“Night of Cake & Puppets” by Laini Taylor
Series: Daughter of Smoke & Bone, #2.5
Published: 2013, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
And...it’s like all my life I’ve been this tower standing at the edge of the ocean for some obscure purpose, and only now, almost eighteen years in, has someone thought to flip the switch that reveals that I’m not a tower at all. I’m a lighthouse. It’s like waking up. I am incandescent.
“Night of Cake & Puppets” is a purely delightful novella. The few novellas I have read, coupled with the many reviews I’ve seen for those I haven’t read myself, have convinced that the in-between novellas trend currently so popular among young adult series is not really for me.
If an author writes an in-between novella for a series, there are a couple of criteria that must be met in order for me to be a satisfied reader. I don’t want to read about novellas that simply rehash events that already took place within the series proper from another perspective. Neither do I want to read novellas that are so new that readers who chose not to read this “supplemental” material feel lost in comparison to those who did. Essentially, the novella should function on some level as its own work, much like I expect individual novels within the series to do. It should be its own work, but pay homage to the series proper and tie together elements, while also expanding my understanding of the world/characters/general plot.
And I’ll be damned if Laini Taylor doesn’t check all these buttons and then some in “Night of Cake & Puppets.”
Zuzana has pined after violin boy (real name: Mik) for months now. She works as a puppet maker at a local theater while he is part of the orchestra. Despite that, neither of them has ever even talked to each other. But no longer. Zuzana has decided to finally do something about it. Leaving Mik a map leading to her, and keeping for herself a fistful magical beads, courtesy of Karou, Zuzana is determined to make herself the center of Mik’s night (and hopefully garner a kiss or two in the process).
In many ways, this is little more than a light-hearted, blissfully romantic story. But considering the darkness of the series proper, that’s by no means a bad thing. Nor does the lighter tone of this novella mean that it’s not as good, not as complex or literary or well-written. Because it is.
The romance between Karou’s best friend Zuzana and Mik, the violin player, is kept very much in the background of the Daughter of Smoke & Bone series. Karou herself isn’t present to witness the beginning of their relationship, and so Karou, along with readers, are given only snippets of reference to the events of this night in the series proper.
What this novella really accomplishes is further fleshing out Zuzana and Mik’s characters. Although both are apparently fan favorites (and their popularity may have been part of what inspired Taylor to write up their romance), neither were particular favorites of mine. Zuzana was just a little too strange for my tastes, and everything from her actions to her speech to her dress made her seem more like a caricature to me than a fully-realized character. And Mik just wasn’t defined nearly enough in Daughter of Smoke & Bone and Days of Blood & Starlight for me to form a solid opinion of his character. After reading this novella, however, I can safely say that I’m a fan of Zuzana and Mik: together and individually. They’re adorable and their various proclamations of love made me grin foolishly.
Best of all, I finished this novella fully confident that I did gain supplemental knowledge of the series’ world and characters, but not so much that it would have been a detriment if I hadn’t read this novella. But I am glad I did. The story is a magical one, both due to the literal magical wishes that Zuzana possesses and the general observations on how magical being in love is.
If I ever did highly recommend reading a series’ novella, it would be this one.
Rating: 4.5 stars