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Dear Kelsey,

My intro lost a lot of dramatic tension when you ended up (overall) not liking this book. I actually abandoned it, and instead, I read The Time Traveler’s Wife, a book you abandoned in the first few pages. But I’ll start with Daughter of Smoke and Bone.

In your post, you talked about Akiva and how he pushed all the wrong buttons as a romantic hero. And I completely agree–he was beautiful, brooding, and thoroughly boring. The fascination-as-chemistry formula can work for me, with its delicious slow build and long looks (Remember, this is coming from a fan of Henry James, who famously said about his novels “It is an incident for a woman to stand up with her hand resting on a table and look out at you in a certain way; or if it be not an incident, I think it will be hard to say what is.”), but its definitely tricky. If I am not equally fascinated by the hero, the basic motivation for the romance is never going to work. I would suggest Jane Eyre or The Night Circus as examples of romantic fascination that do work–probably because fascination alone is not the sole impetus for the romance or plot. 

But even beyond the romance falling flat, I really wasn’t much of a fan of anything else. Sure, the language was beautiful and metaphoric and descriptive and it was interesting not to be at Just Another Generic American High School.

But. Karou bothered me because everyone thought she was so creative and imaginative and ironic, but really things just happened to her. And she wrote them down. Even Harriet the Spy did some, you know, spying. And, OK, she does go on these epic and/or horrifying quests for exotic teeth, but she preforms them with all the enthusiasm of cleaning her room. And since she was raised by monsters, these are, essentially, chores. For chapters and chapters. 

And she goes on and on about “Who–or what?–am I, since my hair grows blue and I was raised by monsters. But let’s not forget, sunshine, that you wished for your hair to grow blue on a magic wishing coin you get as an allowance so just wish it back if you’re so upset by it! And then seconds afterwards, of course, she likes how unique it makes her. Manic Pixie Dream Girl much?

Give me a a story about the best friend, Zuzana, any day. I genuinely adored her. The way she reacted to/dealt with Karou felt totally realistic and her absolutely inspired marionette performance was breathtaking, even in text. 

Since this post is getting a little long, I think I’ll save Time Traveler’s Wife for next time. Our first disagreement awaits!

Love,

Maggie

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