My Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 1/2 (More like a 4.8, to be honest)
Hardcover: 528 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: November 6, 2012
Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a world free of bloodshed and war.
This is not that world.
Art student and monster’s apprentice Karou finally has the answers she has always sought. She knows who she is—and what she is. But with this knowledge comes another truth she would give anything to undo: She loved the enemy and he betrayed her, and a world suffered for it.
In this stunning sequel to the highly acclaimed Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Karou must decide how far she’ll go to avenge her people. Filled with heartbreak and beauty, secrets and impossible choices, Days of Blood & Starlight finds Karou and Akiva on opposing sides as an age-old war stirs back to life.
While Karou and her allies build a monstrous army in a land of dust and starlight, Akiva wages a different sort of battle: a battle for redemption. For hope.
But can any hope be salvaged from the ashes of their broken dream?
Magnificent. This book is magnificent. Laini Taylor is magnificent. Everything is magnificent when it comes to this book. Even while writing this review, I’m having a very hard time determining the weakest aspects of this book.
Laini Taylor’s writing is near flawless. Her style and language are undeniably expressive and eloquent. The images that she conjures through her prose are enchanting and contain the very essence of fantasy and imagination. Usually, I focus on the meaning or the messages the author tries to convey throughout the story. But when it comes to Taylor, I’m enraptured by the way a message or phrase is delivered. Not only are her messages beautiful in the purpose that they carry, but they are also beautifully worded.
“I am one of billions. I am stardust gathered fleetingly into form. I will be ungathered. The stardust will go on to be other things someday and I will be free.”
Another striking aspect of this book is the strength of Taylor’s storytelling abilities. The plot is not simply told from the two perspectives of our main characters, Karou and Akiva. Rather, the story is composed of multiple POVs, several of which are told from minor characters’ perspectives. Taylor weaves together the narratives and experiences of side characters whose purpose is to both represent the tragic extent of the brewing war between the Chimaera and the Angels, but to also join the individual storylines of the main characters across their respective distances. The author manages to inspire sympathy for these minor characters within a short chapter, and readers are encouraged to fear for their lives as they experience the horrors of war. I hold a special place in my heart for Mik and Zuzana (cutest. couple. EVER), as they embellish the story with their good-naturedness and endearing romance.
One of the most interesting elements of the book is its depiction of war and the conflicting justifications for it. The two armies going into battle have very different motivations, and each side tries to justify their horrendous actions. However, it seems that no side is truly in the right. Taylor creates a conflict in which nothing is black or white, but she highlights the merits of right and wrong. While some actions taken by each side may seem to be in the right, it does not mean they can be wholly justified.
War is an ugly business and the author does not shy away from portraying the unfortunate effects of war. She includes jarring deaths, collateral damage, torture, discrimination, mass murder, mutilation, abuse and more. I’d even go so far as to say one of Taylor’s many talents is turning the macabre and the grotesque into something compelling.
“Dead souls dream only of death. Small dreams for small men. It is life that expands to fill worlds. Life is your master, or death is.”
The first book, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, established the history between Karou and Akiva. It contained both their back stories and their continued love story to their tragic romance. Even though their initial love story was a whirlwind romance that ended badly (this is an understatement), their renewed romance was still very captivating. The second book is, sadly, the aftermath of their falling out. Even though they are now on opposite sides of the war, they both wish for a better future, for themselves and their people.
“A dream dirty and bruised is better than no dream at all.”
Their relationship is fractured, but not irreparable. This book does not fully heal the rift between them, but it does lay down the foundations of their probable reunion.
Needless to say, I am fully invested in the welfare of both Karou and Akiva. Both Karou and Akiva are placed in incredibly dangerous and precarious positions. Each are experiencing their own personal hell, one in which they struggle with their inner selves while simultaneously facing outside threats. Both the MCs are involved in schemes they wish to have no part of, and they must find a way to free not only themselves, but those who they care for as well.
Truthfully, I was more interested in Karou’s story than Akiva’s, but only because I felt Karou’s situation was much more dire. Meaning, I felt she was in more immediate danger than he was. Even so, I don’t think there was ever a dull moment within either of their narratives. In fact, the entire novel is ridiculously engaging no matter the point of view.
This story is built on dark themes and gritty images. Taylor places these grim elements in conjunction with pockets of joy and hopefulness. The story is occasionally brightened by Akiva and Karou’s torrid romance and their relationships with their friends and acquaintances. There is also no shortage of suspense or thrill in this sequel. The events that occur in the last fourth of the book are brutal and heartbreaking, but completely integral to the advancement of the plot as well as the growth of the main characters and all others involved in the war.
I am tremendously impressed by this sequel and I can only look forward to the final book to this fantastic trilogy.