Our January book club read was Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor.
We started a book club with a few friends in the fall of 2021 for a once-per-month book discussion. We don’t always agree, and we don’t always end up loving the books we choose, and we don’t always spend a lot of time talking about the assigned book. But, maybe even more importantly, we do a great deal of laughing at every meeting and it’s a bright spot of camaraderie each month.
We’re starting a new series of posts this year where we recap some of our thoughts on the monthly book following each meeting.
I was one of the people who kind of pushed for Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor to be our most recent book club post, mostly because I loved my original read-through of the series a whole lot. It is the first in a trilogy of books about the battle between angels and monsters.
Laini Taylor is a wonderful writer who spends an equal amount of time on world- and character-building. I love that she’s the kind of writer who fully develops her background characters – to the extent that Zuzana (the best friend of the MC) ends up being my absolute favorite character in the series. But she’s also a writer who doesn’t skimp on description of the setting, without the story feeling bogged down with unnecessary descriptions or details. Her writing is seriously beautiful and makes her stories so easy to read (or listen to if audiobooks are your jam).
I immediately went on to the second book, and am thoroughly enjoying my revisit to these characters. I hope some of the other book club folks who haven’t read the books before will give the rest of the series a try!
I am the outlier on this one. While I will read on because so many people I adore love this series, if I had read it in isolation that would not be the case. The writing is good. And there are some amusing side characters. But for me, I just wasn’t buying what the central love story was selling. It was a bit flat for me. Something felt missing. I’m looking forward to being proven wrong when I read the next installment, and thanking my friends for pushing me into book two. Fingers crossed.
Laini Taylor is one of my go-to authors when I think about the type of writing I’d like to do. Her worlds are well-thought-out, her plots are interesting and often unexpected, and her writing is descriptive without being wordy. I enjoy how her characters relate to each other, and how they have distinct personalities. I have read five of her books (the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy and the Strange the Dreamer duology) plus a cute little novella called Night of Cake & Puppets that is billed as Smoke & Bone 2.5, and I loved all of it. I’d recommend her to anyone who enjoys a well written fantasy.
That being said, I noticed a few things on this re-read that bothered me just a bit. First, the story constantly refers to everyone’s beauty. Madrigal’s beauty is a big part of one plot point, and the idea that the “angels” are beautiful has everything to do with why humans react the way they do, but talking about Karou being beautiful felt completely unnecessary. She has a lot going for her that has nothing to do with looks. Second, the insta-love felt a bit more awkward this time than I remembered it being. However, I have the hindsight of books 2 & 3 to know how it all turns out, so it might be that I felt that way the first time I read book one and that feeling will go away after re-reading the next two. However, even with these issues, the book was still great the second time around.
TL;DR: I would highly recommend this whole trilogy, and suggest you don’t stop after just the first one even if you don’t totally and completely love it. Also, if you did enjoy this trilogy, I’d also recommend that you check out the Strange the Dreamer duology. If you do, let me know what kind of wings you’d get from the Wing Emporium!
Have you read Daughter of Smoke & Bone, or maybe even the whole trilogy? If so, please share your thoughts in the comments! If not, let us know whether you think you’ll try it based on our review.
P.S. If you’d like to follow along with our book club reads, stay tuned for the Thursday post where we’ll reveal our TBR selection for our next book club meeting coming up in February!