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Literature / Daughter of Smoke and Bone

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"Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love."

Mysterious, blue-haired, seventeen-year-old Karou leads two lives at once: On the one side, she is a not-so-normal art student in Prague, where she lives in a beautifully decorated flat and meets her best friend Zuzana at fancy cafes.

On the other side, she is the pupil and adoptee of the Chimaera Brimstone, whose head is that of a ram and whose eyes and feet are those of a crocodile, and who works in a shop whose doors open to almost any place in the world, if he only wants them to. Brimstone is a teeth-collecting wishmonger and it is Karou's job to bring those teeth to him. She does not know what he needs them for, nor where she came from or why she was raised among Chimaera in the wishmonger's shop.

Then, mysterious black handprints start to appear on the doors to Brimstone's shop. Karou doesn't think much of it, until she's not able to get in anymore. The drama thickens when Brimstone's messenger approaches her, dying, and leaves her the wishbone Brimstone always wore around his neck and forbade her to even touch.

Akiva is a Seraph, a warrior for an angel empire who are at war with the Chimaera. Even though she works for them, Karou fascinates him deeply and she eventually returns this fascination. Their feeling for each other, as it is revealed, root in an even bigger conflict in the past.

This YA fantasy series by Laini Taylor so far consists of:

  • Daughter of Smoke and Bone
  • Days of Blood and Starlight
  • Dreams of Gods and Monsters
  • Night of Cake and Puppets (a novella about supporting characters Zuzana and Mik)

The series provides examples of:

  • Action Girl: All of the female chimera and female seraphim count to certain degree, given that they're at war.
  • All of the Other Reindeer: What Karou angsts about. Maybe justified.
  • Angst Nuke: Akiva unleashes a magical one right after realizing how Jael intends to use him as The Scapegoat and sees Hazael die and breaks every window in the entire city of Astrae (which, given how the city is made of mostly glass, is a lot)
    • Later on he unleashes what seems to more or less be a literal angst nuke that stops a bloodbath from occurring by means of hitting everyone with a wave of despair.
  • Arc Words: "Hope makes its own magic."
  • Artistic License / As Long as It Sounds Foreign:
    • Kazimir is a Czech name, though it's very rare. (Meanwhile Svetlana, presumably the full name of Svetla, is a common female name, though not particularly popular.)
    • Karou's martial arts teacher from Hong Kong is called a "sensei" - a Japanese term.
    • The eye tattoos on Karou's hands are called "hamsas", while actually, this is the word for a symbol in the shape of a hand, also called "the hand of Fatima", which does not necessarily contain an eye. The correct term is nazar.
    • In the second book, Zuzana jokes how she would marry her boyfriend and signing as "Mrs. Mikolas Vavra", something Anglo-Saxon would say, but Czech would not. Women do take their husband's surname, but they are never used with the given name. She would just say Mrs. Vavra or Mrs. Vavrova (-ova being a suffix signifying a female variant of the surname).
  • Attempted Rape: Figures into the myths of the Chimaera, who say that the Sun god attempted to rape one of the two sister moons but was fought off, with the blood from where she stabbed him becoming the seraphim. And then Thiago tries this on Karou in the second book, but Karou stabs him before he can do anything.
  • Beauty Is Bad: Thiago, also an example of White Hair, Black Heart. He originally looked like his father and brothers and had a deer's head, but after he died at least once had his body remade into its current form.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: One of the main messages of the book, excellently demonstrated via Izil.
  • Beta Couple: Arguably, Zuzana and Mik serve to be a stable romantic relationship in constrast to Karou and Akiva.
  • Beware the Nice Ones
  • Big Brother Instinct: Akiva and Hazael both have a bit of this towards Liraz, though she hardly needs it. Really, they each have this towards each other, though it's never specified who's the oldest.
  • "Blind Idiot" Translation: When in the first book Karou tries to make a cab driver do her a favour with her Scuppies and her charm, the German translation mistakes the latter one for an amulet. It also uses male titles for the diamond merchant Esther, who poses as Karou's grandmother.
  • Body Horror: Razgut. His fall from "heaven" and thousands of years haven't done much for his appearance.
  • Bring News Back: A variation: when the Chimaera plan an attack they always have at least one member hang back and out of harm's way so they can glean their souls and resurrect them should they fall in battle.
  • Cain and Abel: Joram's oldest son was murdered by the second, in pursuit of the throne. Jael later manipulates Akiva into Joram for him.
  • Can't Kill You, Still Need You: Karou is well aware that the only reason Thiago hasn't killed her for the second time is because she's the only available resurrectionist, and she catches on that he's having his assistant Ten shadow her so she can eventually take over.
  • Chekhov's Gun: It's mentioned by Izil that while Brimstone generally doesn't take baby teeth, he did ask for them once. Karou realizes later that this was so he could make her a human child body.
  • Child Soldiers: Rath, a Dashnag (tiger-headed) boy, winds up part of the Chimaera army, and Karou's not particularly happy to have to resurrect him in an adult body because she both doesn't have any baby teeth and because as much as it pains her she knows their numbers are low enough that they need every body they can spare.
  • Cosmic Keystone: The real reason the Stelians don't interact with the outside world unless necessary is so they can maintain this and keep the Beasts at bay.
  • Cursed with Awesome
  • Death Is Cheap: Thanks to Resurrectionists, death is only a minor inconvenience provided that a.) the deceased's soul can be gleaned before it evanesces (disperses) in a thurible b.) a new body can be made for the soul. It's mentioned that Thiago has already died and been resurrected some half-dozen times, and as a result is interested in Madrigal partly because she is "pure" and still has her original body.
  • The Dragon: Ten to Thiago, and Jael to Joram, later Dragon Ascendant
  • El Cid Ploy: By the end of Days of Blood and Starlight Thiago and Ten's bodies are inhabited by the souls of Ziri and Haxaya respectively, since Karou realizes that she needs to keep the appearance that Thiago is still leading them but can't bear to resurrect the actual Thiago, especially given what he was trying to do to her right before she killed him. At the end after Ziri dies yet again in his body during a battle no one besides a select few are even aware a switch occurred.
  • Eldritch Abomination: What the Faerers discovered when they went through one world portal too many, and unwittingly brought back with them and who destroyed dozens of linked worlds before the Stelians stopped them at Eretz.
  • Enemy Mine: Even though the Misbegotten and the Chimaera rebels are enemies, at the end of Days of Blood and Starlight they pair up in order to take down the Dominion.
  • Et Tu, Brute?: Madrigal was sold out by her own adopted sister, Chiro, who followed her to the Temple of Ellai where she met Akiva and then told Thiago what she was doing.
  • Evil Old Folks: Esther, Karou's pretend grandmother, who combines this with Immortality Immorality since she's used her wishes to artificially prolong her life to over 130 years. And when Zuzana accuses her of being someone who would have collaborated with the Nazis Esthr simply laughs and replies that of course she did.
  • Fantasy Kitchen Sink: Aside from the seraphim, Eretz has a HUGE amount of distinct Chimaera races, many of them modeled after mythical creatures. Centaurs and dragons have been mentioned as well.
  • Freakiness Shame: Among the Chimaera, it is definitely more popular to be High-Human than it is to have an animal head. Possibly the fantasy equivalent of But Not Too Black, since the Chimera were once enslaved by the Seraphim. Maybe high-human Chimera, who looked more like angels, were more likely to be promoted to easier tasks and thus considered luckier. When Chiro is resurrected the first time she's clearly hurt by the fact that Madrigal kept her new body close to her original appearance, including a beast's head, thinking it some sort of slight.
    • To a lesser extent with Revenants, since those who are "pure" and still have their original bodies are held in higher regard and in some cases deliberately kept away from combat.
  • Genetic Memory: Eliza had this from her ancestor Elazael, one of the original Fallen.
    • Also implied to be how Akiva is able to tap into the Stelian magic despite having no training. The latter is a big problem.
  • Glamour Failure: Akiva's invisibility hides everything, except his shadow.
  • Gorgeous Gorgon: Issa, who has a body like the women in kamasutra illustrations.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Several examples.
    • It's implied that this was one reason Chiro gave up Madrigal to Thiago, since she was jealous of how she had Thiago's attention and rejected it and the fact that she was high-human, while Chiro herself had a beast's head.
    • The only one who doesn't suffer this is Ziri, who has feelings for Karou/Madrigal but realizes he has no chance and never attempts any sort of sabotage with her and Akiva.
  • Happily Ever After: Subverted at first
  • Horned Humanoid: Madrigal and the other Kirin.
  • Improbable Age: Apparently, Karou started to study arts and live on her own at age 15. Oddly enough, so did Zuzana.
  • Interspecies Romance: Akiva and Karou/ Madrigal
  • Killed Off for Real: Any character who is killed and has their soul evanesce before it can be put in a thurible, ruining the ability to resurrect them. Akiva and Liraz learn this the hard way when they manage to bring Hazael's body along for resurrection but didn't know that they needed his soul too. As traumatic as the experience is, Liraz learns from it and doesn't make the same mistake again, allowing Ziri's soul to be saved.
  • Kill Tally: The Seraphim are leading a genocidal war against the Chimaera. The Seraphim soldiers will cut a small notch on their hand after they've successfully killed a chimera in battle to record their victory. It's to the point that some seraphim have their entire hands covered with these notches as a sign of their success.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Esther sells Karou out to Jael, and in return gets all of her hoarded wishes stolen by Mik and saddled with Razgut for the rest of her life.
  • Lecherous Licking: Karou is disgusted to realize that Razgut (who at this point is still invisible) is doing this to her in the first book. Later on it's revealed that Chimaera actually encourage this behavior by "sugaring" their bodies when they expect a romantic encounter.
  • Little Bit Beastly: The High-Human variety of Chimaera, who have human bodies and heads and only some attributes of animals. Madrigal has a gazelle's legs and horns, as well as leathery wings, but otherwise, looks human.
  • Long-Lost Relative: In the last book Akiva meets his grandmother Nightingale
  • Love at First Sight: Somewhat justified, since Akiva and Karou fell in love before but don't realize it
  • Magic A Is Magic A: The wishes, which are graded into subcategories according to their power.
  • Masquerade Ball: How Akiva and Madrigal met for the second time after he snuck into Loramendi, using The Warlord's ball as a cover since the masks everyone wore allowed him to cover his angelic features.
  • Meaningful Name: Karou, whose name means “hope” in the tongue of the Chimaera.
  • The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body: Something Ziri worries about when he's inhabiting Thiago's body but ultimately averted as his core personality never changes.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters: Kishmish, who looks like a crow with bat wings and a forked tongue.
    • Most chimaera are like this. For example, Madrigal Kirin has the upper body and face of a human, the legs of a gazelle, and bat wings.
    • Revenants bodies are pretty much literally mix and match, since they're constructed by stringing the teeth of various animals (including humans) into a necklace that becomes the template for their body.
  • Muggle Best Friend: Zuzana and (to a lesser extent) Mik to Karou.
  • Mystical Waif: Karou has shades of this.
  • Neck Snap: How Ziri as Thiago kills Haxaya as Ten.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Oh boy, Akiva... turns out his tapping into his instinctive magic literally threatens the world
  • No-Sell: In Dreams Of Gods & Monsters Akiva figures out how to make himself and the other Misbegotten immune to the Hamsas, which also means he and Karou can touch each other without fear of her hurting him. Unfortunately they're interrupted before they can fully, er, take advantage of this. Multiple times, even.
  • Not What It Looks Like: When Akiva walks in and sees Karou and Thiago actually Ziri laughing together, he assumes the worst until Karou is able to pull him aside and explain the situation. Not helping matters is how Karou is still visibly sporting the gashes and bruises on her face from the real Thiago's attack.
  • Our Angels Are Different: The Seraphim are very beautiful and strong, heat-radiating winged humanoids with tattoos in their fingers showing how many they have killed. They have extremely Hot Wings that can be concealed before human eyes.
  • Pair the Spares: The ending heavily implies that Ziri and Liraz become a couple.
  • Paper Tiger: The Silverswords, or "Breakblades" as they are derisively called by the Misbegotten, officially guard Emperor Joram but prove to be laughably ineffective in an actual fight.
  • Paranormal Romance
  • Parental Substitute: The Chimaera to Karou, especially Brimstone and Issa.
  • Power at a Price: Karou is horrified to discover just what the real price of a wish is and why Brimstone always sent her for teeth. Mainly, pain. The Hamsas are directly powered by the pain of the Revenant's first (or later) deaths.
    • Akiva is similarly disturbed when he realizes the true price of him tapping into his until-then unknown magical powers. Mainly, weakening the very fabric of the universe.
  • Power Tattoo: Karou's hamsas.
  • Prophecy Twist: Eliza's prophecy about the "beasts" seems to refer to the Chimaera. It doesn't, it actually refers to something far worse.
  • Proud Warrior Race: The Chimaera and the Seraphim.
  • Purple Prose: Laini Taylor can certainly turn a phrase.
  • Quizzical Tilt: Karou does this a lot, in a manner invariably described as "birdlike." This ends up saving her life; Akiva can't bring himself to kill her because she reminds him of Madrigal, who had the same habit.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Used several times to identify just who the real bad guys are.
    • Joram's concubines are not always willing, and one of the guards who escorts them to him for the night comments that some attempt to leap off the walkway rather than deal with him, which certainly suggest he doesn't give a damn about what they want.
    • Jael makes it quite clear he'd have no qualms about having sex with Liraz, who's his niece, and requests that a woman be sent to him for the night, with her consent not factoring into the equation at all. The woman who volunteers so her sisters in arms don't have to go implies that he's not gentle either.
    • Thiago is built up as this gradually, with his interactions with Madrigal as he's courting her making it clear that she really has no choice in the matter even if she was to say no, something he apparently never considers. And then there's his Attempted Rape of Karou which confirms his intentions.
  • Refuge in Audacity: When asked, Karou usually tells the truth. Yes, the hair grows blue from her head. No, she doesn't have a tattoo with Kazimir's initials on her chest. Yes, Brimstone and the other Chimaera are actually real. She does so with a wry smile because she knows that this way, nobody will believe her anyway.
  • Red Right Hand: Jael's entire face is practically bisected by a huge scar running vertically down it, and it's mentioned that the sound of him eating is stomach-turning as a result of what it did to his lips. It's eventually revealed that he got the scar from Akiva's mother Festival, presumably when he attempted to rape her and eventually killed her.
  • Reincarnation Romance: Between Karou and Akiva.
  • Royal Harem: Joram's numbers at least in the hundreds.
  • Sealed Good in a Can: Potentially any Chimaera whose soul is in a thurible, since they can seemingly stay in there as long as necessary until they can be resurrected. Specific examples include Issa, Yasri and much of the populace of Loramendi in the underground cathedral.
  • Self-Harm: "Tithing" is the way magic users get the power for their spells through inflicting pain on themselves, and Karou gets a set of vices she can use on her arms for this purpose. Less commonly another person's pain can be used instead, with either a willing or unwilling "donor".
  • Sibling Team: Hazael, Akiva, and Liraz have always ended up staying together, and work best as a team.
  • Slashed Throat: How Thiago kills Amzallag and the Shadows That Live for supporting Karou and later on Ziri inflicts it on himself.
  • StarCrossed Lovers: Akiva and Madrigal. Also, in a way, Akiva and Karou at the end of the series, though they are able to meet with each other in dreams and at a certain time of year.
  • Team Dad: Amzallag, who despite his fearsome appearance is clearly a gentle soul, and is desperate to get back his family from the Cathedral under Loramendi where their souls are held.
  • The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: Sort of. We seldom see Karou do anything for her art school, other than a few sketches, and even more rarely follow her to school itself.
  • Tiny Tyrannical Girl: Zuzana, who is repeatedly described as tiny but fierce.
  • Title Drop: Near the end, when it is explained how Madrigal reincarnated in the body of a child, Karou.
  • Undead Tax Exemption: All of Karou's legal documentation is fabricated, most by her "grandmother" Esther which becomes a problem when Esther turns on them and seizes the assets to screw over Karou and her friends.
  • Villainous Incest: Jael makes it quite clear that despite her being his niece he would have no qualms about having sex with Liraz. Akiva and Hazael make a point to make sure she's never alone with him.
  • We Have Reserves: Joram's feelings towards the Misbegotten, since if they fall he can always just father more. The Chimaera subvert this, since much of their army has already died at least once and been resurrected, with them only managing to somewhat keep up their numbers thanks to Brimstone and later Karou, who laments at the unsustainability of the situation. By the time they go back to Eretz there are only 88 of them active.
  • Weird Moon: Eretz has two moons, Nitid and Ellai.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: It's never explicitly stated what became of Chiro after she betrayed Madrigal and unwittingly let Akiva out of his cell when Madrigal briefly took over her body.
  • Some Chimaera races have wings, too. Madrigal, and the rest of the Kirin, are one of them.