Series Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Once upon a time, an angel and a demon fell in love. It did not end well.

Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky. And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

When a stranger – beautiful, haunted Akiva – fixes his fiery eyes on her, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past.

From National Book Award finalist and Printz Honor author Laini Taylor comes a sweeping and gorgeously written modern fantasy series about a forbidden love, an ancient and epic battle, and hope for a world remade.

3.5 Stars

Note: this series review is completely spoiler free because your girl’s got ya back. 😉

Daughter of Smoke and Bone was never really a series I intended to read. I mean, it’s been ten years and, after missing the initial hype, I was perfectly happy to just keep swimming. Especially because angels, gods and monsters have never really been my thing.

And then I read Strange the Dreamer and realized I was sleeping on some seriously lush fantasy. Suddenly Daughter of Smoke and Bone wormed its way onto my radar.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone is a modern, urban fantasy spanning both cultures and worlds. Much like Strange the Dreamer, its complex, multilayered and a tantalizingly slow burn. The narrative is shrouded in a thick veil of mystery and the conflicts reveal themselves gradually throughout the trilogy. 

Going into Daughter of Smoke and Bone, I was 100% sure I was going to be swept away. If it were anything even remotely close to the dream-like whimsy of Strange the Dreamer I was going to love it.

But that wasn’t exactly the case and I ended up having a bit of a love/hate relationship with the series as a whole.

For the first few chapters I was pretty invested in Daughter of Smoke and Bone. The aesthetic was very different from other fantasies I’d read and I was intrigued by Laini Taylor’s grotesque cast of characters. That being said, even from the beginning both the pacing and prose felt sloppy. Especially when compared to Strange the Dreamer. [You can definitely see how Laini Taylor’s really honed her writing and grown as a storyteller].

In terms of plot, at first there seemed to be a lot happening but nothing was really moving forward. The characters just kind of meandered about their business as we waited for the pin to drop. I felt completely detached from the story. You know that mood when you’re basically just reading words on paper? And that said mood carried on for the majority of the first book.  

But I kept waiting for that moment when I would just snap into Karou and her narrative because I’d had that very same experience with Strange the Dreamer. By the time I’d hit the last hundred-odd pages, I was tired and honestly starting to worry. Maybe this series just wasn’t for me. I remember thinking, do I just DNF? Do I come back to this later?

And then came the third act and suddenly EVERYTHING made sense.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone’s third act was a serious game-changer. I’m talking a whole story-within-a-story scenario. There’s a MUCH bigger picture as Laini Taylor builds towards an explosive, gut-wrenching climax. And the execution was actually phenomenal, considering it consisted of a lot of backstory, flashbacks and info dumping. Honestly, I’m not sure any other author could have pulled it off.

By the end of it, I was like HOLY FUCKING SHIT THAT WAS A GOOD BOOK. I also had the instant urge to turn back to the beginning because I had this deeper appreciation for the journey. That climax saved my reading experience and I ended up bumping up my initial rating of Daughter of Smoke and Bone from a 3.5 stars to a solid 4.

Then came Days of Blood and Starlight.

In hindsight, I don’t think there was any other way that this series could have gone but at the time, I was completely blindsided. I don’t think I was emotionally or mentally prepared for the direction Laini Taylor took.

Days of Blood and Starlight was completely different to Daughter of Smoke and Bone. That’s one thing you need to know going in. It’s also completely different from Strange the Dreamer. This is not some fairytale complete with Happily Ever After. This is a very confronting, very graphic depiction of war and genocide. And the entire tone of the series shifts. The atmosphere is beyond tense – it’s bleak and at times often hopeless. My heart quiet literally bled for Karou as she accepted her place in the rebellion and worked herself to the bone in order to survive.

 Suffice to say, I struggled through Days of Blood and Starlight.

Especially because the romance was completely pushed aside in favor of a more mature plot. Actually, I don’t think I realized how much Daughter of Smoke and Bone’s insta love had grown on me until it was literally ripped away. Without the romantic subplot Days of Blood and Starlight was HEAVY. Basically, only Mik and Zuzana’s comic relief [only the greatest side characters ever] kept me from completely losing it and sobbing into my pillow.

By the time I finally reached the home stretch with Dreams of Gods and Monsters I was actually relieved to be nearing the end. My heart, and my babies for that matter, couldn’t take any more pain or hardship.

At the end of it, Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy is epic and grand in scope, the world so beautifully crafted. That said, the themes were a little too heavy for me personally at times and the pacing throughout was constantly choppy. What I will say for this series is that Laini Taylor has one VIVID imagination. I honestly don’t know where she gets her ideas from. The mythology she weaves is equal parts whimsical and brutal.

I still enjoyed the series, even if it was a bit of a trudge to wade through. It’s definitely not as sophisticated and polished as Strange the Dreamer but perfect for fans of sprawling epic fantasy and the paranormal.

Oh, and one last thing: the characters throughout this entire series were amazing. Laini Taylor has a knack for writing deeply flawed characters you can root for. And on that note, you might be wondering why I never got around to mentioning characters in my review. That’s because A. this review is already long enough and B. I honestly cannot talk about these characters without spoiling literally EVERYTHING. Trust me when I say it’s better you meet them for yourselves…


8 thoughts on “Series Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

  1. Oeh okay, interesting! I’m definitely planning on reading Strange the dreamer first and then I’ll see if I want to read this! It sounds good though, so I’ll probably end up reading it lol! Great review, love!!


  2. Great series review! I read Daughter of Smoke & Bone a long time ago and it’s been a series I’ve been meaning to read (reread and read for the first time). I can definitely agree that the insta love aspect of the first book really does grow on you and I think she did it quite well compared to other insta love novels! The series sounds so good in its entirety, so I hope to read them soon (as everything haha). Great post Alexandra ❤


  3. It’s been ages since I last read this series, but I definitely remember calling Days of Blood and Starlight my favourite, even with the darker tone it followed. I feel like Karou’s path almost mimicked Akiva’s journey at the start of the series, which overall I think strengthened Karou and Akiva’s relationship in the end. I was frustrated with the late introduction of the Stelians in the third book and felt like those new introductions just overshadowed the dream Karou and Akiva were hoping to fulfil. I still enjoyed the series overall, but it’s definitely not perfect. Brilliant review. 😀


  4. I never knew this series was about gods and monsters and now I’m more intrigued than I used to be. That and your review really makes me want to move this up on my tbr


  5. This is such a well written review, Alexandra! This series has always intrigued me, especially now that the books have those stunning new covers! I don’t know if I’ll ever get around to picking it up, but it does sound like quite the adventure!

    One thing I loved about Strange the Dreamer was that the characters were phenomenally developed, and I’m happy to hear that the same can be said for the characters in Daughter of Smoke and Bone! Laini Taylor is a truly brilliant author!

    I hope that someday, when my TBR is less demanding, I’ll be able to pick this series up!


  6. Love this review Alexandra!! and I totally agree! Daughter of Smoke and bone was so enchanting and magical and especially the third act was like wowowowow mind blown wtf is going on this ahh!!! But I also struggled through the later books and was pretty much done with the series and ready for it to end by the third book. I still need to read Strange the Dreamer though and I have very high hopes for that!!


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