Study Guide

Akiva in Daughter of Smoke & Bone

By Laini Taylor


God's Gift to Women

We were going to start off by talking about Akiva's lonely childhood, his hard life as a soldier, his conflicted feelings about war, and his strained relationship with his siblings, but we got distracted by how gosh-darn beautiful the man is. How do we know Akiva is beautiful?

We're told, point blank: he's "a tall young man, beautiful—truly, breath-stealingly beautiful, in a way one rarely beholds in real life" (9.7).

So yeah, he's hot. Or as Zuzana puts it, he's "one scary looking beautiful bastard" (22.19). But backing up a bit, we see that he's also tormented and sensitive. Jeez, could he be more imperfectly perfect?

Next you'll be telling us that he's a hopeless romantic. Oh, what's that? He decided to give up on war after meeting a beautiful woman from the opposite side, and he thinks their love can be the force that ends the war? We'll be right back, we're going to go stick our heads in the freezer for a quick minute.

What's that, you say? You're insulted that the main man in this book is primarily defined by his hotness slash general appeal to Karou's character? Get over it, kiddos. This is a YA novel. If you want something more serious, go read Kafka.

Make Love, Not War

Before his life was saved by Madrigal Kirin, Akiva was a soldier. He fought alongside his fellow seraphim in a war against the chimaera. Why? Because that's just the way things are. Death was a way of life for the seraphim, and their rivalry with the chimaera was as old as time.

Akira even marked his fingers with a little mark for each chimaera he killed. He has lots of them, and these seemingly simple tattoos carry deep meaning for the guy. This tattoo-lovin' is something he and Karou have in common, actually.

But then, his life was saved by a chimaera, and he changed forever. It helped that she was sexy, too. So he risked his own life to sneak into the chimaera capital, romance that chimaera Madrigal, and snap her wishbone. No, really, they snapped an actual wishbone.

Their love takes the whole "star-crossed lovers from opposite sides of the tracks" to a new level. This is Montague v. Capulet meets angels and demons. Madrigal and Akiva are not just from warring families or whatnot, they're actually different species. Species that are bent on genociding each other, to boot. Talk about a dangerous liaison.

While it's romantic that Akiva wants to end the war now that he's found a hottie from the enemy side, we're not sure how successful his "make love, not war" campaign will be. Still, whatever his personal reasons are for going Gandhi, we admire his new peaceful spirit.

Karma Killer

You'd think Akiva would have wanted to end the war before he met Madrigal, what with all the pain it caused him. His mother, who he never knew, was likely a concubine to the emperor, his father. His father never really cared for him, either.

Oh, and there's that teeny, tiny fact that he was always almost getting killed on the battlefield.

But, like Karou's isolation, pain just made Akiva stronger. Partially because magic derives its power from pain:

[Akiva] learned to go into his pain, like it was a place. From within it, things /looked/ different—sharp-edged—and felt and sounded different, too. (39.35)

It's all very Gothic, we know. Perhaps Akiva didn't want to give up war because he needs the pain. Maybe he thinks that, with Madrigal, he can replace the power of pain with the power of love. (How did you get here, Huey Lewis?)

Whatever his reasons may be, it's clear that Akiva needs something. He promises Madrigal that he will never kill any more of her people. But after her execution, he goes back on his word. He wants "vengeance, he had vowed to destroy a kingdom" (18.61).

Did her death render his promise null and void? We seriously doubt that this is what Madrigal would have wanted her lover to do to honor her memory. Plus, then he tries to kill Karou, before he realizes who she is. Because, you know, she's a chimaera and all.

So we don't think Akiva is, like, the best guy around. Even if he is a dreamy love interest. He seems fickle, and even though he's on the up and up now, we don't trust the guy farther than we can throw him.

By the end of the book, Karou agrees with us—after learning he killed Brimstone, she ditches this dodo and heads for another world.