Follow This Blog: RSS feed
Battle of the Books

Round 2, Match 2: Chime vs Daughter of Smoke and Bone

by Franny Billingsley
Dial Books
Daughter of Smoke and Bone
by Laini Taylor
Little, Brown

Judged by
E. Lockhart

There is a romantic fantasy common to both adult and YA fiction in which a man who is impossibly beautiful, wildly powerful, possibly evil, and deeply damaged is tamed by the love of a good woman. It is an unequal partnership on the surface. He has the looks and the power. Also, he really might kill her. And yet, he melts when she is near and therefore she is the one with the power, really. At least, so I am told, though honestly I don’t buy it.

It’s not a fantasy that compels me, though apparently I am pretty much alone. I like my men reasonably but not terrifyingly handsome, funny, and nurturing rather than powerful and remote. I am not interested in danger as an aphrodisiac. It quite turns me off.

But enough about my peculiarities for now.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor is a terrific read that took me to several worlds I didn’t want to leave. It is full of innovatively creepy monsters. The heroine, blue-haired and covered in tattoos, is satisfyingly violent and smart-mouthed.

Karou is an art student living in Prague, eating goulash and cavorting with street artists, but her family—which is mysterious even to her—consists of a demon who trades in the teeth of the dead and the group of chimarea who work for him. Karou doesn’t understand why she, a human girl, was raised by these people, nor does she know why the demon sends her on teeth-collecting errands around the globe. Everyone in the demon’s world wants to keep Karou happy and ignorant in the human world, but of course, it’s a form of torture for her not to know who she really is.

Karou remains ignorant until an impossibly beautiful, wildly powerful, possibly evil, and deeply damaged angel shows up. “His gaze was like a lit fuse, scorching the air between them. He was the most beautiful thing Karou had ever seen. Her first thought, incongruous but overpowering, was to memorize him so she could draw him later. Her second thought was that there wasn’t going to be a later, because he was going to kill her” (pp. 95–96).

They fall in love, and pretty mind-bendingly awesome secrets are revealed about Karou’s past, the angel’s history, the demon, and what is going on with all those teeth the demon is collecting.

It is an awesome book, and I hugely recommend it to everyone, even though it ends with some of the mysteries unsolved because a sequel is forthcoming. Still, I am tipping the battle in favor of Chime by Franny Billingsley, largely because of my probably idiosyncratic inability to fall in love with that foxy, murderous angel.

Chime and Daughter are both romantic stories about young women who are ignorant of their own pasts and suffering because of it. But while Taylor plays this problem out in huge, magical globe-trotting action sequences, Billingsley puts her semi-amnesiac heroine Briony in a suffocatingly small town on the edge of a spirit-filled swamp in the early 20th-century.

They hang witches, there. And Briony is a witch, much as she wishes she wasn’t. She thinks she knows how to cure the town of the plague that is killing off its children—but if she tells anyone, they’ll string her up for witchcraft.

Briony has layers of conflicting memories and an extremely evasive narrative voice. Half the time, one doesn’t quite know what is happening, and neither does she. Somewhat infuriatingly, she is always changing the subject when people try to talk about the past or explain things to her. She often decides not to tell people things she should really tell them immediately. Still, it does all come together, and by the end, we have forgiven her all her oddball choices and behaviors.

Her voice is startlingly gorgeous. Speaking of her eternally childish, sweet but demented twin sister, Rose: “It’s my fault that Rose is the way she is. It’s my fault that Rose screams. She screamed like a river, the longest river you could imagine, and from time to time, words bobbed to the surface like sticks” (p. 36).

The way the magic works is emotional throughout. It is always expressing deep feelings of familial love, fury, jealousy, and guilt. The book is political and angry—but it is also a romance, and a gothic one, too—but in a mold I have rarely seen.

It is Briony who is the beauty, the power, the potential evil, and the damaged person. Eldric, her love interest, is all sun and silliness. He is nurturing and curious. He throws good parties and works hard on the decorations. He is absolutely darling, golden, and leonine, and occasionally foolish. And so for me, the incredibly romantic ending of Chime had great strength, because it wasn’t a fantasy of a bad man tamed—it was the fantasy of loving a deeply good man, and how healing that can be.

— Judge E. Lockhart

And the Winner of this match is……

Noooooo! Well, this isn’t entirely unexpected, but I had hoped my pet book would prevail. I’m not unfamiliar with this criticism of the romance, but it didn’t faze me because (a) I read this more for the fantasy and mystery than for the romance and (b) since I don’t read widely in the romance genre I’m not as familiar with this trope, certainly not to the point of oversaturation. Now I remember Billingsley said in one of those five question Horn Book interviews that she much preferred BEAUTY (saving a soul) to THE BLUE SWORD (saving the kingdom), and CHIME reflects that, obviously. Me, I’m a BLUE SWORD guy all the way. But I’d like to think you could have both, and I certainly feel that I get both in DAUGHTER OF SMOKE & BONE. Ah, well. We’ll get ‘em next year with DAYS OF BLOOD & STARLIGHT. In the meantime, I’m definitely rooting for CHIME against BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY. Go Team Fantasy!

— Commentator Jonathan Hunt


With the two novels in this match so similar in genre, I was positive that this would be a very interesting and difficult match to both judge and comment on. Although romance novels are not my personal favorites, I was pleasantly surprised with the turnouts. Daughter of Smoke and Bone brings readers into its wonderfully eerie, dystopic, fantasy world with its whimsically spunky protagonist, Karou. Not your average young woman, Karou brings life to the story with her satisfyingly witty ways in the search to find her identity, and to save the world of the chimaera. Everything is not what it seems in this twisted, dark, forbidden romance, and even after finishing the book it kept me awake for hours just thinking about it. Chime, was a very similar novel and could easily accompany its competitor in a series. As much as I liked Chime with its witches and its conflicting narrations, I did enjoy Daughter of Smoke and Bone more. So, with all due respect to E. Lockhart, if it were my choice, the match would have ended quite differently, but as a fan of both books, I am satisfied with a hint of disappointment.

— Kid Commentator GI


  1. Well I am hugely disappointed. I loved and adored Daughter of Smoke and Bone (it was my pick to win the entire battle) and I did not enjoy Chime. Based on what is left (discounting the undead pick), I now want Between Shades of Gray to win. If Okay for Now is the undead pick, then I’m on team Doug all the way.

  2. Jennifer H says

    YES!!! Go Briony!! Thank you, E. Lockhart, for loving Briony’s voice as much as I did. How can you not love a girl who says things like, “I felt as though I were a music box in want of winding. Yes, as though I were a music box and the tune were my life, playing more and more slowly with every passing day. Finally, not even I could recognize it. The notes were stretched too far apart. They were no longer notes, they were plinks. I wound down to a plink.” And also, “Yes, I’m shallow, I don’t mind admitting it. Perhaps I should admit that there’s no end to the depths of my shallowness.” I could quote this book forever, so I’ll stop there. I adored Briony and am beyond thrilled to see her go on to the next round.

  3. Ugh. What a bummer. Let’s just hope that Daughter of Smoke and Bone comes back from the dead!

  4. RGN Official Kid Commentator says

    Because I didn’t like Chime, I would have picked Daughter of Smoke and Bone. It isn’t my favorite book in the battle, but it’s still pretty good.

  5. I have the biggest smile on my face right now. It started when I was reading the first paragraph but was slightly tentative because I worried E. Lockhart was playing me. But no, happily she had the exact same reaction to these books as me. Karou was a more interesting heroine than we usually see in paranormal romance and Daughter is certainly well written, but it’s still a paranormal romance novel and that will never be a genre I will enjoy. Angel boy and their interaction had me rolling my eyes through half the book. Chime on the other hand is something else all together. It is also character driven rather than plot driven which plays a big part in my liking it more.

  6. Like E.L. and Brandy, I loved the world-building in Daughter of Smoke and Bone, but lost my connection to the book when the sexy angel showed up in all his hotness and the first of many steamy looks were exchanged. Eye rolling did occur–I was pretty disappointed. Whereas the voice in Chime knocked my socks off, and the story wound on with a wonderfully swampy murkiness that led to clear ground at last. Both are such good books, but I’m afraid the breathless romance in DSB was a real distraction, when it should have helped build the story. I’m pleased with Lockhart’s choice.

  7. Nancy Werlin says

    >.And so for me, the incredibly romantic ending of Chime had great strength, because it wasn’t a fantasy of a bad man tamed—it was the fantasy of loving a deeply good man, and how healing that can be.<<

    Words for the ages.

  8. Brandy, are you saying that DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE is paranormal romance whereas CHIME is not? I would have to argue with you on that.

    The only reason I think one could make a case for CHIME being more “character driven” is because the majority of the plot is Briony’s coming of age of sorts. I would say DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE is very similar.

    I actually thought CHIME was rather predictable. There was too much foreshadowing going on. DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE truly surprised me.

    I was (am, still) pulling for OKAY FOR NOW to win it all, but being as DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE was my actual “pick” to win it all, I’m a little disheartened. I feel like Lockhart judged these both as romance novels and they are so much more than that.

    Ah well, there’s hope in the Undead.

  9. E. lockhart and I share one thing. Handsome dangerous bad boys just don’t appeal to me either. I am happy with this choice since it mirrors what I would have chosen myself.

  10. I had a hard time picking between these two; I love them both for different reasons. I went with Daughter in my brackets, mostly because I adore Laini Taylor, but I’m not unhappy to see Chime move on. I think it has a good chance of knocking out Between Shades of Gray, but only because it’s Maggie Stiefvater judging. It will be interesting…

  11. Steffaney Smith says

    And, Nancy Werlin, those who have experienced this in their love know this. All I can say to Ellen Lockhart is, wow, what a commentary on comparing Briony & Karou….the gavel keeps pounding towards a surprise winner, I foresee!

  12. Go Chime! Confession: I haven’t read Daughter of Smoke and Bone, because from all that I hear about the the book, I just don’t think I will like it (not that it’s bad, just that it’s not my type of thing). But I love Chime, so I’m happy that it’s moving on.

  13. Like E. Lockhart, I tend to roll my eyes at the typical paranormal romance male leads. Unfortunately, I didn’t find Eldric that attractive either–his silliness got boring pretty quickly. I would have gone with Smoke and Bone because that was the book that stayed with me longer in my head, but I think Chime is still likely to knock out Shades of Grey.

  14. Emily Goodman says

    Hooray for E. Lockhart! I’m so happy that someone else shares my dislike for this particular romantic trope. I too loved DSB until it turned into a romance between Karou and the angel. Then I felt it got predictable and a shade boring, whereas earlier it had been such an interesting, unusual book. (Sigh.) But I loved CHIME all the way through, and in good part because the romance between the two leads was, dare I say, feminist. It was my favorite of all the books I read this year, I think. I love the spooky swamp, the inbred atmosphere of the small town, the elemental spirits, and the romance that was more Jane Eyre than Jane Austen. It’s not that CHIME was perfect, but that it was so good in the things I care about (voice, poetry, sense of place, strong but real female characters with no particular superpowers — no Katniss, no Katsa, and no typical romance) that I didn’t care about the plot problems at all. Well judged here. Yay!

  15. This is wonderful news! I’m not the only one who thought the romance ruined Daughter of Smoke and Bone, both in this world and in the back story world.

  16. I think this is the first time a judge has actually changed my mind!

    Mind you, the books were very, very close in my head. Loved them both. I actually decided that the back story made the romance in Daughter not quite the irresistible-attraction-at-first-sight that it seemed at first. But, yes, Nancy, Emily Lockhart’s last line won me over completely. Yes, Eldric’s a little boring, but just a little — and how very good for Briony he is.

    Thank you, Emily Lockhart! You made an excellent decision, and completely won me over with your defense of it.

  17. What I really wanted to see was a spirited match-up betweeen Chime and Emily Jenkins’s (E.Lockhart’s)Toys Come Home, with Stingray going up against Briony and emerging victorious. But then we would have had to have another judge, and we wouldn’t have had this very thoughtful assessment. Maybe next year with Toys in the Swampsea…

  18. Sam Bloom says

    Bummer. I’m guessing this is the end for Karou, though I voted for DSB in the Undead Poll. But I don’t see it ousting Swieteck. These first two matches of the 2nd round have knocked out two of my favorite books of 2011. Let’s hope that whatever survives the Life/Wonderstruck battle can take home the crown!

  19. Maisie Mac says

    I wonder who would win between Wonderstruck and Chime. I want to read both but a lot of people give high reviews for each! Do you guys have an opinion?

  20. I am so pleased with the outcome of this round! Though I loved how Taylor brought Karou’s world to life for me, like Lockhart and many of you, I was not a fan of the instant attraction between her and the ridiculously good looking angel boy. It didn’t quite ruin the book for me, but it definitely knocked down my appreciation of it a peg or two.
    Some of you have said you found the ending of Chime rather predictable, but I’d say that us finding out what actually happened to Briony wasn’t the point of the story, but rather Briony’s redemption and coming to terms with the actual events of the past and who she is. Some may find Eldric boring, but I’d take his good nature, his affection, his humor, and his version of a bad boy any day over a mindbogglingly gorgeous, potentially dangerous man, both in my reading material and real life. Combine that with Briony’s lovely poetic narration and you’ve got the makings of a great book in my estimation. I’m hoping Ms. Maggie Stiefvater will come through for me and send Chime into the final round.

  21. I’d have called it for Daughter of Smoke and Bone on the basis of craft alone – those evasions of Briony’s began to look a heck of a lot like artificial plot extenders to me after a while. But that’s one of the things that is great about Battle of the Books – gaining insight into how others evaluate books.

  22. “I like my men reasonably but not terrifyingly handsome, funny, and nurturing rather than powerful and remote. I am not interested in danger as an aphrodisiac. It quite turns me off.”

    Amen, Sister!

    I was trying to work up a passion over the battle of the ethereally beautiful. Couldn’t quiet mange it. Lockart’s first two paragraphs, however, where worth the price of admission. When it comes to teen romance I much prefer the John Green, Maureen Johnson, E. Lockart bent over the Meyer trope.

    Much to admire in both books, but I’d take Gantos in a Grimm Reaper robe over both.

  23. I have not read _Daughter of Smoke and Bone_ and thus cannot judge between the two books, but that was one of the best summaries of everything that was good about _Chime_ that I have seen.

  24. Battle Commander says

    This is Roxanne, and not speaking as official Battle Commander. I just have to say that even though I whole-heartedly agree with Ms Lockhart and her distaste in the age-old and very damaging dream of “good girls” taming “handsome dangerous bad boys,” I think she reads the relationship between Karou and Akiva through an already-distorted lens. Yes, when Akiva first appeared, he might have seemingly fit that “handsome dangerous bad boy” profile, but as we read on, we do realize that there is no inherent “badness” in him and I simply don’t see Karou attempting to “tame” or change him. To cite this “bad romance” as the main reason that Daughter of Smoke and Bone is defeated seems a bit off, in my opinion.

  25. Wow – this judgement sums up all that I liked (and didn’t like) about both books. While I had a hard time with Briony’s angst, I really couldn’t stomach the DSB romance.

    I am, however, in the Blue Sword camp.

  26. Mr. H-It would be more accurate to say that I think Chime is far more than a paranormal romance novel and Daughter of Smoke and Bone is not. If asked to describe Chime the romance, and even the supernatural, would not be where I would start. If describing Daughter of Smoke and Bone I would start with it being a paranormal romance. Though I would quickly add that it has a far more awesomely proactive heroine than most paranormal romances. You and I may not be defining paranormal romance the same way. I tend to think of it in a very specific sense. Or maybe we are, and you just think I’m wrong. 🙂 I do see how others would label Chime as paranormal romance, especially if they use the term more loosely than I do.

  27. NO! This year’s battle is all but killing me! Bring on the Blue Sword! I read and listened to Daughter of Smoke of Bone and loved it each time. I quite agree with Roxanne that there is no inherent badness in Akiva. I felt that Chime was all about the words which were beautiful on a sentence by sentence level but really didn’t add up to anything. I thought the plotline was predictable. The writing saved the book but it did not make it a better book. Daughter of Smoke and Bone had everything! As long as I lose the cover both boys and girls read it. Chime, with or without cover just sits.

  28. Jonathan Hunt says

    I gotta agree with Roxanne here. I’m perfectly okay with CHIME winning, but I really don’t think there was anything inherently bad about Akiva aside from the taboo of his otherness. It’s not until that last reveal that he actually does something bad. Now, if you want to complain that the prose is too purple during the romance sections. Well, okay. Also, I dislike the term paranormal romance. For me, these are books that have genre overlap between fantasy, horror, and romance–and I’d lump CHIME, DAUGHTER OF SMOKE & BONE, and THE SCORPIO RACES into that category.

  29. Boo. North Carolina losing this weekend did some really bad things to my March Madness bracket, so all of my attention had shifted to Karou. On a positive note, UNC losing has freed me of any pecuniary bias, and I can now root for underdog Louisville freely, without that sick feeling that comes with following your heart over your wallet. Similarly (only without money involved), a Daughter of Smoke and Bone/Between Shades of Gray matchup was going to cause me some serious personal anguish, an ostensibly win/win situation that was more likely to register as lose/lose. Head and heart can all pull for Lithuania now, although I get the feeling that the book equivalent of Kentucky awaits in the next round.

  30. Jonathan, I didn’t care that Akiva was a bad boy; I just found the attraction and description of it Twilight-esque (after loving the first part of the book so much that it upset me to fall out of the story). Yes, purple prose there, definitely.

    The storytelling in Chime worked just fine for me, and I thought Briony was conflicted/damaged (as well as manipulated by her stepmother), not holding out on us. But I guess this conversation could go on forever, and truly, they are both very good books. I would agree that the paranormal romance label is limiting. There’s just a lot more going on in Chime AND Daughter of Smoke and Bone!

  31. Steffaney Smith says

    To Brain Lair: Yes, enough of these silly book covers! Get the art right for promoting the stories to the youthful readers. Start with the “Drawing From Memory” cover. Kids are not reading the reviews we librarians do and for them, an attraction to a book cover is the first hurdle to book selection. “Daughter of Smoke & Bon” has been on our library shelf — on display– since November and is still awaiting the first reader….and despite my booktalking it to browsers…

  32. Thank you, THANK YOU E. Lockhart for perfectly articulating all that is wrong with popular teen romance. An excellent decision.

  33. Roxanne,
    With utmost respect, Akiva is a trained soldier on a mission of assassination, nice as he is when you get to know him.
    And isn’t that the fantasy? Discovering that the possibly evil person isn’t really bad — at least, not when he’s around the heroine. That he’s not REALLY bad, because he only kills other people, not the girl. Or he’s not really bad, because he used to be a killer but he doesn’t do it anymore since he found love. Or he’s not really bad, because his nature tells him to kill stuff, but he resists his nature and would never kill anyone so pretty and nice.
    And to add, just being provocative (because that’s why you guys asked me here, right?) — Or he doesn’t really mean to beat her, it’s only because he’s sensitive and feels things more than other people. Or he wouldn’t need heroin if he wasn’t such a deep and suffering artist, and being around her makes him think he could give it up some day…
    I am perhaps overstating the connections, and perhaps depriving everyone of their enjoyment of adorable bad boys. But for me, the one set of fantasies (in books) smacks of the other set of fantasies (in real life) and neither is for me.
    I have loved reading your comments, all!

  34. Didn’t Anne Shirley say she’d like to marry a man who could be evil but chose not to? That kind of a man was interesting to her–or she believed he would be. In the end, she married her nice, safe lad and was happy. As someone said, women want to date Batman but marry Superman.
    I enjoy reading about characters I think I would be friends with in real life, but I also enjoy reading about characters who I would never be friends with and guys I would never trust or want to be with. Both work for me. Well-written, complicated potential bad guys who struggle and change and find motivation to be good are interesting to me. Laini’s characters were interesting.

  35. Battle Commander says

    Emily, thanks for the detailed and enlightening response to my not as informed comment. I can totally see what you are portraying and the connections you’re making. I wasn’t paying as close attention to the character’s inner workings since I didn’t have to write up a whole judging essay. And perhaps I naively do not equate being trained as an assassin/soldier in a fantasy novel as being inherently “bad” like I probably won’t automatically assume someone is “bad” just because he/she has joined the army in real life and is being trained to use weapons and if they are sent to fight a war, they might have to kill….

  36. Jonathan Hunt says

    Well, I read DAUGHTER OF SMOKE & BONE some time ago and since I was so besotted the first time around I should probably reread it with some of these criticisms in mind. Maybe in the summer. Nevertheless, I can’t help but feeling that I am reading this book in a different way than others because I have not read these books (whether “these books” mean the TWILIGHT books, paranormal romance, or young adult romance). None of the fantasies that Emily mentions above really speak to me as a male reader. I don’t identify with Karou and vicariously live out my bad body fantasy through her. None of this is to criticize the decision to advance CHIME.

  37. “Akiva is a trained soldier on a mission of assassination, nice as he is when you get to know him.”

    E. Lockhart, I obviously don’t know your thoughts/intentions behind that statement, but I wonder if I might be misinterpreting it based on semantics. Are you citing Akiva’s status as a soldier and assassin to show that he, one individual, is evil? Or is it more of a blanket statement that includes all soldiers and all assassins?

    If it is the latter, there are thousands of examples across the U.S. (and the globe) I could present who would disprove that statement. Good, honest, upstanding soldiers fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, and I would hesitate to can any of them “evil” for the sake of them being trained and sent to kill as part of war. I imagine the relatively high incidence of PTSD among former soldiers is due to the fact that they are good people who were placed in situations where they had to take lives. I hear stories all the time from people who regret that they killed another person, even though it was the right decision.

    Perhaps it was an over-simplification, but even if you are referring specifically to assassins, there is an inherent flaw with the argument as well. Americans laud Seal Team 6, which is essentially a group of assassins. They were sent in and succeeded in killing Bin Laden and several of his top people. I suspect they are good men who were compelled to do terrible work because someone has to do it. I would much rather that good men who will generally make good, honest decisions be sent on those missions than someone who delights in killing. So I hesitate to assume that assassins and snipers are evil because of their work. There sure are those who are evil, but we can’t overgeneralize to include all in that position.

    You discuss this within the context of paranormal romances, but saying that “the one set of fantasies (in books) smacks of the other set of fantasies (in real life)” implies that these concepts apply universally. Teen romances are notoriously terrible for offering up unrealistic consequences to the actions of “bad boys” and the girls who love them, but I disagree that these concepts of good and evil apply the same to reality as they do in these fictions. In real life, foolish girls who fall in love with bad boys who want to kill them will most likely end up dead, not in love.

    So we can’t apply such stringent definitions upon real-life situations because paranormal romances often disregard the natural law that states every action having an equal and opposite reaction. As such, these fantasies can be damaging for teen girls to read because it skews their vision of realistic consequences. But it does not mean that these definitions should be applied so broadly as to encompass real people in real situations, where their actions are dictated by reality and not the illogical romantic fantasies within PNR.

    To sum up: Saying that certain kinds of people or those with these specific jobs are inherently bad people is itself a bad judgment. To state something so broadly within a narrow context leads to the possibility that people will misconstrue the argument and apply it liberally to those whom it does not actually apply. Not all soldiers are bad. Not all assassins are evil. People can change. Sometimes love is a precursor to that. But we should be wary of both kinds of judgment: that of being too strict and that of being too free. One labels and constricts people who would rightly change and become better. The second absolves criminals of guilt. Neither is good, nor are they reality.

  38. I very much appreciate your correction and your interesting point. I have great respect for people who risk their lives to fight.

    In the essay, I say “possibly evil,” not “evil.” Really, I am just arguing that the fantasy of Akiva is a fantasy of a dangerous boyfriend, and in particular (like in Twilight and Discovery of Witches) the fantasy of a boyfriend who might be dangerous to the heroine. His being a soldier means he’s got skills that can make him a threat, and loyalties that divide him from Karou. He is supposed to kill her.


  1. […] of Smoke and Bone, and Chime. Though I’m plenty fickle, because in her brilliant analysis, E. Lockhart got me completely behind her choice of Chime over […]

  2. […] morning and boy, were there some tough ones.  E. Lockhart, possibly my favorite YA author, judged Daughter of Smoke and Bone against Chime.  She didn’t love Karou like I loved Karou.  She picked Chime which means only one thing: […]

Speak Your Mind