Days of Blood & Starlight is the second book in Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy. I reviewed the first book here. This review contains spoilers for the first book.
Days of Blood & Starlight finds Karou, a chimaera girl in human skin, living in the desert, working for Thiago, the White Wolf (who had had her beheaded in another life), as a resurrectionist. Karou is isolated from everyone that she cares about. Her chimaera family is dead, killed because of the actions of her one-time seraphim lover, Akiva. She can't even bear to think of Akiva. Her best friend Zuzana is out of reach.
The story shifts between the viewpoints of Karou, Akiva, Zuzana, and a young chimera soldier named Ziri. Karou and Akiva are on opposite sides of a war, each holding on to a dream of a better world, but mired in too much death to even begin to achieve that dream. Zuzana just wants to find Karou, and know that she is safe. Ziri pretty much just wants to be near Karou.
Laini Taylor is simply fabulous at world-building. I've known that ever since reading her first novel, Blackbringer. The seraphim / chimaera world of Eretz is unique and fully realized. The desert community that the chimera set up in our own world is so real that one can practically smell it (not that smelling this particular camp it would be a good thing in reality). The characters are three-dimensional, too, particularly Karou and Zuzana.
The plotting in Days of Blood & Starlight is multi-threaded, with viewpoint shifts creating an endless series of cliffhangers (particularly toward the end of the book). This is a thinking person's paranormal romance / thriller. One has to pay attention to everything, with surprises around every corner. And the overarching theme of the book centers on the big-picture question of how (or if two) races that have fought to destroy one another for centuries could ever achieve peace.
Taylor's prose is as lush as ever in Days of Blood & Starlight, too. Like this:
"The portal was a gash in the air. The wind bled through it in both directions, hissing like breath through teeth, and where the edges shifted, one world's sky revealed another's. Akiva watched the interplay of stars along the cut, preparing himself to cross through." (Chapter 2: Ash and Angels)
"Mercy, she had discovered, made mad alchemy: a drop of it could dilute a lake of hate. Because of what had happened in the gully, seraphim were more than slavers and faceless winged killers to her." (Chapter 41: Mad Alchemy)
"It doesn't matter what happens to me, she told herself. 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 some day and I will be free. As Brimstone is free." (Chapter 75: It Was Near and It Was Wings)
Yes, Days of Blood & Starlight has everything going for it. I think that it's brilliant. I think that it's going to be a success (and doubtless a movie one day). And yet, I have to admit that the imagery in the book is a bit too bleak and brutal for me. There are fighters killing women and children, and concubines having their children taken away. There is a brutal sexual assault (and many other implied assaults). There are bodies in a fly-filled pit. And the whole quest for peace just seems hopeless. Like this:
"Live obscure, kill who you're told, and die unsung. That could have been the Misbegotten's creed, but it wasn't. It was Blood is strength." (Chapter 34: Celebration)
Of course I rarely find that the second book in a trilogy is my favorite (does anyone?). The worlds are already set up (and therefore not as fascinating), and we're necessarily marking time before the climax can occur. In the case of Days of Blood & Starlight, Karou is separated from Akiva and Zuzana for most of the book, essentially orphaned by the loss of Brimstone and his team. Light moments are few and far between (mostly offered by Zuzana and her boyfriend, Mik. Thank goodness for them). In a way, the problem is that Taylor is such a good writer. Her characters feel real. Their situations feel real. And when those situations are painful, well, they're a bit too real for me to fully enjoy.
My husband enjoyed Daughter of Smoke & Bone, but found it to have a little too much romance for him. I think that he'll probably love Days of Blood & Starlight, which has all of the action of the first book (and more), but with quite a bit less of romantic elements. For sure Days of Blood & Starlight is male reader friendly, filled with battles and big and small displays of heroism. And for sure, I will be tuning in to the final book in the series when it comes, hoping desperately for a happy ending for Karou.
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (@LBKids)
Publication Date: November 6, 2012
Source of Book: Digital advance review copy from the publisher
© 2012 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).