Book Review · Fantasy/Magical Realism · Young Adult Fiction

The Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy

TDoSaBTbyLTFirst, I kind of love/hate trilogies and young adult literature is absolutely teeming with them. It is such an undertaking to devote my time to three 500+ page books and I have a hard time not making myself finish a series if I start one and end up disliking the first or second book. I do like that during the course of multiple books the world building and characters can expand a lot, but often I feel like there is a lot of “filler” content just to stretch the story into three books. It is also difficult for me to judge books in a trilogy separately because I have this Lord of the Rings mentality that the three books are meant to be one. So, with all this in mind I am going to try to briefly give my thoughts on each book and then an overall opinion of the trilogy at the end. Sound good? Good.

I knew nothing about the plot, but I had heard many great things about Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor and for the most part I agree with the praise. The first book drew me in. I liked the characters and the hints at the fantasy world, magic, and Karou’s true identity had me hooked. The mystery of it all excited me and I actually liked the relationship that blossomed. The dynamic between the lovers really touched me. The idea of love across lifetimes and the loss of loved ones struck me. There was very little that kept it from being amazing. I had a few gripes with the characterization and melodramatic tone, but it was easily overlooked and I was ready to dive straight into the second book by the end.

Days of Blood and Starlight was mostly a disappointment after the first book’s strong start. The first half of the book felt like filler. So little actually happened! I can appreciate a slow build to a plot, but I was so bored. I didn’t understand some of the silly choices the characters made. I hated that some of the random side characters that had a chapter from their point of view died in the following chapter or disappeared. It felt pointless and it made me want to skim those chapters. The plot points their chapters revealed could surely have been told from an already developed character’s view. And finally… the second book introduced a love triangle. A totally unnecessary love triangle in which I never felt like there was any real chance for the “third wheel” to be with the woman. In the last 200 pages the book began to get interesting, but it felt like suddenly everything sped up to reach a conclusion. There were enough cliff hangers to make me pick up the next book, but I didn’t feel like book needed to be over 500 pages.

Dreams of Gods and Monsters kept me a bit more entertained during its first half than the previous book. The pace was still slow, but every section was marked as happening between the space of a few hours so I could get behind the slow pace more this time. It didn’t always make for interesting reading, but the content felt less like filler and each chapter had more direction. However, that direction got convoluted near the end. I was still a little confused by some of the character’s decisions. During such a serious and important time they made some rather silly choices… like being vindictive toward one character while endangering the lives of nearly a hundred others including their own. Then suddenly the focus shifts to new characters, the world and magic get told to the reader rather than shown, and then everything just sort of ends… I can’t really be more specific, but I was left scratching my head and very unsatisfied. The whole book leads up to an epic battle and then… very little action happens.

Now for my general thoughts on the series overall. My first gripe is that many of the characters sounded the same. I like quick witted and sarcastic remarks/thoughts, but many characters displayed this sense of humor and because of this their personalities blurred together and the humor lost its charm from overuse. Second, there were such odd holes in the “rules” of the magic and the world. I can’t get into many specifics because of spoilers, but at one point a kind of magic takes years to learn and then later suddenly normal people can pick it up within days or hours. Earlier, chimera could smell invisible people and later they didn’t sense anything even when mere humans wandered past them.Teeth are important to the magic system, but why was it not a “reusable resource” and harvested from dead chimera/angels?

The writing was quite pretty but almost overly so. Like I stated earlier, the books were often so slow and I think this was because of how overstuffed the writing could be. It was dominated by lengthy descriptions, rambling philosophical thoughts from the characters, and repetitive quotes and thoughts from previous scenes/other characters. I do appreciate all of these things in moderation, but I felt that it interrupted the feeling of urgency and action in a plot that was supposed to be so dire.

This brings me to the plot. As I said, the writing itself bogged it down. There was an epic war going on, but so little action happened. The trilogy was more of a love story and character driven instead of action. However, the characters were often childish and petty when they were supposedly experienced soldiers. Also, there were plot holes that distracted me too much. I wanted an epic fantasy with a fleshed out world and by the end of the series I got an annoyingly on and off love story with a hurried and muddled ending.

This trilogy was simply OK. I was very disappointed because I really liked the first book and had high hopes for the rest. I think that if I were a little younger I might have liked it a bit more, but I’m sure I would have felt the same about some of the problems I had with it. If you can deal with the time commitment for such lengthy novels and aren’t put off by my opinions then by all means, give it a try! It isn’t a horrible young adult trilogy. However, don’t go into it thinking that you’re getting an action packed and well fleshed out fantasy world, magic system, and characters. It is a Romeo and Juliet love story that has some very promising but untapped epic fantasy potential.

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