Books on Blast: “Daughter of Smoke and Bone”

The Wattpad fanfiction I never asked for


Graphic by Leni Santos.

When I was younger, I read every book I picked up from the library cover to cover. Reading was a joy and I loved diving into new worlds and finding new characters to love and fawn over as they develop. “Daughter of Smoke and Bone” was the one book that broke my perfect record, and it only took a total of 100 pages.

If you’re an avid reader like me who reads online works along with print, chances are you’ve heard of websites such as Wattpad, Archive of Our Own and If you have, you probably also know that these websites often spawn both the amazing yet humble, and the worst yet confident. Stories can often feature that perfect character known as a Mary Sue. With strange, but alluring looks, everybody loves her, and that perfectly tall, dark and handsome male comes in and falls in love instantly.

To top it all off, she has a mysteriously tragic backstory. The stories they populate are usually filled with all sorts of tropes such as the main character being immediately overpowered, a soulmate and some kind of parental issues for some reason. It’s these stories and characters that should, in my opinion, stay on those websites and never grace a shelf with their presence.

“Daughter of Smoke and Bone” by Laini Taylor is proof of this.

First, there’s the main character, Karou. Every description I put up before fits her in a terribly accurate way. Her hair naturally grows blue, and she “collects” languages. In case this doesn’t seem like enough to be that perfect original character I spoke of before, I would like to point out how Taylor describes the way “[s]he’d been at a boarding school in England…and though she was capable of a flawless British accent, she had stuck with the American one she’d developed as a child, so that was what her classmates had thought she was. In truth, she had claim to no nationality. Her papers were all forgeries, and her accents — all except one, in her first language, which was not of human origin — were all fakes.”

This is where the part about having a tragic backstory comes in. Her foster parents are chimaera, beings described as almost demon-like with various combinations between humanoid and animal forms ranging from snake bodies to lion paws. Of course, her foster father looks the most hellish in the way that he has a ram’s head, is incredibly scarred and is literally named Brimstone. But in case you didn’t think a blue haired girl being raised by someone who is actually described as a devil still wasn’t enough for you, she is also seriously overpowered. Along with knowing martial arts, upon having her life threatened, tattoos on her hands also shoot out a massive amount of power she didn’t know she wielded before.

Of course, though, the person sent to kill her is a seraph, an enemy to the chimaera. But surprise, Akiva, the apparent handsome would-be assassin with cold, chiseled features hesitates in his attempt to murder Karou, which is what allowed her to blow him away and escape his grasp.

Why would he hesitate in his mission when he had been killing people swiftly mere pages ago? Taylor states, “It was simple. He’d wanted to look at her.”

His hesitation is given further reason and rhyme when it’s revealed that — spoiler alert — they’re pretty much soulmates. Karou is actually the reincarnation of a chimaera that fell in love with Akiva and was killed for it. It’s another damn Romeo and Juliet story, but with the trope everybody knows and loves: angels versus demons.

The problem with this trope is that it’s not quite angels and demons. Seraphim do follow a bit of original Christian descriptions of angels with flaming wings. The “demons” presented in this series, however, are anything but demons.

In fact, many of the tribes in the race actually seem to be mythological creatures pulled from various cultures. This includes najas being based off of the half-snake, half-human nagas from hindu mythology, kirin being named after the unicorns in Chinese mythology, but having gazelle aspects, and the dama tribe pretty much being a herd of centaurs from Greek mythology.

It’s a mish-mash of mythologies versus Christianity. Maybe because I’ve always been a mythology lover, but to see these generally peaceful creatures be misrepresented as the demons of the world, I wasn’t pleased. Granted, both sides of the war were so wrought with betrayal and corruption that in the end, the only people readers are left to cheer for are the two forbidden love birds — because we’re not just bringing Romeo and Juliet in, but we’re also putting them in fantasy Hunger Games.

I’ve read various reviews praising “Daughter of Smoke and Bone” for its world building and apparent heart-wrenching ending. Personally, though, I don’t think I will ever be able to return to the world of Karou. I can’t relate to the characters, the plot drags on and while the world building was fairly impressive, it was ultimately overwhelming.

Instead, I suggest spending some time on books that have already been well established in the fantasy community. There’s “Good Omens” by Terry Pratchet and Neil Gaiman, which follows the story of an angel and demon trying to stop the apocalypse. This comes complete with a modern take on the four horsemen, an antichrist, aliens, witches, angels and demons gearing up for battle, and a bit of a love story if you squint hard enough.

For those wanting a taste of actual mythology, look to any of the books in the Rick Riordan universe. For Norse mythology, there’s the adventures of Magnus Chase.

For Egyptian mythology, there’s the greatly underrated “Kane Chronicles.” Of course, if you’re just looking to sink into a fun, quick read in the classic stories of Greek mythology, “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” is a definite go-to. The writing in each of these books is engaging, and it’s obvious that Riordan has done his research to provide a place for readers to escape into a world where gods and monsters exist and readers can relate to characters without the fancy fluff.