacewithwings I was growing grumpier. They haven’t spent more than 72 hours together and already want to BANG LIKE MONKIES. Or, excuse me, they just want to touch each other. A lot. 
But they never actually a-make-a the sexy sex. They only make goo-goo eyes at each other. It was little better then what I call Twilight…Which is abstinence porn. I mean, WHY THE HELL NOT make them have sex? The rest of the book has nudity and cursing and adult content (ME GUSTA) but SEX? No. No sex. If you’re going to be so instantaneously lustful WHY NOT? What’s the point of NOT doing it?!? It wouldn’t be any LESS likeable than how their love life actually plays out.
If you’re going to have all this mushy stuff in there then at LEAST let them have some fun. Only Karou’s [SPOILER] past self (Madrigal) and Akiva (the Angel) had some real romance. And THAT was just some dull flashback you already knew had happened.  
And can I just say that “reincarnation” was a cop-out? It was. I mean, fine. I’ll take it. But I saw it coming. (My backup guess was that Karou was actually Madrigal’s daughter and so that was how they weren’t going to “end up” together. Which they [SPOILER] don’t). 
Other than this, another negative thing is that there are no major plot twists. You see all of them coming. You see them building up. It’s not a shock when they happen. All the plotting leads exactly where you thought it would. The ending was just as average as the rest of it. And I had really realy REALLY  hoped this book was using its mediocrity as a clever disguise all along. But it wasn’t. That was its face. It was wearing no mask. 
Sad face. 
A COOL thing about this book, however, was that it was written in English but basically the characters are always speaking another language. Which is AWESOME. More books like this, please. (Books without the English entitlement, but without all the work of learning a new lang-lang). 
And, the dialogue is done SO well – I could hear the characters speaking in my head. They sounded so real. I think that’s Taylor’s strength. 
Also, as someone who has had 2 rounds of braces and retainers (for baby teeth AND grown-up teeth (I had some major sh*t going on)) I don’t think the premise of tooth-pulling is silly at all — if you even thought that. Tooth pain is the worst pain. I’d rather be shot in the foot than go through that hell again. Breaking my arm was more fun. And easier to fix. 
Also, I saw Brimstone as a Mr. Carson (from Downton Abbey) character. Humph and stuff. 

Do I recommend this book? Heck yes I do. Read it. It’s been the most entertaining so far (ALL THANKS TO ME IT WAS ON MY LIST I’M A GOOD BOOK PICKER AHAHAHA!!!!). 
Will I read the next in the series? Nah. BUT, if the whole series was crammed into one volume like Karou’s and Akiva’s relationship was crammed then yeah. I would have kept on reading. 
Now, I leave you with three other things that bothered me but I would have excused *IF* the story had been better: 
1. Having a masquerade in the same book where a setting is PRAGUE. Of course you would.
2. Having names I cannot pronounce – Like “Karou” (And yet Brimstone is “Brimstone”).
3. Making angels and demons battle it out. If you ain’t going to go all Christian on us, it didn’t have to come to that.
Read the full review(s) over at OhSoCleverReads. Next month Hel and I will be reviewing The Grapes of Wrath. Watch for it there!

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