Monday, May 14, 2012

The Epic Romance of Daughter of Smoke and Bone: A Review

I've been waiting to review Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor ever since I started reading it. I have quite a few things to say about this book, so bear with me.

When I was introduced to Karou, the blue-haired, leggy, gorgeous MC, I was immediately put off. She was too perfect. (Later I realized why, but that's a massive spoiler.) Karou has an almost magical life in Prague, where she attends art college with her best friend and avoids her harlequin-romance-handsome ex-boyfriend.

She is a girl raised by 'monsters' with no real family to speak of, so she is lonely, left wondering about her past. This is the first sympathetic glimpse we see in Karou. Otherwise, she lives the perfect life - she's in a magical, romantic city, free from the shackles of mundane responsibility. She lives on her own in an apartment, the only burdens on her time the errands her monstrous father figure Brimstone sends her on (to exotic locations where she gets to dress up like a sexy bond girl).

I stopped identifying with her after the art school part.

What saved this book for me was Taylor's writing style, her descriptive phrases and almost poetic prose that made Prague and Marrakesh come alive. Her style has color - whether it be muted winter grays or spicy oranges and yellows, it's undeniable and enveloping.

Then there's her mythos and the major conflict taking place outside of our world. That was awesome. It was intriguing and curious and epic - which wars that span hundreds of years tend to be. The supporting characters were fun and well-developed, although a couple of them didn't get as much attention as others. They were colorful too.

Unfortunately, the story didn't continue like this. Around the middle of the book Karou's love interest was introduced and it became a Romeo and Juliet story. The twists to the original idea were good, so I didn't resist the slide into romance. But the romance didn't stop.

I must be dead inside because I haven't experienced the soul-surging feeling Karou did with her strikingly beautiful love interest. He's even more beautiful than Karou herself. This beauty, combined with the bigger-than-life love they shared was too much. We're talking epic romance - the kind of romance that's dazzling and overblown, that makes two people go supernova when they barely brush each other's fingertips, and satisfies every physical, mental, and spiritual need they will ever have.

Call me a realist, or practical, or even dead inside, I don't believe a love interest - handsome or not - can do that for you.

What kept me reading this book was the writer's style and the plot that broiled with the two clashing races. It was compelling enough to keep me reading through the romance.

It's my impression that as soon as romance happens in a book, the plot begins to unravel. This book doesn't unravel when the romance starts, but it begins to lag. The MC's interest fades from everything else to focus on the guy. He is the center of her universe, the sun in her sky, the earth to her moon, etc. It took me a bit to realize that their romance was the kernel at the center of the whole story. And, like I always do, I felt cheated by a romance cloaked in the guise of an adventure. Thank God for the bigger picture! - for the wars and the secrets and the action that I crave in a really good book, otherwise I would've stopped reading.

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To summarize, I thought Daughter of Smoke and Bone had lovely description and some wonderfully-crafted phrases. I could read this book for those alone. Laini Taylor painted amazing word pictures throughout the first half of the book, but when the romance started, I began to tune out. I had a hard time swallowing the too-beautiful MC and her even-more-beautiful star-crossed boyfriend. Their epic love was unbelievable, but the bigger story was interesting.

I would've been content to divide this story into two halves - the part with the interesting creatures, the secrets, the mythos, the surreptitious errands Karou ran, and the second part that was pretty much all romance and remembered romance. I would've read the first part and left it at that.

Would I recommend this book? Yes. But with the stipulation the reader must either love romance or skip over the romantic parts when their interest starts waning. And take Karou's looks with a grain of salt. It's hard being blue-haired, gorgeous, talented, and misunderstood.

 [Being a child of the 80's, I couldn't help picturing Brimstone a little like this.] ---> 

2 comments:

  1. very interesting! As someone who's trying to polish off (writing) an adventure story with romance elements, these reflections were especially thought-provoking!

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  2. Yep, I agree with all of this. The romance was deadly. And I think, what made it even worse, was that the author got distracted by the romance and forgot the depth of the world that she had started with. So much potential and such disappointment.

    This was my review. It gets a little angrier than yours.

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