Days of Blood and Starlight
By Laini Taylor
November 6, 2012
Ages 14 and up
Few sequels can improve upon their predecessor, especially if such a predecessor was a book of seemingly unsurpassed beauty. DAYS OF BLOOD AND STARLIGHT by Laini Taylor does just that, it surpasses DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE in the scope of the world, the characters, the sadness, the betrayal, the story, the words… everything. Laini has taken the basis of her fantasy world from book one and created an epic new landscape that breaches our own. I wish that my review could do it justice, but unfortunately, I am not as skilled a writer as Laini.
Regardless, I will do my best.
(First this: Fair warning to those reading this review. I will try not to spoil the series for you, but needless to say, you shouldn’t even be considering DAYS of BLOOD AND STARLIGHT until you have read the first book in the series.)
Fast paced and told in snippets of multiple perspectives, creeping along the main plot line one short chapter at a time (there are well over 50 chapters in this book), once you enter the world of DAYS OF BLOOD AND STARLIGHT you will find it difficult to put the 500+ page tome down. The book begins by laying out all we learned in book one and answering the question, “what happens next?” Oh my, what happens next is an endless series of tragedies, war, suspenseful surprises and misguided actions and misunderstandings, left and right, one right after the other. The daughter of a resurrectionist finds in herself the ability to carry on his legacy. But will she use this ability for good or evil? What would it take to save a whole race of people, perhaps at the cost of another? The tables are turned, and the beaten-down angel, now a hero among his kind for enabling the seemingly total destruction of a people, is dealing with the knowledge that he has betrayed the one he holds most dear. Can hope be found in heroic deeds? Can one man (or one woman) change an entire world? All this and more is explored in just the opening chapters of DAYS OF BLOOD AND STARLIGHT.
We re-enter the world of Eretz and discover what such a place would be like in the aftermath of the angel’s “total” annihilation of the chimera. But we also spend much of the book in our own world, in a sandcastle ruled by “monsters”. Much is learned about both the angels and chimera, further expanding the fantastical world that Laini introduced in the first book. So much desperation and distrust and an ever-present sense of loss is woven into these pages. A people who have lost all that they have ever known. A world full of lies and deceit, extreme hardship and horrors, and of never-ending death and rebirth.
Goodness. You would think that with so many themes abound in one book that things would get confusing. But alas, Laini is a skilled writer. She pulls it off with ease and finesse.
Above all else, what makes this book surpass its predecessor are the characters. As we know, and as Karou herself now knows, much was revealed about her origin and true self in book one. She is Madrigal Kirin, the star-crossed chimera lover of the angel, Akiva. Now that she knows this and is essentially continuing her life with all prior knowledge as a chimera, as well as her experiences as a human. We see a seamless combination of both “personalities” in Karou, though, essentially, we also have a much “darker” Karou in this book. She is a young woman haunted by two lifetimes of loss and betrayal, and she is also weighted down with her new responsibilities in Brimstone’s wake. Akiva is almost the antithesis of Karou in this entry, seeing as he has already committed his sins in the first book and here he is looking for redemption of sorts. Akiva is a blazing angel is with the hope of a brighter future. I found myself cheering for Akiva on every page – he was much easier to connect with in this entry than he was in the first.
But in addition to Karou and Akiva (of which book one was essentially “their story”), DAYS OF BLOOD AND STARLIGHT is also told from numerous other character’s perspectives. This installment is essentially “everyone’s story”, including that of Karou’s best friend, Zuzana, and her lover, Mik, who bring some much appreciated humor into the book. But also there are Akiva’s “siblings” who have now joined him on his “quests”. Their interactions are touching and admirable portrayals of how morals and individual experiences can alter a lifetime of beliefs. Their scars and tarnished hands betray the very ideology of all that we know about “angels”. Then there is the very last chimera of Karou’s kind, now a warrior in the White Wolf’s army; the Kirin, Ziri, is a surprising -and at times tragic- character who I believe will have a huge impact on where things go in book three. Switching between each of these character’s perspectives, DAYS OF BLOOD AND STARLIGHT provides multiple interlacing plot lines that divide enemy lines and unite others in a story of epic proportions. In the end, no world or living creature is safe.
I love how Laini blurs the lines between good and evil in ways that I have not yet seen in YA. Aside from a few exceptions, there is no clear hero in this story, no one is without sin, let no stone be cast by any of the characters. While I do believe that love shall overcome all obstacles, there is no guarantee that love or life will actually survive and conquer all. Laini sets up a climatic scene in the end that promises an epic battle of the likes no one has seen before in YA. I have NO IDEA where her story will take us! And I LOVE THAT!
This reader is undeniably enthralled and ready to declare that DAYS OF BLOOD AND STARLIGHT by Laini Taylor is my #1 read in 2012!