I spent all of last night finishing Daughter of Smoke and Bone, because I felt it was really time to be done with it. And, as far as 5 hour reading marathons go, it was pretty enjoyable.
The protagonist of Daughter of Smoke and Bone is Karou, a seventeen year old girl living a double life. In the "normal" part of her life, she is an art student in Prague. In the more extraordinary part of her life, she runs errands for the creatures--chimaera--who raised her. Brimstone, her foster father, runs a shop that trades wishes for teeth. Karou has no idea what the teeth are for, but obediently travels all over the world to retrieve them from hunters, grave robbers, and murderers. Then suddenly, all over the world, black hand prints begin to appear on the doors leading to Brimstone's shop. Soon, the doors are cut off, and Karou is unable to reach her foster family. At the same time, an angel appears to be following Karou, and he has answers to all of Karou's questions.
The mythology is less convoluted than it sounds. Once you get used to it, it becomes easy to buy into a world full of spliced together animal creatures (goat-lion-man and the like), which is essentially what the chimaera are. The world building has a style that's completely unique.
I've seen other reviewers that say they didn't care for the romance, but I found that I liked it. Karou is drawn to Akiva (the angel), for reasons she can't explain. Akiva is drawn to Karou because she vaguely reminds him of his long lost love...But it's not like it's insta-love. They do talk and share some moments before they're feelings really come out. And given their back stories, it definitely worked for me.
I liked a lot of the messages that this novel was trying to convey. It delves into the idea of wishes and magic, but argues that these are less important than hope and emotional resilience. That's a lesson that's hard to learn for a seventeen year old girl, but I think Karou learns it well.
This was the least page-turning, but not boring, book that I've ever read. I could pick it up and get immersed pretty easily, but at the same time I had no problem setting it aside to do other things. It just doesn't have any suspense to it. A lot of the big reveals are things that I had figured out way in advance. Almost nothing surprised me. The only way I could make progress with this book was to sit down and force myself to read.
I didn't like where and how it ended. The first half of the book seems to be building up to a rescue/action type climax that doesn't happen. Instead, the climax is the revealing of Karou's back story. And, to be fair, she has a really cool back story. But in the end I felt a bit hollow because so much of the present story went untold. So whether it's a pacing issue, or whether the author spent too much time on the wrong things, this novel does not feel complete.
Would I recommend this book? Yes, absolutely, you should read this book. It has some great fantasy world building layered over deep, thoughtful themes. But, had I known how it would end, I would have probably waited until the sequel was out, or at least closer to the release day. So, if you're a reader who is impatient with cliffhangers/non-endings, hold off on this one. 4 stars.