Since joining Bookstagram last year, I’ve seen countless people buddy reading books with their friends. It looked like fun, and desperate to join the club, me and my good friend Femke (@booksfemme) decided to buddy read something together. After comparing our TBRs, we decided on Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor.
By way of a review, I’m going to compile some of my favourite texts that we exchanged while reading it, to hopefully give some insight into the pros and cons of this particular book.
After scrolling through countless drunk texts, mental breakdowns over celebrities, and heartbreak concerning one beautiful Australian singer and his alleged new girlfriend, I managed to locate the start of the texts concerning DOSAB:
1. Mistaken Identity
Just before beginning the buddy read, I texted Femke to express my excitement at starting this particular novel. Probably a good thing I did:
Not entirely sure how I got Daughter of Smoke and Bone and Daughter of the Burning City confused, except that every single YA book seems to be called the same thing nowadays. Put back on the correct path, we started reading.
2. First Impressions
Femke started the book a little earlier than me, because I was slightly jetlagged after a 25 hour journey to the other side of the world. I woke up one day to her insightful first impressions:
To be honest, I had a similar first impression to the book. It started off really strong, with detailed descriptions and an intriguing story. However, I seemed unable to communicate these thoughts to my reading buddy, as not far into the book there was a short passage that really threw me off. In this paragraph, Karou talks about about liking Kaz’s lip, and it took me a while to get over it.
Anyone who knows me knows how much this freaks me out. My sister licked my arm the other day because I gave her a hug (is this explanation sufficient? I don’t think so) and the sound I made was UNGODLY. I hate it so much, and it took me a really long time to get over the horrifying romantic (?) gesture in this passage.
Perhaps then I should have heeded the warning that, like this revolting action, the romance in this book would not be something I could easily stomach. But more on that later.
Once I had been able to move on from this hideousness, I started to get to grips with the book. I had some questions, which I posed to Femke.
3. Great Expectations (?)
I really don’t know what I was expecting from this book. But as it turned out, neither of us did.
(I’ve had to cut out a fair bit of side conversation about Masterchef, kangaroos and dogs.)
I definitely bought this book because of the hype in the book community, and off a few reviews/conversations I had seen about it. I tend not to read the blurbs on books anyway, because I like to be surprised by the story. I know it sounds stupid, but so many blurbs give half the story away (think Twilight, Harry Potter, etc.), and I like to not know what’s coming. More fool me, in some cases, but I really enjoy the element of surprise in a book. I certainly liked the surprises this book threw at me: the characters, plot, and world were really original.
Onto the second half of that message. In the above texts, Femke provides the most accurate description of that creepy shriveled raisin creature that hangs on Izit’s back. I had been lulled into a false sense of security after the licking incident earlier but, our old friend reared its ugly head again and I was scarred once more.
Is this response normal? Asking for a friend.
4. Why can’t everything be simple
One of our biggest bug bears with this book was the language. Laini obviously whipped out her thesaurus and just turned every word into a more complicated one (like they tell you not to do in university essays, but you do anyway).
Indeed, this was something we picked up on a few times.
Don’t @ me please – I really don’t know what this means and I can’t be bothered to look it up. Let it remain a mystery.
But I came up with a solution! Maybe this could be included in any future reprints?
5. I wouldn’t put anything past this book at this stage
Femke had read a bit further than me because I’m a slow reader and she wasn’t jetlagged. Therefore, she had insight into the future – like a psychic, but more legit.
Do chimera count as animals? Where is the moral line drawn? Why did my poor jetlagged brain jump straight to that? These are questions I am still asking myself after reading this book.
6. Descriptions, descriptions and some more descriptions.
Ok so my next huge issue with the book was that some of the descriptions were… odd. One of my most ‘wtf’ moments is outlined below:
Was there really nothing else she could liken their eyes to? In a world with monsters and angels, war and magic, she had to go with jihadist?
I know this technically still counts as descriptions, but honestly, it deserves its own subheading because for me, there’s nothing more horrible to read than pages of how infatuated people are, built on no proper foundations. I usually love a good description, but the ones about Karou and Akiva’s relationship were just way too over the top for my liking.
Also let’s talk about the insta-love in this book. One of my most hated tropes. For those who don’t know, Karou and Akiva bumped into each other, hated one another for about five pages, then for no reason whatsoever, just fell in love?
Honestly, I’d rather read more descriptions of licking, that’s how sickening they were (and not good sickening, RuPaul’s Drag Race style).
The descriptions weren’t badly written, just repetitive and overly saccharine for two people who didn’t know each other.
(Are there any therapists out there who want to help us with these issues?)
BUT I think this is a very valid point, which I explained a little more:
This is one of my major pet peeves with books. I don’t like it when writers simply tell the reader whet the characters are feeling, rather than displaying it in their expressions or actions. I prefer a more nuanced storytelling, where the reader makes their own assumptions about the characters. I believe that this method creates a stronger connection between the reader and character, rather than a mainly superficial one. This artificiality meant that I was not at all connected with the characters or relationships in this book, which made it a bit boring for me.
7. Final Thoughts
We decided to give Daughter of Smoke and Bone 3 stars. It was a good book with a promising start, but it soon descended into insta-love, tropes, and overcomplicated language. I enjoyed the story and the whole idea was so original, and the relationship between Karou and Zuzana was one of my favourite YA friendships. I found that the characters were funny but lacked the depth I like to see, which can be put down to somewhat lazy writing. I wasn’t connected to the characters, so the backstory didn’t draw me in.
I won’t be continuing the series, but I did enjoy the book by itself.
p.s. Thank you to Femke for reading this with me and for being someone I could vent my frustrations to. You’re a champ.