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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

“Days of Blood and Starlight” by Laini Taylor (Reviewed by Lydia Roberts)

Order “Days of Blood and StarlightHERE (US) + HERE (UK)
Read An Excerpt HERE

NOTE: This review contains spoilers related to Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Book #1 in the trilogy of the same name.

Series are virtually the norm in the world of YA Fantasy. Unfortunately, many either lack strong, sensible plots in one or more of the individual books or fail to provide characters that we care enough about to follow through turmoil, hardship, or even their day-to-day lives. Fortunately, Laini Taylor’s Days of Blood and Starlight (Book #2 in the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy) indicates that this is one series that will continue to deliver arresting, relatable characters; storylines that twist without becoming convoluted; and a world that believably melds the real and the fantastical from beginning to end.

The story picks up a month after Karou learned the true story of who she was, or more accurately, who she’d once been: a chimeara, a “demon,” named Madrigal. As Madrigal, she had come to believe that the never-ending state of war between her people, the chimeara (beings whose physical appearance reflect different medleys of animalistic and human characteristics), and the angels (more apocalyptic harbingers than winged cherubs) who had previously enslaved them, did not have to continue. Both this understanding, and a plan to unite the two races, stemmed in large part from an affair with Akiva, a rogue warrior angel determined to change his killing ways. Unfortunately, things had gone horribly wrong, and after it appeared that Madrigal was lost to him forever, Akiva used his knowledge of the chimeara to enable the angels to eradicate nearly the entire race, destroy their lands, and cut them off from the human world. In an instant, Karou was made complete with the return of her memories of her past self, but just as quickly, she was bereft of her life as she knew it, her only family, and her love—Akiva—who she’d fallen in love with a second time.

Days of Blood and Starlight has a very different feel from Daughter of Smoke and Bone right from the start. Some of the new elements worked well, while others? Not so much. While Daughter was told mostly from Karou’s point of view, this one switched between the perspectives of multiple characters, including Karou, Akiva, and Karou’s human best friend, Zuzana. I wanted very much to hate Akiva for what he’d done, but I couldn’t help but understand his actions somewhat as Taylor delved deeper into his background, showing how he, his siblings, Hazael and Liraz, and others like them were bred and trained from childhood to be emotionless soldiers and to believe that the chimeara were soulless demons. The grief and guilt that he struggled with as a result of his actions were convincing, and before long I began to root for him as he tried to find Karou and to atone in some way.

The book took a little too long getting to Karou, herself, though. Interspersed with Akiva’s early chapters, were several with Zuzana. It was interesting to see how the human world was dealing with (and exploiting, of course) proof of the existence of angels and magical flying girls, and it was nice to see that Zuze was fiercely loyal and determined to find and help her friend, but knowing what was actually happening with Karou sooner would have been more to my liking.

One of the hardest aspects to adjust to in a series like this is the shift from the established world in the first installment to what inevitably is the conflict-ridden world of the next book. While Days did have a shift in tone, the time for out-and-out war will actually take place in the final book. This one moved out of modern-day Prague (for the most part) and the human world, and there were battles, but Taylor continued to build upon the mythology she started—without making it seem like details were being added as filler to mark time before the conclusion. We learn more about Eretz and the Empire of the Seraphim, and the creatures known as the Fallen (one of which Karou plans to use to find a way from the human world back to the home she only knows in her—Madrigal’s—memories). Taylor answers a lot of questions raised by Daughter (Are the angels going to kill Akiva? What happened to Brimstone? What other magic exists? What is the angel world like?), crafts a tale that stands on its own, and weaves in tantalizing bits of information that leads to more questions, but in a good way, not a frustrating one.

There are a few too many new characters who share the spotlight, and that is something that frustrated me because I wanted the focus to stay on Karou. However, the series is about more than just two star-crossed lovers, and I can appreciate that. I am very much looking forward to the final book, and I hope that Laini Taylor keeps a balanced approach to presenting fighting and developing characters. 

Days of Blood and Starlight: B+
Daughter of Smoke and Bone: A+

FORMAT/INFO: Days of Blood & Starlight is 528 pages long and is the second volume in the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy. November 6, 2012 marked the North American Hardcover publication of Days of Blood & Starlight via Little, Brown Books For Young Readers. The UK version (see above) was released on November 8, 2012 via Hodder & Stoughton.


Pabkins said...

Oh its so unfortunate when a seqel doesn't stand up to the first one. I still plan on reading these of course.
Pabkins @ My Shelf Confessions

Casey said...

It was definitely a different tone from the first book. At the beginning I was anxious for Karou chapters, but without all of Zuzana's chapters I think the book would have been too dark. Also, when we did get to Karou, her thoughtlessness annoyed me. I loved the perspectives of Akiva's siblings, but there were a lot of new perspectives to adjust to.

Lydia said...

It is definitely worth the read, and I am anxiously awaiting the next book.

Anonymous said...

It is brilliant, i cant wait for the next book!

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