In the fifth part of Daughter of Smoke and Bone, I WAS UNPREPARED.
MAJOR spoilers follow for chapters 32-39.
In this part of the book, Akiva and Karou continue their conversation and try to reach an agreement. And then Akiva drops a plot-twisting bomb. Oh, and then his angelic ‘siblings’ turn up and everything goes to hell before he can explain to her.
There was a lot of screaming in the group chat for this part, let me tell you.
If You Want Peace…
The conversation/argument that Karou and Akiva have (before everything goes to hell) is so topically on-point and interesting to read, because their opposing positions dovetail so well here with their immediate, and growing, attraction to one another – but none of that automatically leads to complete trust. There are some very good reasons for each of these people to distrust the other, but what’s most fascinating is where that distrust is coming from, for each of them. Akiva doesn’t trust Brimstone, or the chimaera in general, because why would he after all the years of battle and rampant destruction he’s seen, and suffered at their hands? His points are solid ones based on the evidence of his eyes, even if he’s now in a place where any other viewpoint is almost an alien concept to him.
Karou, on the other hand, is fiercely defending what she sees as her own side because all she’s known, perhaps despite some evidence that was there for her to extrapolate, is the goodness of the ‘monsters’ who raised her. She’s trusting her feelings more than anything, it seems, and that should put her even more at odds with Akiva. It does, at first – but then Akiva makes an excellent point by asking a question that blows the mystery of this story so far wide open: If magic doesn’t cause, or come from, pain, then why else would Brimstone need all those teeth?
(Side note: I always knew the concept of the tooth fairy was creepy but this takes it to a whole new level.)
Those teeth didn’t come from dead people, or at least not always, and in any case, hugely traumatic amounts of pain would have been caused to the source (remember the elephant tusks). There’s no way that Brimstone wouldn’t have known this. Right? And so here’s Karou, faced with this unassailable logic and having to deal with the fact that she played a part in giving Brimstone access to all that power.
MY BABIES ARE IN SO MUCH PAIN AND IT’S UNBEARABLE HELP ME.
But Akiva isn’t telling her this to convince her to join his side. His lot are every bit as bloodthirsty and wantonly violent, at this point. The seraphim are literally being bred for war; it’s all that they know because it’s all that they’ve ever been allowed to know. But he knows something different – and here’s where we get to both the good stuff in his backstory, and to the absolute bomb of a plot twist I was talking about.
Madrigal wasn’t one of the seraphim, you guys.
I don’t know – maybe that was obvious to some of you? But it took me completely by surprise. I did not expect someone who seems to hate the chimaera as much as Akiva did to ever have fallen in love with the enemy.
In hindsight, though, of course he did. And of course she was the one who first planted the idea in his mind of striving for something better than a lifetime of war. BUT. Then she died, and Akiva regressed in his grief all the way back into the shell of the Hardened Warrior, and then Karou came along with her big eyes and her mysterious origins, and then…
NOW I SEE WHAT YOU DID THERE, LAINI TAYLOR. DAMN YOU.
… Prepare For War
BUT THEN. Before we can get to Karou (Madrigal?!) learning the truth about herself, along come Liraz and Hazael, fucking it all up.
I want to take particular note of Liraz here, because holy shit she scares the hell out of me. That one is not going to melt and get all sappy over a tragic love story. Even the way Akiva describes his ‘sister’ paints a pretty merciless picture of her, here. She is everything Akiva seemed to be, at the start of this book – but without the sense of empathy. Sure, she cares deeply about Akiva, but I suspect that’s only going to make her more ruthless in pursuit of Karou, unless Akiva can somehow convince her to stand down once and for all. That is his ultimate goal, but if he can’t begin with those closest to him, what chance does he have of stopping the war at all?
So it’s confession time for Akiva, who has kept the secret of what happened with Madrigal for all these years, even from them. Will they forgive him? Or is all of that particular hope lost already?
And will he make it to Marrakesh to meet back up with Karou, before she gives up on him? Will she give up on him? I want to say she won’t, because my heart wants a reunion there, but I have to admit that this story has already taken some turns I wasn’t expecting, and this IS a trilogy. And we’re getting close to the end of the book, now.
OH GOD I CAN’T TAKE THIS BUT I HAVE TO KNOW.