Oh, hello. We didn't see you there. No, we weren't singing "Call Me Maybe" to ourselves.. Why do you say that? Wait, don't go, we're not crazy… we're just lonely. See, loneliness can drive a person to do strange things, and we get a glimpse of this in Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Karou is experiencing an intense longing for some sort of connection, and that's what leads her on this quest to self-discovery. She wants to find her soulmate, but in order to do that, she's gotta understand her own soul first—right? So, isolation seems to affect almost every decision Karou (and Akiva) makes.
When a person is a lonely as Karou is, the idea of finding someone whom she is "meant" to be with is incredibly appealing.
Brimstone tells us that magic derives from pain. The pain of isolation gives Karou the strength and independence that, while not exactly magical, change her life forever.
We love what you've done with your hair. That shade of blue really brings out your eyes. Of course we're being honest with you, you're our BFFL… Okay, we're totally lying. Everyone lies sometimes, and deceit is an integral part of Karou's life in Daughter of Smoke and Bone. As a supernatural kind of girl with the power of wish magic, she has to lie to people on a daily basis—not everyone can know she's not human. It wouldn't be safe. However, Karou is still discovering who—and what—she is, so sometimes, she deceives herself as well. Like: does she love Akiva, or is that just her loneliness talking…?
Karou is so good at deceiving people because she was raised by Brimstone—that guy can evade questions better than a greased pig dodging cowboys at a rodeo.
Magic is a double-edge sword for Karou. It gives her an edge that other people don't have, but it is also something she has to cover up.
Lust: it's arguably the most fun of the seven deadly sins. It's also inevitable in any novel that is raging with teen hormones, like Daughter of Smoke and Bone. A big part of Karou's coming-of-age journey is learning to separate lust from love. But love and lust are so tightly intertwined that separating them feels impossible sometimes. Take Akiva, Karou's long-lost love interest; we can't read two pages about the dude without being reminded just how hot he is, with those chiseled features, those smoldering eyes, that... Ahem. Where were we? We'll be talking about love later, but for now it's all about lust.
First comes lust, then comes marriage… That might not be how the saying goes, both Zuzana and Karou always talk about how hot the guys they like are. So while Karou talks about wanting true love, we're not totally convinced that's what she's after.
Kazimir symbolizes lust; Akiva symbolizes love. But each man has an element of the other in him that complicates matters.
If Karou could drive, her license would need to be printed on one of those lenticular cards. You know, those fun cards that, when you tilt them left, there's one picture on them, but when you tilt them right, there's a different picture? From one angle, our protagonist is Karou—the blue-haired artist. From the other, she's Madrigal—a chimaera executed for having an affair with Akiva, a seraphim. Together, she's... well, she's a hot mess in the middle of an identity crisis. When most people try to find themselves, they don't actually find another person inside of them. Karou does.
Even though they're basically the same person, Karou and Madrigal must be different because they were raised in completely different worlds.
Brimstone didn't just make a new body for Madrigal to enter after her execution. He made her a brand new identity: new name, new body, new life.
If we didn't know any better, we'd think Laini Taylor worked some magic on her own hair. Like Karou, the heroine of Daughter of Smoke and Bone, she has some supernaturally striking locks. Anyway, Karou's hair just scratches the surface of the deep world of magic in this book. We get eased into it along with Karou, learning about wish magic first, and then other species of supernatural best. The originality of Taylor's mythology sets it apart from other supernatural young-adult novels. There's nary a vampire or werewolf in sight. (Although it does have the YA anti-hero du jour: the angel.)
Karou isn't into Kazimir's pretend vampire tour because the supernatural elements in her life are real. She doesn't need to pretend.
The exotic descriptions of far-away lands (for American readers, anyway) like Paris and Marrakesh show us that the real world is not only a little bit magical to a foreigner like Akiva, it can be magical to us normal folks, too.
Appearances lead to a lot of good-for-nothin' trouble in Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Different appearances seem to be one of the driving factors behind the chimaera-seraphim war, for example. And they cause prejudice within different types of chimaera. What is with people (or people-like things) and their tendency to discriminate against others based on their appearances? Yikes. This book seems to have some anti-war social commentary in it, we think. Oh, and then there's all that appearance-driven lust in Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and that trading of bodies that can happen when some chimaera are reincarnated. So we were wondering: beauty may only be skin deep, but what if you're wearing someone else's skin?
As art students, Karou and Zuzana are big fans of "classic beauty": statuesque, chiseled, symmetrical beauty.
For a book about reincarnated souls, the body is still shown to have a lot of power. The chimaera, who have the power to change their bodies, clearly place a lot of stock in superficial appearance.
Prague is a city rife with art and culture—all those gorgeous buildings and paintings and street performers make it feel like there's magic in the air. And with Karou around, there is. But even without her wish-power, Karou would still be able to create some magic with the power of her art. She's not the only artsy-fartsy one in Daughter of Smoke and Bone, either. Zuzana has her puppets. Kazimir has his tacky vampire tour (not all street performers have talent). Even Brimstone's dark arts are just that: arts. So, we think that, in this book, art isn't about looking pretty... although that's always nice... art is about creation.
The only way Karou knows how to express herself is through her art. The fact that people don't realize she's telling the truth, well—that doesn't really matter. Art often tells truths through lies.
As a soldier, Madrigal has no time to be artistic. But seeing the amount of time and care she puts into crafting Chiro's necklace, we think she would be, given the opportunity. Like, given a new life—in Karou.
Earth is a planet wracked by war. And over-population. And global warming. And... um, kittens. And the internet. (We don't want to get you too down.) Anyway, you'd be hard pressed to find a moment in human history where there wasn't a war going on somewhere on the planet. Where Karou lives, in Prague, there is evidence of the horrors of World War II—but that's in the past. In Akiva and Madrigal's world, however, war rages on. Violence only begets more violence, but is there any other way to end a war? We guess we'll have to read the sequel to Daughter of Smoke and Bone to find out.
War is hell... for everyone. The ingrained prejudices between chimaera and seraphim cause great suffering for both species.
Karou's world—our world—has also had its share of war. Karou lives in memory of those wars, with statues as reminders of past horrors. But, unlike Madrigal, she has not lived through a war herself. Yet.
Many of the world's greatest fairy tales are about love. Cinderella and Prince Charming. Snow White and Prince Charming. Sleeping Beauty and Prince Charming. Man, that guy gets around, doesn't he? In Daughter of Smoke and Bone, we have Karou and... Akiva, who is kind of a prince and very charming. And guess what? It's the power of love that unlocks Karou's true identity. By hooking up with Akiva, she discovers who she really is; we guess love really can transform you.
In Daughter of Smoke and Bone, love is less about choice and more about destiny.
Like in classic fairy tales, Karou is "awoken" by Akiva—not with a kiss, but with a wishbone. Turkey parts are the new kisses.