“How, with swords clenched in both hands, could one hope to keep blood from spilling?” (4.5 stars)
Source- personal copy
Published by Hodder and Stoughton in November 2012
I read the Kindle edition. The hardback edition is 513 pages
Last year I fell utterly in love with Laini Taylor’s astonishing fantasy novel Daughter of Smoke and Bone. This was a pretty big deal for me as I’m generally not a big fan of fantasy novels, but there was something about that book that captured my imagination in a huge way. I literally couldn’t wait for the sequel. I even pre-ordered it for my Kindle. It duly arrived, I filed it away in my ‘to be read’ books and then, idiot I am, I received a ton of review books from Netgalley, neglected to read it and then COMPLETELY FORGOT ABOUT IT.
So, before you read on in this review any further, I would urge you to proceed with caution. I will endeavour to make this a spoiler free review of book two insofar as I am able, but some bits in here allude to happenings in book one and seriously, you need, need, NEED to read Daughter of Smoke and Bone before picking up its sequel, because basically it is brilliant. But also, going straight in there on book two without reading book one will confuse the heck out of people. I mean, I read it and I still had to think about what had happened when I got to this one. I probably should have re-read that one before picking this up to be honest, just to refresh my memory. It’s a pretty complex series with some outstanding world-building, ideas and characters and I could have done with a reminder.
Admittedly, devils/monsters falling in love with angels stories and war being the result probably aren’t that original, but Laini Taylor takes the concept and makes it wholly her own. The lines become blurred and it isn’t about who is good and evil anymore, it just further makes you consider the pointlessness of war and the casualties wreaked in a quest for revenge.
So, here’s a brief summary of the events that have led us to this point; (I find it hard to articulate all of the wonderful things about Daughter of Smoke and Bone in any coherent fashion, particularly having problems with summarising it so this is taken from Goodreads):
Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.
In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.
And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.
Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real, she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”, she speaks many languages – not all of them human – and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that colour. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.
When beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?
Needless to say, Days of Blood and Starlight picks up pretty much where DoSaB left off and it is emo-shu-nul. Big time. Woven between all of the beautiful prose and loquacious imagery there are some pretty heart-wrenching themes and some sombre situations to come to terms with.
In this book, Akiva and Karou are both wrestling with their own conflicting emotions in the aftermath of book one- mainly those of guilt- and Karou in particular feels betrayed by her lover and the destruction he has wrought on her kin, especially her closest friends, who were like family to her. She can’t understand how she can love someone who has caused the people she loves so much pain and seeks to forget she ever knew Akiva. Apart, they both try to come to terms with the horrors inflicted on their races amidst a violent war that both of them feel responsible for, whilst still missing each other desperately. Their worlds have been torn apart in the most spectacular fashion but an even worse war is coming and perhaps the only thing that may be able to prevent this impending apocalypse is if the angels and devils band together…
I enjoyed this book a lot (hence the 4.5 stars), though there were a few aspects that kept me from falling head over heels for it in the way that I did its predecessor. Namely: Akiva and Karou are kept apart for practically 50% of the book! What is that all about? Also: world-building. There is far less of that here than in DoSaB and I think that was the beautiful thing about book one, all of the creativity and imagination was mind-blowing and downright magical in places. This novel is a lot more action-based, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it becomes pretty dark and hopeless in parts, though I did miss some of the magical qualities conjured up by the surreal imagery in part one. Days of Blood and Starlight is truthfully a lot darker than I had anticipated, certainly so for a novel that is probably going to be read by a lot of teenagers too. There was a lot of pain and emotion depicted within, which was spectacularly conveyed- and some really bleak, poignant aspects as well, which left me captivated in how fantastically they were written. Laini Taylor really makes you care about her characters and loathe them or love them, all are very well drawn.
Karou undergoes a real journey during the course of this story and is no longer the feisty, blue-haired girl we grew to love in book one. Away from Prague and fully immersed with her own kind, she learns more about who she was (and is) and gains an admirable level of strength and determination. I loved the deep conflict between her and Akiva and though they were apart for a big chunk of this novel, neither remained far away from one another’s thoughts, much to their reluctance. Akiva too, surprised me in this book as I thought in places in book one he was pretty flat; not so here though, he has been thoroughly fleshed out and the dawning realisation of what he has done impacts on him spectacularly and he tries his best to atone for his sins.
Karou’s bouncy best friend Zusanna is back (I just love Zusanna), but I think my new favourite character here has to be Ziri- what a loyal, terrific character and one I just wanted to crawl into the pages and hug. I’m thoroughly looking forward to the part he will play in book three.
Generally, this was a really fantastic story about the futility of war and was a romance laced with secrets and betrayal. It contained some pretty brilliant twists and turns towards the ending too- which was something of a cliff-hanger.
I have again pre-ordered *cough* the third book in the trilogy ‘Dreams of Gods and Monsters’ which is released in April 2014. This time I will NOT forget to read it…!