In the fourth part of Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Karou prepares for the next step in her mission, only to find herself suddenly distracted (derailed?) by Akiva.
Spoilers follow for chapters 24-31.
Now we’re getting to the really good stuff. In this part of the book, Karou returns to Prague, catches Zuzana’s grand puppet show, and is caught (sort of) by Akiva, finally.
Things have changed for Akiva in the time since his first fight with Karou, and the second one, here, makes that (literally) painfully clear. He is well aware that something about her intrigues him so deeply that he no longer wants to simply kill her; the things he’s discovered have cast some doubt in his mind about how evil her nature might really be. So my poor violent angel boy wants to find out the truth, and in the meantime I get to have my feels mercilessly punched.
Speaking of violent angels, we learn a bit more about Akiva’s own nature in these chapters, and it’s more complex than I thought. He and his kind may be angels but it’s safe to say at this point that they are perhaps not the golden-light-and-choirs kind… And I’m loving it, to be honest, but I was also surprised and intrigued at the information we get regarding the seraph emperor who fathered them all, and the stark brutality of their upbringing. I mean I suppose I shouldn’t really be surprised that even the apparent force for good in this story has origins and a purpose that’s tangled up in sheer violence and bereft of love. It’s tragic and dark and kind of delicious.
Or at least it’s only mostly bereft, according to Akiva’s romantic backstory. But that only makes his story hit harder, and Akiva himself fascinate me more. I am a sucker for a character who is born and bred for a life of violence and mercilessness, only to discover a softer side and be completely unprepared for what happens next, as seems to be the case here. Karou is distracting the hell (no pun intended) out of him, and he fully admits he has no idea what to do about it. He only knows he can’t simply kill her and return to his own kind for the next mission. So he talks to her instead, and be still my heart, because these scenes with the two of them are probably my favourites so far in this book.
I enjoy a wild, sweeping romance fully and completely, I really do – but those are never complete without quieter moments for the people involved to try to get to know each other, which seems to be what Karou and Akiva are doing here, and I am 100% here for it. I can even sort of appreciate the injection of Kaz’s point of view during their initial clash because it seems to hint that he’ll continue to be trouble somehow, later on, and I won’t lie – I want to see Akiva and/or Karou punch his face inside out. DEAR BOOK, PLEASE DO NOT DISAPPOINT ME.
Puppets On Strings
Moving on (sort of) for a moment here, I also have to add that even though puppets sometimes creep me out, they also sometimes amaze me as an art form. Zuzana’s performance on the bridge, where she inverts the format and puts on a spectacular show, is a wonderful example of the latter. I would love so much to see it brought to life on screen: the towering “puppeteer”, the performance, Zuzana in her Anna Pavlova original costume… *Sigh*
And don’t think I didn’t pick up on some connecting thematic tissue, there. Zuzana is using puppets in a performance, but the significance of the idea of people treated like puppets, used and discarded, never allowed any personal freedom, definitely resonated deeper – mostly where Akiva is concerned, given his background and all the emotional damage his life has done to him, but I can’t ignore the fact that we still don’t know nearly as much about Karou at this point. What exactly is she? Was she brought into the world for a purpose that’s yet to be discovered? Is Brimstone behind it or did he really just rescue her from orphanhood and was doing his best for her? Is there a ‘puppeteer’ out there somewhere, angry about the loss of their puppet? And does Karou’s fascination with flight, and with those angel wings, have some deep-rooted significance or is it a fanciful red herring?
Either way, it’s pretty clear that Akiva doesn’t trust Brimstone and is having some trouble reconciling what he’s always believed with what he’s seeing and hearing with Karou, now. But one point I definitely have to concede to him is that Karou seems to have been using wishes very negligently, however personally driven she is. Power like that has to have consequences, and so far Karou has been disregarding them. That, or they simply haven’t caught up to her yet. I suspect it’s the latter.
But that’s where the story leaves off for this section, and so that’s where I’ll sign off on this post and get back to reading!