Book Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

To celebrate, and get you familiar with, our Inky Shortlist we’ll be reviewing the shortlisted titles up until the close of voting (14th of October).

First up to the battling ground is:
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Errand requiring immediate attention. Come.

The note was on vellum, pierced by the talons of the almost-crow that delivered it. Karou read the message. ‘He never says please’, she sighed, but she gathered up her things.

When Brimstone called, she always came.

In general, Karou has managed to keep her two lives in balance. On the one hand, she’s a seventeen-year-old art student in Prague; on the other, errand-girl to a monstrous creature who is the closest thing she has to family. Raised half in our world, half in ‘Elsewhere’, she has never understood Brimstone’s dark work – buying teeth from hunters and murderers – nor how she came into his keeping. She is a secret even to herself, plagued by the sensation that she isn’t whole.

Now the doors to Elsewhere are closing, and Karou must choose between the safety of her human life and the dangers of a war-ravaged world that may hold the answers she has always sought.


It’s one of those books that you feel like you can never explain just right. Too simple an explanation and it becomes a run of the mill Paranormal Romance.  Too complex and the plot becomes the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland; intense, confusing and free falling.

I originally summarised it (post here) as:

A quirky, queer tale set against the back drop of ancient mythology and warring races.

But I think the book’s prologue (a scant two sentences) does it better justice:

Once upon a time,

an angel and a devil fell in love.

It did not end well.

There are so many elements that make this story special. It is the x-factor writing style; where Taylor is able to make the most grotesque of monsters, beautiful and complex. It is the complexity and depth of the plot and the mystery in the overarching plot. It’s the fullness and heaviness of the world she’s created; so real it feels weighted to something solid.

Just as the world feels solid under your feet, so does Taylor’s mythology. Her mythology informs everything in the novel; the history, the races, the idea of good and evil. I’ve never come across a novel that has mythology breathing into every sentence. I wouldn’t even be able to clearly define her mythology to you because it is the book – it is so embedded in the world that the two can never be considered separately.

Bringing all these elements of writing, mythology and plot together makes it an extraordinary novel. What made it one of my all time favourite novels (and obsessively chant ‘when’s the next book when’s the next book?’) was that the concept of ‘good versus evil’ was completely thrown out. Yes, it is about ‘angels’ and ‘monsters’ (you’ll notice my quotation marks; nothing is ever as it seems in Taylor’s work), and traditionally the fight between ‘angels’ and ‘monsters’ involves good triumphing over evil. Taylor has flipped the genre on it’s head; it’s not that there’s no longer any evil or good, just that everything is shades of grey. There is war, with two sides fighting without end and without a beginning (they have been at war so long that the knowledge of why they were at war died generations ago), and how can their be any good left in an endless war? Both sides have attempted heinous acts of genocide, they hate, they scheme and they brutalise, sometimes all under the banner of peace and love.

A novel that stands at the front of Paranormal Romance and leads the way with compelling plot, beautiful writing and comprehensive world-building.


If you’re aged 12-20 you can vote for Daughter of Smoke and Bone, or your other favourite Inky Award shortlisted titles here.


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  1. Anne Sullivan says:

    This was my favourite novel from last year, and I am also eagerly awaiting the second book. I’ve recommend it to lots of teens in my library and to all the YA reading staff. The writing is breathtaking, and I just couldn’t put it down. My sister, a high school English teacher, read it when I finished and told her she must read it. She also loved it. She has recommended it to lots of her students, and even dressed as Karou for Book Week. If you haven’t read it yet, then what are you waiting for?

  2. narmstrong says:

    I agree Anne!

    It’s such a great novel and it immediately found it’s way into my ‘favourite’ category.

    Great to see you out and spreading the word.

    Don’t forget to sent them to to vote for it if it’s their favourite! Or indeed for any of our shortlisted titles.

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