DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE is one of those books that was pushed at me by a pretty huge number of people on my friends list. It came out during that mad-dash YA paranormal craze following in the wake of TWILIGHT, which is hilariously appropriate because despite its fans' loud protestations that it is nothing like Twilight, it kind of reads like a cross between Clive Barker's ABARAT and Stephenie Meyer's TWILIGHT. #SorryNotSorry
For the record, I actually like TWILIGHT. It doesn't pretend to be anything it's not, which is maybe why so many people find it threatening. It's a straightforward love story between an ordinary girl and a vampire. Is it silly? Yes. Problematic? Oh, yes. Do I like it? Yes. I liked it when I read it at eighteen and I even liked it when rereading it again at twenty-nine. I'm a fan of romance and liked that it wasn't mired in pretentious asshattery unlike...
Well, this book.
I almost marked this as 'did not finish' based on the first chapter because of the utterly pretentious writing that says, I'm trying so hard to be poetic, look at me. There was a line referencing "the occasional cheek-chew of bitterness" and a "pout-puckered lip" that begged to be sucked on "languorously" and I was just reading this in disbelief, resisting the urge to punch a teddy bear in the face. This is not good writing. This is purple prose in the extreme, and definitely has vibes of, ~My HeRoInE iS aN aRtIsT yOu GaIz, lOoK aT mY aRtIsTiC pRoSe~.
The author seemed to realize how obnoxious this was, because this teeth-gratingly ornate writing disappears after one or two chapters and everything becomes much more straightforward. Thank God, or I would have slapped this with a one-star so fast. Karou, the heroine, is the Baskin Robbins of being a Mary Sue. She isn't satisfied with just one flavor, no; she needs all 31 flavors of special. She has blue hair (it grows that way!), she can speak tons of languages (so exotic! so sophisticated, so cultured), she's covered in tattoos (wow, I wish my mom would let me get some of those!), and she's an artist (oh, wow, special! unique! creative!). Oh my God, why.
She's not just any artist; she's an artist studying abroad in Prague while living with a family of demons, one of whom uses teeth to create wish tokens. Karou runs favors for him in exchange for wish tokens that she uses for a variety of petty things, like making her hair blue or wishing that the girl her ex cheated on her with would have bushy caterpillar eyebrows. She's been hooking up on and off with this con artist-cum-street performer, but all that changes one day when she sees a mysterious man with dark hair and eyes the color of fire who wants to kill her.
As we all know, murderous intent is the single most important ingredient in the insta-love cocktail, and lo and behold, pretty soon he's graduated to watching her sleep and professing his undying love, and she of course reciprocates that because of his charming abdominal muscles - oops, I mean personality. The personality of his abdominal muscles. I mean, his face. I mean, whoops, it's what's on the inside that counts. Unfortunately, angels hate demons, so his buddies aren't going to be too keen on the fact that he's hooking up with a human who's neck-deep in demon shenanigans.
But, of course, our spumoni-swirl snowflake of a heroine won't stop with just being a special human. No, this being a young adult fantasy romance, she has to be more. And with a flashback that lasts the entire last quarter of the book, replete with a second insta-love relationship, we get to find out the true special nature of our heroine in all her sparkly, winged glory. You know when someone weird sits next to you on the bus and just starts talking to you for no reason and unloading all their drama? (No? Maybe that's just a big city thing, I'm from San Francisco, after all.)
The biggest drawback of this book is that it's branded as being something new and different from all the tired tropes of young adult fiction when it is so not. It's got insta-love by the buckets. The heroine is such a Mary Sue that she's pretty much one of those original character self-inserts in fanfics. The romance doesn't make sense, the hero is ~perfect~ with magical eyes, and there's a huge reliance on amnesia and flashbacks to steep everything in mystery. DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE? More like DAUGHTER OF CLICHES AND TROPES. I got through it and it did have some interesting world-building, but let's not be so quick to turn our noses up in the air and look down on TWILIGHT just yet, darlings. This is YA fantasy-romance, not the second coming of Christ.
3 out of 5 stars