book review

book review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

2.5 stars

Spoiler heavy. Shouldn’t matter now because it’s been years since this book came out. Let’s jump in!

WTF? I thought this book was supposed to be good, man.

World – 3.5/5

DOSAB embodies the concept of “style over substance”. The world is the strongest element in the book. Taylor definitely has some creative concepts to work with such as the chimera and seraphim world and the resurrections, but the ideas are tossed in without much meaning. They held off revealing the truth about Madrigal; the world of the chimera and seraphim; and how chimera resurrection works for way too long. The writing focuses too much on describing things that don’t matter rather than jumping right to the good stuff. Having to wait more than 70% of the book to actually get a glimpse of the other world is too much to ask from me.

Characters – 2.5/5

Karou – I did not dislike Karou but rather I dislike how the writing treats Karou. Same goes for Madrigal. The writing treats her like she can do no wrong and of course, the people who don’t kiss her ass are all evil and weak-willed. Things the writing always has to remind us about Karou:

  • Creamy skin
  • Literal wish fulfilment
  • A tourist of the world – the world is her playground
  • She’s beautiful
  • She’s pure and “pure”
  • Birdlike, lithe goddess of the night
  • can do no wrong
  • Did I mention beautiful? So beautiful characters just betray her because she’s so beautiful it hurts.

etc. etc.

Please. We get it. She’s a quirky, cute, skinny white girl with blue hair. I won’t forget, I promise. If Karou were not the protagonist, she would come off as a manic pixie dream girl, but instead she is the protagonist and she is the hot topic-esque special quirky girl who can do no wrong because she has protagonist armor. This is so transparent. It is literally wish fulfilment. And Madrigal? Heh, the same but a chimera and more pure. What bothers me even more about Madrigal is that she’s put in these really uncomfortable situations, but the writing drags you out of the severity of the situation by focusing intensely on how Madrigal is a pulchritudinous pure quirky goddess – so beautiful, pure and virginal, there is nobody like her. Theyre tee-heeing at you so hard, it is distracting as hell and I can’t take it seriously.

I was legitimately mad when Madrigal didn’t see Chiro’s betrayal when she KNEW how upset and insecure Chiro was about her body. I don’t see how she is held up as such a revolutionary but for most of the time we see her she is bending to the whims of others or at least trying to circumvent them without taking direct action. I think it’s just ass-kissing because in the end. Karoumadrigal is the only one that matters; everyone else can fuck off.

Her relationship with Akiva was almost sweet when we actually got the reveal near the end, but overall neither of them are really all that deep and it happened so quickly that I can’t believe this book was 420 pages and nothing really happened.

Other characters – none of the other characters matter because this is the Karoumadrigal show. Brimstone should have had more spotlight, he is the most interesting character in this book, but all his actions revolve around this stupid ass Mary Sue child he took under his wing.

Plot – 1.5/5

The pacing sucks. Even if you’re one of those people who loves Laini Taylor’s prose, I cannot for the life of me understand how you could overlook how slow and full of fat this book is. You cannot tell me this book is so worth it when it takes 300 pages to get to the (relatively) good stuff. The same story could be told in half the amount of pages. It picks up 75% of the way through, but then doesn’t follow up on the momentum it gains; Instead, it relies on uninspiring, fragmented flashbacks to end the story.

Worst of all, not much even happens in the first installment. This book is basically a flashback montague. Even though the flashback section is superior compared to the first half of the book, it quickly becomes stale as it is told somewhat out of order. The initial chimera world flashback is overextended. It is necessary because the book literally gives you no answers unti then, but how long it was felt disjointed.

Writing – 2/5

I don’t get it.

I mean, I get it, but I don’t think it’s all that great like everybody props it up to be. With practice, I could do better.

The writing is rhythmic and stylized but not deep and sometimes non-sensical. It still somehow manages to tell us over show us the most important things and describe unpertinent things in a needlessly complicated manner. In short, it’s pretty but imprecise. You can write prose that is flowery but still quick to the point – this was not that. Example:

The wind blew through her B L U E hair. = “The wind was spiteful; with an insurgent gust it freed her hair, then danced in to seize it; in an instant it was everywhere, as if a pod of air elementals were trying to make of with it, to line their nests with its blue silk.” – p. 220

Many passages are riddled with pointless metaphors that didn’t make sense and only took up space. The abuse of semicolons was atrocious and I don’t ever want to relive that experience.

The dialogue is cringy in an attempt to be cute/quirky and somewhat dated. This book was published ~2012, and it very much reminded me of the late 2000s and early 2010s e.g. something I’d hear from being in a Hot Topic in 2010.

Conclusion: I don’t understand the rave reviews for DOSAB or its writing. It’s a tier above mediocre YA reads based on the creativity, but its execution is below average at best.


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