Study Guide

Karou in Daughter of Smoke & Bone

By Laini Taylor


Wishin' and Hopin'

Our main girl Karou has hair the color of a Smurf and drawing skills that would make her pretty popular on But aside from that, we don't know much about her early on in the novel. Why? Because she doesn't really know much about herself.

She's a woman without a country, raised by a demon from another dimension. And she's been moved around the world more than any military brat you know. This lack of grounding, not to mention her lack of friends, takes a toll on our girl.

When we first meet her, she's getting over a relationship with Kazimir, a sexy street artist who took her virginity. Although the she doesn't articulate it exactly, we can tell that this breakup hurts so bad because he wasn't "the one." Karou really wants to find "the one" because she barely has anyone at all in her life to care about her.

The plus side to all this loneliness is a fierce sense of independence. How many seventeen year-olds do you know with their own apartment, a steady job (not on the Disney Channel), and a healthy appreciation for art? We have to give her credit for all of that.

Girl can take care of herself, even in a fight—as we know from her gunshot wound scars and skillz with knives. Kazimir even says she's "impossible to scare" (1.13). She's the kind person you ask on a date to see the latest Paranormal Activity, you know?

However, Karou's fearlessness isn't something she's proud of. You'll notice that she never brags about her fighting skills. She never brags about her art skills, either, but you know they're good.

It seems she's modest, even if she is screaming for attention. No one who wants to fade into the background covers herself in tattoos and dyes her hair blue. Hm. She's kind of a contradiction, we guess. Which makes sense for a teenage girl who's on a quest to find herself.

Hope Floats

Karou's journey to self-discoveryland is made a tad bit easier by the fact that she can wish for something, and she'll get it. Well, with the help of Brimstone's beads and coins she can, anyways.

That blue hair? The result of a wish. (Saves money on hair dye.) Speaking Czech? Wish. Tattoo removal? Wish. Freaking power of flight? Best wish ever.

Even though Brimstone warns her against making frivolous wishes, she makes 'em anyway. What teenager wouldn't? We know we'd have trouble containing ourselves with this kind of power at our disposal, and Karou shows remarkable restraint considering what she can do.

However, things change when Akiva tells Karou that wish magic is derived from pain. As we know, Karou's not a big fan of killing anything—people or animals. This knowledge of the pain she's caused makes her feel "queasy" (32.12) and she wonders whose pain has paid for all of her silly wishes.

Not that she has much of an opportunity to, but we don't see her make another wish after learning this. She'll probably think pretty hard about each wish in the future.

Or maybe she'll just hope for things instead. See, Brimstone, Karou's boss-of-sorts, tries to school Karou on the difference between a "wish" and "hope." But we're not sure if we get the distinction yet. (Not that it'll stop us from trying. Check out our "Symbols" Section for more.)

After all, Karou's name means "hope" in the chimaera tongue. But hope for what? Since Karou is just Madrigal reborn, is Karou simply the hope of rebirth? A hope to end the war between angel and chimaera? Or a hope for something else entirely?

Touched by an Angel

When Karou meets Akiva, well, it's not your typical love-at-first-sight rendez-vous. It's more like kill-at-first-sight. But even though Akiva tries to murder her, Karou is still attracted to him. Man, she must be lonely.

Well, actually. To be fair, her attraction can't just be chalked up to the isolation. She loves Akiva because she is Madrigal reborn. Madrigal was Akiva's first and only love, so Karou is experiencing Madrigal's thoughts and feelings without realizing it.

At times she says to Akiva, "'Sometimes I think I see you, in another time or something...'" (42.19) She is seeing him as Madrigal saw him. Duh.

Karou and Akiva's whole relationship mimics Karou and Zuzuna's conversation about romance and butterflies: "some people's butterflies react to other people's, on a chemical level, like pheromones. […] They can't help it—it's chemical" (10.101). Karou can't help but be attracted to Akiva. It's not just chemical, though; it's supernatural.

So, we can't control who we love, can we? It doesn't look like Karou gets a choice in the matter. Would we still find Karou's mystical attraction to Akiva romantic if he looked more like Bain, the flabby hunter, and not some studly dude?

We have to say, we hope Karou can break free of this whole Madrigal thing and live her own life. She's had seventeen years of it and that shouldn't be discounted simply because of a war between two species she had nothing to do with. You know, at the end of this novel, Karou may have discovered a lot about her past, but she's still got a lot of growing to do.

Which makes sense, because this is only the first book in the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series. If Karou got all grown up in this first book, what would happen in the others? Just a lot of flying around to different countries and stealing people's teeth? Bo-ring.

But since Karou's name means "hope," we've got hope that this girl will turn out alright. She's already smart—she asks a lot of questions about herself and the world around her—and she's tough—she knows how to put a smackdown on someone when she needs to. So we're in your corner for the sequel, Karou.