Check out our episode here! Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Karou, a blue-haired art student in Prague, walks to school and is attacked by a vampire! Gasp! Don't worry, the vampire is really just her ex-boyfriend, Kaz, pestering her to join his new Vampire Tour group. Ugh, Kaz. Handsomely gorgeous Kaz. Karou gave him everything, if you know what I mean, and well, she regrets it. She turns Kaz down and continues on to school, escaping him and greeting her best friend, Zuzana. Zuze is a tiny beautiful bundle of rage who only scrapes five feet tall if she's wearing platform boots. She immediately asks for Karou's sketchbooks to see what she drew over the weekend. Karou's sketchbooks are bursting with drawings of chimaera, creatures made of mixed animal and sometimes human parts. There's a snake woman, Issa, a giraffe man, Twiga, a curly haired parrot woman, Yasri, and Brimstone, the Wishmonger. So many wonderful creatures that defy imagination, but they're real. Just like Karou's hair really is blue. Brimstone, the star of her sketchbooks, is real, too, and when Zuzana asks what he got up to this weekend and Karou replies that he bought alligator teeth from a murderer, she wasn't lying. He really does deal in wishes and buy strange teeth from strange people. Even though Karou says it's a true story and has tattoos saying just that, no one believes her, but that's probably for the best.
Karou's escape from Kaz is short-lived as he's taken a job as a living model for her art class. And now he's naked in front of the classroom. To get back at him for sharing about his conquest of her, whilst she wore a cape and only a cape, then finding him with another girl, Svetla, Karou reaches up to her necklace and makes a wish. This necklace is made of scuppies, the smallest denomination of wishes, but scuppies are enough to slightly torture Kaz with itches. First, his elbow, then his nose, and finally... his butt crack. Watching him squirm nakedly in front of the classroom is almost enough to make her feel better about how he treated her, but she also feels ashamed. Brimstone will surely be disappointed in her waste of wishes for an "inessential penis." Brimstone is like Karou's father. She has no real family, she knows nothing of where she came from, and she's had eyes tattooed like hamsas on her palms for as long as she can remember. She has an interesting life. And now, at their after school dinner spot, the Poison Kitchen, Karou receives a note from Kishmish, Brimstone's messenger, telling her she is to go on an urgent errand. Leaving Zuzana, she goes to meet Brimstone.
Karou is greeted at the doorway to Brimstone's by Issa who has to open the door from the inside in order to travel to Elsewhere, otherwise you'd just end up in a laundromat or another back alley business. There are many doors all over the world that lead to Brimstone's and that passage always makes Karou a little queasy, but she's arrived and is ready to receive her errand. She gets a scolding from Brimstone first though. Who knows why this massive ram-horned, crocodile-eyed, lion-legged, claw-foot chimaera raised Karou since she was a baby, but he did, and now she's in trouble for wasting her scuppies and shings, one step above scuppies, on petty things and for taking forty minutes to arrive. If only he'd give her some gavriels, the second highest denomination of wishes, she'd be able to turn invisible and fly to meet him whenever he summons, but no. There's no way she'd pay for them either. That requires teeth, and a lot of them, for teeth are the only currency used to buy wishes. They are also all over the place in Brimstone's office. All kinds of teeth from all kinds of creatures being strung into necklaces between gemstones or in jars or bowls or hanging from garlands. So many teeth.
Brimstone sends Karou to Paris through the exact same door she entered from Prague. This door opens to many different places in many different countries and Karou's been to most of them, sometimes for fun, most of the time for teeth. This is a teeth time. She's to retrieve giant elephant tusks from an auction house, and she does. She lugs them all the way across town and back to the door, but finds it momentarily blocked by two rabbis. They seem to be examining something. When they leave and Karou can use the door, she sees what the rabbis must have been talking about. A handprint. Burned into the door. What if Issa doesn't come? What if she's stuck out here forever? Luckily Issa finally arrives and Karou brings in the tusks. Inside talking to Brimstone is a burly, bearded, American trader, Bain, who earns two gavriels for his assorted bear, wolf and/or wildcat teeth and he winks at Karou on his way out. Gross. Karou wants to stay with her chimaera family in her little cot she slept on as a child, but just as she's about to ask, there's a knock at the only other door in the shop. Karou has never seen that door opened, and just like every other time someone comes knocking, Brimstone ushers her out.
Meanwhile, there are stories about people all over the world finding handprints burned into doorways. Eyewitnesses said they saw beautiful men and beautiful women with beautiful burning eyes and beautiful winged shadows leaving the marks. Akiva, Hazael and Liraz, angels with glamored wings unseen by human eyes, unless you notice their shadows, are the ones marking them. Akiva keeps blades sheathed on his back as if he is preparing for battle, and he is. As soon as all the doorways are marked, the war will begin. He'd rather burst through the door now and kill everyone on the other side, but no, the magic of the doors won't let him through, so he continues marking them.
Karou spends the next several days running errands for Brimstone, gathering more and more teeth from all corners of the world. She normally only goes out once or twice a week for teeth-gathering, but she's been out four times already and she's got homework to do and a friend she's been bailing on, so when Kishmish shows up again, she ignores him and goes to Poison Kitchen with Zuzana instead, wasting wishes to get their favorite table. She finally relents and goes to meet Brimstone after spending most of the evening with Zuze, talking about the violin-playing boy she has a crush on and butterflies in tummies. Brimstone is happy to see Karou when she finally shows up because he thought she was done with them and never coming back. How could she do that? The chimaera are her only family. The errand she must go on now is one to a person she enjoys visiting, Izîl, but does not enjoy retrieving his deliveries. Izîl is a grave robber and provides many of Brimstone's human teeth. He is also one of the people that was brave enough, or foolish enough, to earn a bruxus, the greatest denomination of wishes, by pulling out all of his own teeth. He wished for knowledge but was cursed to carry an invisible fallen seraphim, Razgut, on his back for the rest of his life. Razgut is deformed and twisted and awful and constantly muttering things. The grave robber is only able to give a handful of teeth this time and some of them are baby teeth, which Brimstone has only accepted once before. As Karou is preparing to go back to Brimstone's shop, Akiva appears. He has just marked his last doorway. The one Karou needs to get back.
When she sees Akiva, Karou gets a tingling in her palms and a feeling that he is an enemy. She runs across town toward the door, but Akiva follows. They fight, he with his swords and Karou only with her bare hands. Surprisingly, her bare hands, or more specifically the hamsas tattooed there, repel the angel, flinging him back and into a wall. She makes it to the door, but Issa doesn't answer, just an old woman who resides behind the actual door. She pounds and pounds but Issa doesn't come. Then Akiva appears again and asks Karou "Who are you?" Yeah, not a good time. Maybe you should ask that before you slice someone up with your swords. Finally Issa comes to the door and Karou manages to make it through before Akiva can follow or kill her. Inside the shop, Brimstone is gone. She's never been allowed inside when he is elsewhere. Issa and Yasri help get Karou patched up from her fight and force her to rest. This is when she notices that the other door inside the shop is open. She's never seen it open before. She has to know what is on the other side. Making a scuppy wish for silence, she creeps through.
There is another world on the other side of the door. A world with two moons and chimaera. And Brimstone. And Twiga. Uh oh. Luckily they are passing by, deep in conversation, and don't notice her. She follows them down an almost never ending spiral staircase, listening to them talk about a war and a fearless general that is also here and running out of supplies. At the bottom of the stairs, she sees the corpses of chimaera laid out on slabs and a fog of incense in the air. As she examines the bodies, she notices they have hamsas exactly like hers on their hands, or paws, or in the case of the elephant-bear, his front feet. Karou examines one more closely. A handsome white haired male with the paws and fur and feet of a white wolf. As she is studying his hamsas, she realizes he is not dead. He springs to life and snarls "Who are you?!" Since she's never been able to properly answer that question, she screams instead.
Akiva meanwhile is interrogating Izîl and Razgut for information about the girl with the hamsas. He has taken Izîl and his terrible burden up to a high parapet. Izîl reveals her name is Karou and that she is Brimstone's adopted daughter/errand girl who showed up one day as a baby, but not much more than that. Then they have a conversation about what makes monsters, finding your soul, killing a lot of innocents and stringing teeth to make necklaces. When Akiva tires of trying to get information out of the grave robber, and of listening to Razgut's constant murmuring of "take me home, brother!" he threatens to kill Izîl. But Izîl is done talking, so he throws himself from the parapet.
Karou is rescued from the white wolf by Brimstone, but rescue might not be the right word. He is furious. He roughly drags Karou up the stairs and throws her through the door and into the shop. He yells at her and at Issa and Yasri. Karou should never have gone through that door. They agreed if they were to keep her here and safe that she should never be seen by anyone on the other side. He asks if the wolf, Thiago, saw her hands, her hamsas, and she has to tell him yes. He throws her out of the shop into the snow and slams the door behind her. She has no coat, no shoes and sword wounds and has to walk to her flat. Upon arrival, she realizes she doesn't have her keys or any wishes stronger than scuppies to wish her way inside. Just then, she's grabbed from behind. Reacting on instinct, she throws the person through the plate glass of her apartment building. That solves the problem of her getting inside at least. But the attacker wasn't an attacker. It was Kaz, who spits "what are you?!" at her. What, not who this time. She goes to her flat, breaks in, and sobs. Zuzana arrives a few days later and Karou tells her everything. Really. Everything. The true story, but Zuzana doesn't believe. Until, that is, a burning Kishmish, carrying the wishbone Brimstone always wore around his neck, flies inside and dies in Karou's arms. Karou and Zuzana rush to the shop to find the door burning from the handprint scorched onto it. Karou realizes that all the portals to Elsewhere, to Brimstone and Issa and all her family are gone.
Three months have passed since the portals burned. In that time, Karou learned that Brimstone has left her quite a bit of money and property all over the world. She uses that money to travel, normal-person style, to find the terrible tooth traders and retrieve their unspent wishes. Bain, the burly bearded winking trader who earlier earned two gavriels, is relieved of his wishes at gunpoint. Inside his grizzly, greasy beard, Karou finds several shings, lucknows (one step up from a shing) and the two gavriels. She uses a shing to wish him to sleep, then uses a gavriel to give herself the power of flight, and takes off, this time, to find Izîl. Surely he'll have answers she needs. Either he will, or Razgut will.
Karou arrives to learn that Izîl killed himself to protect her from the angel, but Razgut survived the fall. He survived a much greater fall than that 1000 years ago when he fell from heaven, or was cast out, so this plummet was nothing. He tells Karou that he knows a way she can see Brimstone again. There is another portal that the angels didn't destroy, the same one he fell from. Good thing Karou can fly now! Unfortunately, she has to use her other gavriel to wish Razgut the power of flight as well, because she has to take him along. But not yet. She's got a puppet show to go to first. Meanwhile in Prague, Akiva has found Karou's flat. He has the first page of the sketchbook that was left with all the rest of her things when she was thrown from Brimstone's shop. The page with her address on. He's been waiting for days for her, but she hasn't been seen. She's been busy, gathering wishes and preparing for her trip with Razgut. But now she's finally on her way home. She's got to be there for Zuzana's puppet show.
Back in her flat, Akiva still watches Karou. He can't hurt her. He's got an odd feeling about her. She reminds him of a girl he once loved. A chimaera girl with beautiful wings and gazelle horns. An angel loving a chimaera? How is that possible? They are sworn enemies! However it happened (we know but we're totally not telling yet), Akiva misses how the girl, Madrigal, would kiss the death tally tattoos on his fingers and talk about how all they knew was war, but they had to make something of it. That girl is gone and has been for a long time. Why does this new girl, Karou, whose name means hope, remind him so much of his beloved Madrigal?
Zuzana's puppet show is achingly beautiful. Karou gifted her with a vintage ballerina costume and did her makeup and Mik, the boy Zuze had a crush on who is now her adorable boyfriend, plays the violin while she dances as if she is the puppet under the arms of a giant puppeteer puppet. It's reverse puppeteering and it is perfect. Karou has had a bad feeling all day and after Zuzana's performance, it comes back again. She is certain she is being watched. She sneaks through the streets of Prague, across bridges and down alleys, pretending fear. Her pursuer is getting close. She stops in a nook and is startled to find Svetla there, dressed as a vampire in Kaz's tour, fluffy eyebrows hidden. She snarls at Karou who promises to fix her eyebrows if she'll just shut up. In the shadows of the alley, Karou sees wings and springs from her hiding place, one hamsa out with a knife in the other hand, and attacks. The angel barely fights back and promises not to hurt her. Too bad she doesn't have her fancy crescent moon blades that she bought when buying Zuzana's gift, but the hamsas work well enough. To stop her from attacking, the angel flies up in the air, saying he just wants to talk, and Karou, launching herself from a perfect superhero pose, flies up next to him.
They circle in the air, drawing a gawking crowd below, including but not limited to Kaz who watches up jealously. Akiva holds Karou's hands together, keeping the hamsas concealed, and tummy butterflies erupt inside Karou. What is this feeling and why is it happening? This guy, this beautiful angel, is her enemy! The hamsas prove it! He tells her about the hamsas, that they are the marks of revenants, chimaera soldiers, and they are the only ones that have them. He tells her about Brimstone and the others being in the black fortress, the place she saw earlier through the second doorway, and that they burned the portals to stop the war. He releases her hands and backs away, but quickly moves toward her again. Bad idea. Her hands fly up in protection and he tumbles to the ground. She lands next to him to a surge of applause and ushers him away so they can talk.
Back in her flat, Akiva tells Karou about the war and how he is a soldier, bred only to fight, named Akiva because another Akiva died and the name opened up. The war has been going on for a thousand years, chimaera against angels, enemies forever. The angels gave the beasts light and technology and the written word, but then made them slaves and treated them like garbage. No one is surprised that they got tired of being oppressed and rose up to fight. Akiva came here to close the portals, to stop the sorcerer Brimstone's magic, but stayed because people were not fighting and free to grow old. Also because he saw a girl with dark eyes and jewel hair and he wanted to know what it would be like to make her smile. Then his wings unfurl and he falls asleep, so Karou sketches him. Draws him for hours until she falls asleep, too. She wakes up to see him looming over her, her crescent blades in his hands. But he was just looking at them. They get breakfast buns from a bakery and watch the sunrise from the top of a cathedral, Karou kicking her feet from the edge. Akiva is mesmerized by Karou's simple joys. She explains that she only wished for flight a few days ago so she is still enjoying it. They talk of other wishes she has made and then Akiva reveals the cost of using magic is pain. Oh great. that itchy butt crack is probably feeling really petty right about now.
At a teahouse, Akiva tells her more of his story, more about the war. She keeps her hamsas hidden, wrapped around her teacup, and his hands are the same. She looks at his tattoos there, the chimaera death tally, and has a flash of what seems like an old memory and says "You have more now." What? Akiva is just as startled as she is. She's always had a feeling like something wasn't quite right, like she was someone else, meant to be doing something else, like Karou isn't her name, and it's happening again right now. Akiva spills his tea and the waitress who cleans it up tells Karou she's been on tv all morning and asks how they were flying. Karou simply said they were flying. She calls Zuzana, who is a tiny ball of rage at Karou's flying disappearance, and she comes to the teahouse. She meets Akiva and immediately wants to mate with him (Mik will be fine with it, surely). She can see that Akiva and Karou have a thing but Karou insists they are enemies. Zuze informs Karou that the police are after them for their flying fight, so Karou decides now is the time to fly through the portal with Razgut, but Akiva is coming too, to keep her safe.
Before they go, they spend the rest of the day in Prague with Zuzana and Mik. On the bridge where Zuzana had her performance, she and Mik make out and Akiva almost kisses Karou. They talk about war being all that is in the other world and that Karou doesn't have to go and Akiva will stay with her. She pulls the wishbone out, thinking of Brimstone and how she has to find him, but when Akiva sees it, he falls to his knees, crying, wings unfurling and tells Karou he knows who she is. Before they can talk more, Hazael and Liraz approach them on the bridge. They are like family to Akiva and have come to see why he disappeared. After the last battle at Loramendi, he had to get away. They know there is something about Karou, they have suspicions, but Akiva pretends she is just a human, pushing her behind his wings to talk to the other angels in their own language. However, Karou, unbeknownst to Akiva, uses a Lucknow to wish herself the language of the seraphim and steps around him, threatening to show the angels her hands. Akiva has a choice, does he stand with his family or with Karou? Karou, he chooses Karou and tells her to leave, but to wait for him before going through the portal with Razgut.
Now Akiva remembers when he made another difficult decision. Lying near death on a beach after the battle at Bullfinch, he's just killed a lizard hyena chimaera who has very nearly killed him, too. He's on the ground, waiting for death, but a chimaera girl shows up instead. She's carrying a staff and has crescent moon blades. She's part girl, part bat, part gazelle. And she puts a tourniquet on his wound and leads the other chimaera away. Before leaving though, they have a moment. They joke about living and dying, she recommends living, and then leaves. Liraz shows up not long after, asking who helped him, but he says he doesn't know. Now, in present day, Liraz tries to go after Karou, but Akiva stops her. Hazael breaks up their fight, but Liraz is very upset at being stabbed in the back (metaphorically of course, Akiva would never hurt her) and then he tells them both that Madrigal, a chimaera, saved his life and he fell in love with her.
He remembers going back to Astrae, where the seraphim rule from, taken back from the chimaera, to be seen by the healers. He learns of the magic once used by the magi before they were all murdered and secretly begins to wield it, using his pain from his battle wound as payment. He learns to make himself invisible and learns the language of the chimaera. One day, he will see his chimaera girl again. He also learns to use his other arm in battle and now uses dual blades and earns the attention of his father, Joram, the leader of the seraphim who has legions of children, who talks about his mother in an unfavorable way. She was a different kind of seraphim, a Stelian, the outliers from the Far Isles who used magic. Akiva seems to think there's a better way of living. And now, back in the present, he's flying to meet Karou with her wishbone in his hand. Akiva knows that if Karou learns what's inside it, she'll hate him forever.
They meet in Morocco. Karou has been waiting for days and purchased gloves to hide her hamsas so she can touch Akiva. When he finally arrives, pretending to be surly, he tells Karou that they're going to break the wishbone so she can finally learn who she is. They go to her rented room, and after a passionate kiss and shared I-love-yous, they break the wishbone. Karou is filled and complete. Her past life has joined with her present. She is Karou. She was Madrigal. She was in love with Akiva then, too, and because of it, she was accused of treason and sentenced to death by beheading, and to evanescence. Her soul would not be saved. But she had a plan. After her death, she would save Akiva.
Madrigal was of high-human aspect, meaning she had a human face and torso, and was therefore very beautiful. She had also never been killed and then resurrected by Brimstone. She had no hamsas on her hands. Those came after Brimstone brought you back to life. Madrigal had been working with Brimstone, learning his trade, which was very rare. Thiago, the White Wolf, the son of the Warlord, wanted to marry Madrigal for her purity. Madrigal's adopted sister, Chiro, was of creature aspect and was jealous of Madrigal for being desired by Thiago but not sure what to do about it. Madrigal couldn't tell if she liked Thiago or if she was afraid of him. But Chiro came to get Madrigal ready for the ball celebrating the Warlord.
Madrigal thought about her childhood, growing up, being lucky enough to have been chosen instead of Chiro to be a page and then apprentice to Brimstone. She learned that teeth and gemstones strung together created the bodies of the chimaera and that when they died in battle, their souls were gleaned with incense into thuribles and held until a new body was ready. Brimstone taught her all about the teeth, choosing the right ones, but he taught by example, not by words. She helped resurrect Chiro once, made a body exactly like the one she had before, but Chiro was angry at first because she still has the head of a jackal, was still creature aspect, but Madrigal made her perfectly. She also learned that magic works because of pain and that is what really brought everything together. The teeth paid that pain, and the chimaera's previous death was used to create the hamsas on their hands to protect them from the seraphim. The seraphim… she still thinks of that one she saved on the battlefield, blushing when she does. If only Madrigal had died in battle, after all, death is just death, a body just a body, then she wouldn't have been chosen by Thiago. As long as her soul wasn't allowed to evanesce, Brimstone could always bring her back. But no, she has no hamsas, she is pure, and now she's masked and dusted in sugar and going to the ball.
There was a parade of sorts along the way to the ball where all the masked chimaera danced with one another and kissed each partner before passing along to someone else. No one would dance with Madrigal though. Everyone knew she was Thiago's. No one except the man in the horse mask. He dances with her all the way to the doors and tells her he knows who she is but doesn't know her name and that she saved his life. She immediately knows. This horse is the angel. He must be a fool for coming here! He didn't come to assassinate the Warlord, he only came for her. But she tells him to leave for he'll surely be found out and tortured and killed. Then Madrigal was approached by Chiro and then they saw Thiago and the angel horse disappeared into the crowd. There was another dance so Madrigal whisked herself away from Thiago to dance more with strangers. This time, the angel horse was a tiger instead. He asked her if she intended to marry Thiago, if she loved him, but love, she said, is a luxury. No, he replied, it's an element. The dance ended and Madrigal was passed to Thiago and the tiger disappeared.
During the next dance, Thiago sleazed on Madrigal, after all, in his mind, he owned her. He commented on her dress then broke the collar of it so it fell open and he conveniently held it up by pressing his hand above her breast. Luckily she was swapped to another dance partner and then another, the angel wearing a goofy human face. He noticed her broken dress and got angry, then called hummingbird moths to Madrigal's shoulders to cover her. She laughed and Chiro noticed. Luckily the fireworks began after that and the two were able to sneak away to a hidden garden to kiss and make love. They came to each other for a month, breaking wishbones each time before they departed to wish for another evening together. Then they started planning for their future, but they were discovered.
Now, briefly back with Karou and Akiva, they declare their love for each other. Karou is Madrigal, she is complete again, and she is so happy to see that Akiva is still alive. When her head was cut off and Akiva screamed and screamed and kept on screaming, Madrigal had a plan to save him. A week before being caught, Thiago returned from the battle he left for the day after the ball, and Madrigal knew that Chiro had become suspicious. In her cell, Brimstone told her he couldn't save her, and she knew it. She apologized for shaming him, but he told her he was not ashamed and she should not be sorry for falling in love. He said they will never win the war with the seraphim until they had something new and that they both hoped for the same thing. He also informed her that Chiro was the one who told on them for Thiago's promise of high human aspect the next time she died. Brimstone wouldn't allow that of course. He said he had eel teeth waiting for her now. But he also told Madrigal that some souls were weak and could be pushed aside. When Thiago came to take her to her beheading, Brimstone informed him that Chiro would come to watch over her evanescence, and he left her cell with a smile.
When Madrigal was beheaded, Chiro apologizing for what she had done, Madrigal pushed her soul, her being, inside Chiro's body, and walked to Akiva's cell to set him free. He killed her. Karou had no idea how Brimstone had found her and gleaned her soul, but it didn't matter! She and Akiva are together again and they are going through the portal to find Brimstone and they will work together to bring about the end of the war! Except… no. Akiva, when he burned his handprint into the last doorway to Brimstone's shop, had gone inside and to the Black Fortress in Loramendi and killed them all before taking Karou's sketchbook with her address and finding her. She left Akiva when he told her that. Left him, but didn't kill him. Left him to find Razgut and go with him through the portal into Loramendi to stop the war.