Days of Blood and Starlight — Laini Taylor

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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?

Daughter of Smoke and Bone ends with Karou leaving Akiva in the hopes of saving her family. In Days of Blood and Starlight, we pick up with Karou in Eretz…working with the White Wolf. Karou now views Akiva as her sworn enemy and while she still despises the White Wolf, she’s willing to build his army for him. It’s what Brimstone would’ve wanted, she tells herself. While Karou and Thiago steadily rebuild their army and launch terror attacks on the angels, Akiva finds he may not be the only angel sick of war. As he works to keep the smallest sliver of hope alive, Karou adamantly works against with, though the two want only the same thing: a future for their people.

Though I absolutely loved Daughter of Smoke and Bone, I was blown away by just how powerful Days of Blood and Starlight is. Emotions run high in this second installment and every chapter threatened to break my heart a little more. Well, with the exception of the chapters from Zuzana’s point of view, which offer brief respites in an otherwise dark and nearly-hopeless world. I was a big fan of Laini Taylor’s point of view switches, as she balanced the characters well and gave us a chance to really see all sides of war. Some of the most important chapters are those from minor civilian characters, like the sheep-aspect chimaera just trying to make their way to safety when attacked by angels or the Breakblades that ensure the Emperor receives his women every night. These chapters really allowed us to see this world from every perspective and fully understand that nothing happening within these pages is black and white.

As far as our main characters go, my heart ached for poor Karou. She loses everything and gives herself over to what she thinks is the best course of action, though she understands she probably isn’t doing the right thing. It’s too hard to know what is right anymore. But despite being perhaps the physically weakest chimaera in the novel, she is by far the strongest character and it’s nice to see her particular strengths shine through even when she’s almost given up hope. Karou seems, if anything, more real in this novel. She acknowledges that she’s no leader or rebel, but just a girl with an idea for a better future who needs help making that future a reality. For some reason, this is one of my favorite aspects of the novel, Karou’s struggle with wanting to create change without being the leader of it. Because she’s right — she’s not the most charismatic or motivational person; she’s not the strongest; she has no taste for war or strategy. She just has hope and she wants to instill that hope in others. This really elevates the novel and the series to a whole new level for me.

Speaking of which, Taylor does a great job of unifying the novel around the theme of hope. I don’t think an author has ever so thoroughly torn me apart, only to offer me a sliver of hope that I so easily grab onto. In the hands of a lesser author, this novel would be a mess and I wouldn’t trust the author enough to believe in the ending. But Taylor is a master story-teller who knows just when to pull back and when to throw everything at us. Her writing style is gripping and lyrical; I can’t get enough of her.

If my heart’s breaking for Karou, it’s mangled into unidentifiable bits for Akiva. He’s no unnaturally perfect, pretty-boy love interest. He’s a complex person with a host of visceral emotions and the need to atone for everything he’s done. I sympathize with him more than any other character and I just want what’s best for him, though I’m afraid he’ll never get that. He’s the leader Karou isn’t. I’m so proud of the strides he makes in Days of Blood and Starlight and I know he’ll go on to do great things in the next installment of this series. But please, Laini Taylor, I beg of you, allow him at least one smile. Or a thousand. But at least one. He deserves it.

Zuzana and Mik are great characters in this book. They bring a very human element to a world otherwise populated with monsters (not that the chimaera are necessarily monsters, but Thiago and his minions definitely are, along with the angels’ Emperor and Jael). The couple are funny, romantic, and a constant reminder of the lives Karou and Akiva want for their people. Plus, they’re straight-up interesting.

Like before, I’ll warn readers that this book is even more graphic than the last, though not tastelessly so. The violence is devastating, but real. This is a book of war, of nations fall apart, but also of hope, and two nations looking to rebuild. This is easily my new favorite series and absolutely worth every second of your time.

Pages: 517
Publication Date: November 2012
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Source: Publisher
Rating [rating: 5]

Teaser: “‘So,’ he called to her back, ‘Just out of curiosity, you know, purely conversation and all, at what age will you be entertaining offers of marriage?’

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