18 January 2013

Review: Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor

Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a new way of living - one without massacres and torn throats and bonfires of the fallen, without revenants or bastard armies or children ripped from their mothers' arms to take their turn in the killing and  dying. Once, the lovers lay entwined in the moon's secret temple and dreamed of a world that was like a jewel-box without a jewel - a paradise waiting for them to find it and fill it with their happiness. This was not that world.

I really liked (but didn't love) Daughter of Smoke and Bone, when I read it last year but I was hooked enough to be invested in the series and the end of the first leaves plenty of questions unanswered. Karou continues to be a superb heroine full of independence and determination. Whilst the love story is crucial to the book, it takes more of a back burner here whilst Taylor focuses on more superb world building and a dark and moving tale of war and conflict. The full review is full of spoilers if you haven't read Daughter of Smoke and Bone, be warned!

First Line: "Prague, early May. The Sky weighed gray over fairy-tale rooftops, and all the world was
watching."

Why I read it: I read the first book in the series, Daughter of Smoke and Bone which made it to number 8 on my Top 10 YA of 2012 and definitely was invested enough to want to know what happened next.

Who I would recommend it to: Well, for one, people who read the first one. This is not a sequel you can pick up without having read Daughter of Smoke and  Bone. I read the first one about six months ago and had to check a fair few things from the end of the last one before this clicked into place. But more generally; fans of high quality paranormal romance and fantasy who appreciate poetic description and excellent world building.

Firstly, I just want to cover how awesome both the title and cover are. The titles to both books are awesome and I can't wait to find out what the third book will be called. Seriously, Days of Blood and Starlight, I can't get over how magical and evocative that is. And the cover is just lovely as well. I'm a fan of the gradual increase in quality of young adult covers, especially these paranormal romances that tend towards generic models in floaty dresses, and Karou is most definitely not that type of heroine.

So, as I said, spoilers ahead for the first book, and also abbreviations of titles. This is really not a sequel you can pick up without having read the first. The story picks straight up, Taylor doesn't fill us in on any background and I was a little confused to start with even though I had read SaB (Smoke and Bone). I had to go back and re-read the end of it and remind  myself of some of the specifics. So I'm assuming that you've read SaB. We open BaS (Blood and Starlight) with Karou's best friend, Zuzana, trying to pick up the pieces in Prague after Karou's altercation with Akiva on the bridge. Zuzanna has no idea where Karou has gone but we soon find out that she is holed up in Morocco with remnants of the chimaera race after their near total destruction by the seraphim. The guilt Karou feels has meant that she has become their new resurrectionist after the execution of Brimstone, obeying orders from Thiago. Now I don't want to spoil the many twists and turns of the actual plot, and there are many twists and turns, because it is such a joy to experience where Taylor takes the story so I will leave plot there for the most part. There are battles (which get pretty violent and upsetting at times), there is romance (although it is not what you're expecting), there is friendship and there is betrayal and there is much awesomeness.

Taylor has such a beautiful way with words, the descriptions of the wonderfully imagined worlds and settings are so evocative and there some phrases that were just lovely. "A dream dirty and bruised is better than no dream at all" is just one example. Taylor's lyrical writing and building of a story bigger than it's romantic storyline is what elevates this above many of it's paranormal romance peers. The romance is still very much at the heart of things here and integral to the way that Karou and Akiva act and feel but there is also a story much bigger than them; worlds and nations at war and many secondary characters you really get involved with. One of my favourite secondary characters, Ziri, gets pretty awesome in this book.  The characters are satisfyingly rounded in these books, they feel like real people despite the fantastical setting and story. Zuzana is just super awesome (as is her boyfriend, Mik). Karou is just an awesome heroine, determined and strong and independent, as she tells herself, "Be your own place of safety... She had to be her own strength, complete unto herself." It makes such a satisfying change from heroines completely dependant on the whims of others and/or the whims of men. Whilst Karou is affected fundamentally by her relationship with Akiva, there is much more to her than that. But she isn't just a brash, fighting one-dimensional character (like Katniss, I whisper very quietly) - she is sensitive and careful and also confused and conflicted. She also is never required to be like a man in order to be strong or to succeed.

There are some pretty dark moments in this book, some of which I found to be quite uncomfortable and upsetting to read - it's definitely more for older readers (Karou is 18 or 19 I think) but there will also definitely be some slightly younger readers who will be absolutely fine with it, I'm not one for being too dictatorial with age recommendations. There is also a careful balance with more light hearted, joyful moments which stop the book from being too oppressive. There are also some damn good twists that I did not see coming, some of which are pretty triumphant.

This book builds on all the strengths of its predecessor whilst introducing new ideas and characters I loved and also, I personally thought, had a stronger, smoother structure than the first book.The ending manages to strike a good balance between some level of closure but a good cliffhanger and plenty of anticipation for the next installment, which comes out in early 2014. Which is a long way away. If you liked the first one, you will love this one. If you loved the first one, I can only imagine how much you will adore this.

3 comments:

  1. I loved this sequel! I was actually surprised by some if the reviews I read on Amazon where people said they didn't think this one was as good and that Karou just needed to forgive Akiva and be less passive - I thought her actions made complete sense given the circumstances and her feelings about her part in everything and would have been disappointed if she hadn't had issues about Akiva and her feelings for him given everything. I also loved learning more about the angels and their world. I can't wait to see where she takes the third one, and what the title will be, like you said. Have you seen the America covers, they are very different. Great review!

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    1. I totally agree. We know as the audience more about Akiva so we want her to forgive him but from the character's perspective I think it's much more realistic to react the way Karou has. And I really don't like the US covers, much prefer ours! I really loved the paperback cover of Daughter as well.

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  2. I'm really looking forward to reading this book. I'm not sure why I've waited so long already.

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