Night of Cake and Puppets (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #2.5) Review


Book: Night of Cake and Puppets (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #2.5)

Author: Laini Taylor & Jim Di Bartolo (illustrator)

This was my November #RockMyTBR book and after being decidedly disappointed with the second instalment in the series, Days of Blood and Starlight, I was really hoping that I would enjoy this one more. Thankfully I did! I wasn’t expecting to, because as you all know by now, books filled with fluffy romance aren’t usually my thing, but every once in a while, the inner romantic does come out and she really did find this very cute. It’s no secret that I much prefer Zuzana and Mik’s romance to Karou and Akiva’s, so getting to spend a whole book with them was great. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

In this stand-alone companion to the New York Times bestselling Daughter of Smoke & Bone series comes the story of Mik and Zuzana’s fantastical first date—as a gorgeously illustrated gift edition with bonus content included.

Petite though she may be, Zuzana is not known for timidity. Her best friend, Karou, calls her “rabid fairy,” her “voodoo eyes” are said to freeze blood, and even her older brother fears her wrath. But when it comes to the simple matter of talking to Mik, or “Violin Boy,” her courage deserts her. Now, enough is enough. Zuzana is determined to make the first move, and she has a fistful of magic and a plan. It’s a wonderfully elaborate treasure hunt of a plan that will take Mik all over Prague on a cold winter’s night before leading him to the treasure: herself! Violin Boy is not going to know what hit him.

New York Times bestselling author Laini Taylor brings to life a night only hinted at in the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy—the magical first date of fan-favorites Zuzana and Mik. Originally published as an ebook, this new print edition will include breathtaking black and white illustrations, plus bonus content in a gorgeous package perfect for new and current fans of the series.

First of all I have to talk about the illustrations because they really did make this book for me! I don’t really know if I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m not a particularly visual reader, I can’t picture scenes from books in my head as I am reading, I’m much more aural, I hear character conversations but as for picturing what they look like? No idea. So the illustrations actually really helped me here, because I had a visual reference for everything that was going on in the book. I honestly wish more books had illustrations because they would really help me out!

Some of the chapters I felt were a little long, but I didn’t mind as much because the illustrations really helped break them up and since it was quite a short book anyway, it was easy enough to get through.

I loved the chapter titles, they were so funny-seriously more books should have chapter titles, they really enhance the reading experience for me.

The plot itself is kind of light, it does what it says on the tin, it’s the story of Zuzana and Mik’s first date, so it’s nothing particularly earthshattering, but it is incredibly cute, it made the inner romantic in me swoon a little at how beautiful their date ended up being, I could only wish for something that gorgeous!

I liked the dual person POV, you get to see the night from both sides, although Zuzana’s chapters were somewhat more engaging than Mik’s but that was to be expected, given that out of the two of them, she has the more engaging personality and they were both first person POVs, so naturally Zuzana’s voice comes across stronger.

The atmosphere of the book was wonderful, the snowy Prague setting really added to the magic and romance of the night and I loved how all the disparate elements, the snow, the puppets, the cake, Mik’s violin, all came together to make a beautifully romantic night. The writing was also beautiful and really added to the romantic atmosphere of the book.

I have to admit, throughout the book, I kept thinking, it’s a good job that Mik likes Zuzana otherwise the whole treasure map with her as a prize thing would have come off incredibly creepy and stalkerish rather than sweet!

I loved all the text messages between Karou and Zuzana throughout the book, they were very relatable and added a measure of reality to an otherwise quite fantastical story.

It was really nice to finally have the details filled in about Zuzana and Mik’s relationship as it was kind of glossed over in Daughter of Smoke and Bone and I think I understand them better as a couple after reading this book.

There’s honestly not much more to say, it was a cute, romantic story that acted as a very nice filler for the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Hopefully the third book has the same level of enjoyment as this one rather than Days of Blood and Starlight, as I’d really like to finish this series on a high!

My Rating: 4/5

BECHDEL TEST: FAIL-By it’s nature, this book kind of has to fail as Zuzana and Mik are the only two characters who had dialogue and even Karou and Zuzana’s texts are of course about Mik, since the whole story is about their relationship.

My next review will be of my final #RockMyTBR book of the year, Leigh Bardugo’s Wonder Woman: Warbringer, which I’m super excited for because I loved the Wonder Woman film.

Days of Blood and Starlight (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #2) Review


Book: Days of Blood and Starlight (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #2)

Author: Laini Taylor

This was my August #RockMyTBR book, and after enjoying the first book in the series last summer and buying the other two and getting them all signed at YALC, I was really looking forward to reading this one and seeing what happened next in Karou’s story, but I’m sad to say I didn’t enjoy this one quite as much as the first. Whilst the first book was for the most part set in Prague, we move to Morocco/Eretz for most of this book and I have to say I definitely missed Prague! I had thought I would have liked this book more because I had been told it was darker and less romance heavy than the first one, but I actually missed the kind of whimsical, hopeful feel of the first one, for a long while in this one, it just felt like stuff was bad and was never going to get better and mopey Karou and angsty Akiva were difficult to deal with! Perhaps if it had been 200 pages shorter, I might have enjoyed it more, but as it was, it really felt like 400 odd pages of mostly filler and then all the really important stuff happened in the last 100 pages-so infuriating when that happens! Here is a short synopsis of the book:

Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a new way of living – one without massacres and torn throats and bonfires of the fallen, without revenants or bastard armies or children ripped from their mothers’ arms to take their turn in the killing and dying.

Once, the lovers lay entwined in the moon’s secret temple and dreamed of a world that was like a jewel-box without a jewel – a paradise waiting for them to find it and fill it with their happiness.

This was not that world.

This book was yeah….it was a difficult one for me to read. We pick up in an odd place, where we left off with Karou and Akiva in the last book, we pick up with Zuzana and Mik in Prague and much as I love them, it felt like a strange place to pick up after the end of the last book! It takes us a good ten chapters to even find out what Karou has been doing and even then, the actual plot, what little of it there is, just drags so badly. It wasn’t until maybe 300-400 pages into this 500 page tome that it actually felt like things were happening and yeah, that was not great.

In addition to this, the book is so dark and depressing. Necessarily so, sure, it is a war book and it couldn’t have had quite the same whimsical feel as the first book, but I think the author didn’t really need to hit us over the head with how bad war is all the time, we get it war is bad and pointless and a lot of people are dying here, but for so long it just felt like pointless, endless war with no hope for reprieve and whilst that may have been Laini Taylor’s point, it wasn’t great fun to read about.

The pacing in this book was SO OFF. The chapters were really uneven, at the start they were super short, and then they started to get longer and then they went back to being super short again and some chapters didn’t even feel like they were adding anything to the story. There was not enough plot to justify 500 pages of story.

Karou is basically a totally different person in this book than she was in the first one. It’s understandable, she’s grieving, but I didn’t feel like I was really rooting for her in this one. She was so directionless and she couldn’t make up her mind and was just generally so whiny and whilst I could understand it, it was not fun to read about. I missed the sassy, smart protagonist that was in Daughter of Smoke and Bone, this book’s Karou felt so completely different to that.

I’m still not a massive fan of Akiva, he still feels totally two dimensional, and I didn’t find his POV engaging at all. Even when I found Karou irritating, she didn’t feel flat in the same way that Akiva did. His motivations are basically solely around her, and it felt like if she hadn’t been Madrigal, Akiva wouldn’t have cared at all about the chimaera. I did however enjoy his interactions with his siblings, Hazael and Liraz actually felt more three dimensional than Akiva did and they saved Akiva’s POV for me, because even when I didn’t like him, I did enjoy them.

The romance is basically non-existent in this book, instead we get my favourite *rolls eyes* thing, with Karou and Akiva being all angsty over each other, as Karou can’t get past what he did to her family (understandable) and Akiva is trying to make things up to her, but I’m sorry Akiva, there are some things a girl just can’t get over. I really can’t get on board this ship anymore, though I know it will probably be a HEA for Karou and Akiva in the last book, because genocide of your girlfriend’s people? Yeah that’s not something that makes for a healthy relationship.

Zuzana and Mik were the saving grace of this book for me, even though they didn’t quite fit as the Prague story is really secondary in this book. I love their relationship and Zuzana is just everything I love, a short, feisty, funny girl and Mik is so cute and sensitive and a generally great boyfriend. I can’t wait to read the novella story about them later this year! So yeah, their part didn’t really fit with all the war stuff going on, but they did provide a nice break from all the despair.

The writing was nice enough, but like in the first book, it did feel overwritten at times, I didn’t need quite so much flowery prose and it didn’t fit as well in this book as it did in the first one, because this one has a much darker tone and it felt like the writing didn’t really reflect that? The constantly switching POVs were also really annoying as it made the pace of the book feel kind of jerky and some of the POVs just didn’t fit-like all the stuff with Sveva and Sarazal? Yeah that wasn’t necessary. Laini Taylor also had a super annoying habit of telling you exactly what was going to happen before it happened and I found that took me out of the story quite a bit.

Thiago, the White Wolf makes for a decent villain of this book, as he is genuinely scary, but it was a bit ridiculous that it took so long for Karou to work out that he was working against her, not for her. I also thought that the attempted rape (trigger warning in this book for rape and extreme violence), was a step too far and was definitely not needed. In fact there was a lot of gratuitous violence and mentions of violence against women in this book and I was definitely not there for that.

There were a lot of new characters brought in in this book, in fact a few too many I thought, because at points I was struggling to keep up with who was who! The only one that really made an impact on me was Ziri, a fellow Kirin, who of course has to have a crush on Karou (*eyeroll*) as he was super cute and precious and just genuinely sweet.

We go more in depth in the resurrection process in this book, which I thought was really cool, the one plus to this book is that we get deeper into the world of Eretz and I definitely came out with a better understanding of everything than in the first book so that was good.

The final twist was pretty much the only part of the book that I felt genuinely excited about and then just as things were getting good, the book was over! The book definitely spent too much time focusing on the wrong stuff and just didn’t get to the point fast enough, and by the time I actually was interested in what was going on, it was too late. I have to admit, I didn’t really understand the point of the ending, though I can’t explain why without spoilers, so let’s just say I don’t think that the direction it looks as if the third book is heading in is entirely necessary.

I loved the map at the beginning, it was super helpful to refer back to when places in Eretz were mentioned!

The conflict between the chimaera and the seraphim feels way too black and white, Taylor makes it pretty clear the chimaera are the good guys and the seraphim are the bad guys and I just felt there was so much more room for nuance than Taylor explored.

Overall, this book definitely suffered from second book syndrome, the pacing was slow, Karou was unrecongnizable for most of the book, Akiva was bland and were it not for Zuzana and Mik, the entire book would have been completely depressing with not much room for hope, ironic given Karou’s name means just that! I still want to read the final book, because I want to know how it ends, but I don’t think I’ll be rushing to do so anytime soon.

My Rating: 3/5

BECHDEL TEST: PASS-Karou and Zuzana talk about resurrections and chimaera and magic.

My next review will be of the latest Throne of Glass book Tower of Dawn, which I am finally reading before Kingdom of Ash comes out in October!

Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #1) Review

13600168Book: Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Author: Laini Taylor

This was the last book on my list for my YALC Reading Challenge, one that I bought last summer but like all of the books I bought last summer, had been left languishing on my shelf for a year. My friend has strongly recommended this book to me as she loves Laini Taylor’s writing and I have heard a thousand and one amazing things about this book and series from around the blogosphere. So did I enjoy it? Well sort of. It started off really promising, with an awesome heroine, an amazing setting and an interesting mystery with Brimstone and the teeth. However it went off track in the second half of the book and even more so in the third when the romance came in and took over what could have been a really great book, plummeting what could have been a new favourite, to merely okay. It so irks me when romance takes over what could have been an amazing book! Here is a short synopsis of the book:

Errand requiring immediate attention. Come.

The note was on vellum, pierced by the talons of the almost-crow that delivered it. Karou read the message. ‘He never says please’, she sighed, but she gathered up her things.

When Brimstone called, she always came.

In general, Karou has managed to keep her two lives in balance. On the one hand, she’s a seventeen-year-old art student in Prague; on the other, errand-girl to a monstrous creature who is the closest thing she has to family. Raised half in our world, half in ‘Elsewhere’, she has never understood Brimstone’s dark work – buying teeth from hunters and murderers – nor how she came into his keeping. She is a secret even to herself, plagued by the sensation that she isn’t whole.

Now the doors to Elsewhere are closing, and Karou must choose between the safety of her human life and the dangers of a war-ravaged world that may hold the answers she has always sought.

The first half started off so promising! I loved Karou, she was smart, snarky, funny, slightly mysterious, everything I love in a protagonist. The Prague setting was incredible, especially Karou and her friend’s favourite restaurant Poison Kitchen, which I wish was a real place because it sounded so cool. There was humour, there was mystery with Brimstone and his chimaera and the whole teeth thing and getting to see Karou go to different places through the doors was pretty awesome. So all in all a great start. The writing was also really pretty without being overly purple. I was totally invested in this world of Prague and teeth and wishes (especially the whole wish thing that was really great), so even though the plot was moving slowly, I didn’t mind. There was also a whole mystery with black handprints on the doors being introduced which I was intrigued by. And we had Karou’s friend Zuzana who was just such a cute, small, snarky badass, and was a great friend to Karou despite her disappearing off all the time. All in all it was shaping up to be a great book.

Then came Akiva. And everything I loved about the book in the first half was gone. Instead of focusing on Karou and her Chimaera and Prague and Zuze, it became all about Akiva, who had as much personality as a damp squid and his lurrrrrrrrrrve for Karou, despite having only just met her! (Can we be done with the insta love already?) He was just such a cliche, perfectly handsome, mysterious but incredibly dull, like most YA love interests. We spent chapter after chapter with Akiva and Karou talking about how much they loved each other and all that fluffy stuff and I was like, where have my cool chimaera gone? Where are the doors and the teeth and the wishes and everything I loved about the first half? Suddenly the book had done a 180 and become another cliche YA romance.

The plot was also incredibly slow moving, when it was there at all. It felt like it couldn’t decide what it wanted to be, was it about Karou’s chimaera family and Brimstone and the teeth and wishes like in the first half? Or about Karou and Akiva’s love story? Or about the war between the angels and chimaera? It felt like the book kept chopping and changing and there was no real coherency between the three parts. I felt like Taylor maybe tried to put too much into this book and it didn’t really work, it would have worked better if she had stuck with perhaps one or two main plot threads, rather than over complicating it. The main mysteries seem to revolve around who Karou really is (it’s established early on that she’s not quite what she seems) and what Brimstone does with the teeth, both questions that aren’t answered until the last third, meanwhile you have to deal with Karou and Akiva being all moony with each other despite barely knowing each other.

I loved Brimstone and would have liked there to be a little more focus on him really as I found his teeth collecting and wishes far more interesting that Karou and Akiva’s “love story”.

I did like the world building and the mythology of the Chimaera/Seraph world, Eretz, but I think it suffered a little by essentially all being thrown into the third half, it would have been better if it had been spread out more throughout the story. Still it’s an interesting world that Taylor has created and I’d be intrigued to learn more in the next book.

I liked that the book had chapter titles, it’s such a small thing but it pleases me when authors do it, simply numbered chapters are kind of boring!

The part with Zuze’s marionette show was so cool, I wish people did things like that in real life, it would be awesome to see. I would have loved to have seen more of her and Mik, they seemed like they made a cute couple and I was actually more invested in their relationship than Karou and Akiva’s!

The whole flashback sequence in part three was very clunky. I understand why it was necessary in the overarching plot of the story, but I feel like the flashbacks could have been weaved into the story rather than having their own separate part, again it felt very disjointed. The writing also ended up becoming increasingly more and more purple as the book went on, at least for me. The only thing I liked about the third part was the masquerade bit as I am a sucker for a good masquerade!

The chapter lengths were mostly good, although they were sometimes a little long in the second half especially when there wasn’t much happening.

The end was incredibly anticlimactic, we had just been through this hundred page detour in order to find out who Karou was, we get this massive bit of information and then it just cuts off? I mean I get that you’ve got to get your readers interesting in reading a second book, but this felt like a lazy cliffhanger rather than a good one.

Overall, this book started decently enough, with an intriguing mystery but deteriorated in favour of a sub standard romance throughout the rest of the book. I’ll still read the second one as I’m interested in seeing what happened next and I did like the world that the author created, but I hope that romance is less of a focus in the next one!

My rating: 3.5/5

My next review will be of the second book in Samantha Shannon’s Bone Season series, The Mime Order.