Author: Laini Taylor
If Daughter of Smoke and Bone had started as it meant to go on, I would have given it a four. The writing’s rich and descriptive, and I also haven’t seen magic implemented like this in a long time. I loved it; because the author just runs with every myth imaginable and mixes what we know with her own story beautifully. I mean really, a bunch of demons living behind secret doors in every city of the world, trading in teeth and sending our protagonist out to make deals and barters they can’t – what with being mythical creatures and all.
The highlight for me was near the beginning when the protagonist, let’s call her Mary Sue, is sent out onto the street of Paris to transport illegal Ivory, it both introduced us to her world and the missions she’s sent on, injects some humour as she tries to catch a taxi while dragging the disguised elephant horns, and the Protagonist herself a little as she laments where the ivory might have come from.
The reason I only rated it a four from the start is the Protagonist herself, I’ve already dubbed her with the name Mary Sue, and she truly is one. But that’s not a deal breaker for me, I can still enjoy a book with a Mary Sue at the helm. It will just never be a favourite because perfect characters rob all suspense and empathy. How am I supposed to feel scared for a character who has never been afflicted with something as mundane as an ingrown hair? Much less anything more dangerous. Yeah, she’s perfect at art and combat and she’s beautiful and strangely well versed in history and ancient myth, she’s lovely to the one friend she has and everyone at art college wants to look at her drawings because apparently, people who draw well are hard to come by at art college so they must grovel to see her work. Annoying, but it went by fast enough and at least had the decency to not over shadow all the fantasy and excitement.
However, at the 200 page mark, Mary Sue and her Boyfriend Gary Stu, the all whinging- all powerful- all beautiful stalker, knee-capped all the enjoyment I was taking from the rest of the book as they brought the whole thing to a screeching halt with no less than 100 hundred pages of angst about how troubled they both are, and descriptions of the protagonist’s ‘azure’ (or should I call it ‘gem coloured’?) hair flapping in the wind of various irrelevant locales they visit together, while they fall in love over the course of 24 hours on, apparently, looks alone. Sure, they both say ‘looks don’t matter’, but they never talk so I’m confused as to what else is happening between them.
100 pages? Where was the editor? I wouldn’t complain so much, but the points about Gary’s troubled past, and them whinging about how they should be enemies but can’t seem to help themselves, are repeated ad-nauseum. There’s a scene when they’re both sat on top of a cathedral watching the sunrise and Mary Sue’s hair is described in full, colour and movement in the wind, no less than five times on one page alone. So many repetitions have no right being in fully edited works, there’s no excuse for it.
The final straw for me was when the book dragged me into manufactured conflict territory to jump start the plot again. I could forgive Mary and Gary and all their repetitions as long as the plot was still there. But then Gary’s siblings follow him (as he ran away you see, what with being so tortured and… stuff…) and thus follows a scene that read like bad fan fiction, it made no sense and played out the way it did for no reason other than to torture Gary and Mary and inject more angst into the situation. Like they don’t have enough to moan about. Want your silly contrived romance? Fine. But don’t ruin the progression of a great story just so Gary Stu the Super Soldier with Smouldering Sex appeal can have another hundred pages applying black eye liner and listening to My Chemical Romance (or whatever the modern equivalent of them is).
Bad books are everywhere, but a writer who has every advantage in the world, great imagination, great technical skill, and yet firmly and decisively ties an anchor to the whole lot and sinks it in the ocean is somehow a million times worse.