Title: Days of Blood and Starlight
Author: Laini Taylor
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Publisher: Little, Brown
Publication date: November 6 2012
Hardcover: 528 pages
In this stunning sequel to the highly acclaimed Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Karou must come to terms with who and what she is, and how far she’ll go to avenge her people. Filled with heartbreak and beauty, mysteries and secrets, new characters and old favorites, Days of Blood and Starlight brings the richness, color and intensity of the first book to a brand new canvas.
Stand alone or series: Sequel to Daughter of Smoke and Bone
How did I get this book: Review copy from the publisher
Why did I read this book: OMG because I loved Daughter of Smoke and Bone so much. It was one of my top 10 books of 2011.
Warning: this review contains inevitable spoilers for book 1 in the series. Trigger warning: rape.
Laini Taylor is doing really interesting things with her series. When it comes to romance in the Paranormal/Fantasy YA landscape, more often than not the reader is presented with truly problematic pairings where rape culture is normalised and where insta-love is presented as par for de course and in lieu of actual romantic development.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone was a book with a very strong focus in the romance between Karou/Madrigal and Akiva. A romance that was not only forged on the insta-love Furnace of Doom but also one depicted as having the no holds barred/soul mates kind of dynamic. That love was all the more impacting because it was also an impossible romance between enemies who dared to dream about ending the war between their people. At the end of that book, we know how well this turned out (not): Madrigal was killed but eventually resurrected as memory-less Karou. Akiva, thinking Madrigal was well and truly dead, went on a killing rampage. It ended with Karou recovering her memories and realising what Akiva had done and the two breaking up, therefore subverting the usual YA romantic trope and that was AWESOME.
At one point in Days of Blood and Starlight, Karou says that their story is like Romeo and Juliet’s but instead of waking up to find that Romeo had committed suicide, she wakes up to find out that he went on to decimate not only her entire immediate family, destroy her city and then proceed to commit genocide against her entire race. Lovely.
And that’s the actual starting point here: the insta-love that doesn’t work and is not rewarded for its wtfuckery. The story then in Days of Blood and Starlight deals with the after, with the guilt, with Karou finding out that HOLY CRAP, she dared to dream of love and that’s what happens when you hook up with a fanatical dude. Because there is no denying: Akiva has lost his shit so completely and how do you come back from that?
You can’t. Because genocide: not an acceptable response to your lover’s death.
Akiva knows that. Karou knows that. And so they are apart. And in the “apart”, they come to realise that their dream of peace needs to be bigger than their dream of togetherness.
But enough with the romance because unlike what I might have led you to believe with my rambling above, this book is not about love at all, it is actually about war. Karou is back with the few surviving Chimera, working alongside Thiago, the abhorrent man who killed her, in order to create an army of monsters to avenge their people.
In the meantime, there is a lot of emotional angst here. Karou is drowning in guilt for daring to fall in love with the enemy and mistakenly equates her dream of peace and love with the ensuing mass-murders on both sides. Part of her journey is realising that the love and the dream are not the problem. Revenge is. But before she gets to this realisation, the Karou of the first book is replaced with a meek, emo-version of herself, someone who makes terrible, stupid mistakes in the name of making amends (at one point I actually expected Akiva and Karou to burst into singing “I had a dream my life would be so different from this hell I am living”).
And it’s like, being complicit with genocide: not an acceptable response to your guilt.
Sorry, going back to the romance briefly: I do wonder what is going to happen. Because surely there is no way to mend this. NO WAY. There can’t be. Especially considering that yes, Akiva feels immense guilt, but his guilt comes only once he knows Karou is alive. If she was still dead, I got the feeling he would not feel this way. And I have a sneaky suspicion that because both of them have been involved with mass killings to some extent or another, in some creepy way all could be forgiven in the end because both did unspeakable things? Like in a really wonky, problematic mathematical equation in which each other’s actions are annulled like they never happened or something because… True Love. Surely, this is not where this story is going, is it?
And I can’t begin to express how fucked up this is, and how terrible the consequences are. And it becomes really clear, really soon, how their world is the shittiest place EVER. Both Angels and Chimera are immersed in this bloody war and holy crap, this book is dark, violent and emotionally draining and at points I just wanted to stop reading and get out just so I could breathe. In fact, reading some pages felt like being punched.
Laini Taylor is a brilliant writer and there is no denying that the harrowing version of Karou’s story is as engaging and beautifully written as its lighter companion (book one).
Those things said, I can’t help but to think that structurally speaking this book is a bit of a mess. There is a lot of head-hopping with random characters providing the point of view for a couple of pages then disappearing altogether from the narrative.
There is also a point toward the ending of the book where the narrative – which thus far had been linear – becomes choppy as it goes back to hours or days before a certain point in the present time just so there could be an extremely contrived “gotcha” moment.
Zuzana and her boyfriend Mik, as awesome as they are – and I mean it, I just love their love story as well as the loyalty and friendship between Karou and Zuzana – had no place in this story. Although I get the intention of adding a lighter tone to an otherwise grim story as well as giving Karou some footing in the human world, their presence in the proceedings felt forced and their comic lightness was misplaced in the midst of such portentous happenings.
Finally, part of me wonders if some of this violence isn’t a bit gratuitous, just to make a point. And then you have an extremely violent and completely unnecessary attempted rape scene. As though there wasn’t enough evidence of the violent and abhorrent nature of the attacker already so let’s add humiliating sexual violence toward its main female character as well.
Ultimately, Days of Blood and Starlight is an emotionally impacting book with a solid story and good overall plot developments. But unfortunately, it is nowhere near as awesome as its predecessor.
But, as I said before: Laini Taylor is doing really interesting things with her series. I just don’t know how I feel about them. I do remain curious to see where it goes though.
Notable Quotes/ Parts:
“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 a 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.”
Additional Thoughts: We are a stop on the official blog tour today! Go HERE to check out what the author has to say about the romance between Akiva and Karou and to enter the giveaway to win a copy of the book.
Rating: 6 – Recommended with reservations.
Reading Next: Dragon’s Bait by Vivian Vande Velde
Buy the Book: (click on the links to purchase)
Amy @ Turn the PageNovember 7, 2012 at 9:48 am
Another awesome and honest review! Thanks for this – it gives me a far better idea what to expect from this book and whether I should wait for the paperback, than a lot of other reviews which just gush and say how amazing everything is, like they did with the first. I mean – its great when people love a book that much but I get suspicious when so many reviews say that and not a lot else.
E.MareeNovember 7, 2012 at 12:13 pm
Thanks for the honest review. I’m put off by the rape scene and wonky structure (to be honest, I wasn’t crazy about the second half POV-switch in the first book either), but I love Laini’s world and I really want to see just how bloody the war gets. I think I’ll be buying it next payday.
HeidiNovember 7, 2012 at 12:34 pm
Hmm…I’m kind of feel like I’m on unsure footing after this review and others. I still very much want to read DoBaS, but I’m increasingly starting to feel like I’ll be happier if I just wait until the final book releases before continuing on with the series.
msaggieNovember 8, 2012 at 2:33 am
I loved Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and your review of it was awesome. I bought Days of Blood and Starlight the moment it came out on Kindle, and now wished that I had waited for your review, because I now think I should have gotten it out of the library! I do want to find out what happens to Akiva and Karou, and so would be tuned in for the third book.
kathy hudsonNovember 8, 2012 at 6:43 am
SPOILER ALERT! I don’t think Karou would have brought herself to the point of killing Thiago without that rape attempt. And I really liked seeing Zuzana and Mik again, since Brimstone wasn’t available. But that said, your points are all valid. I still liked the book, though, and want to see where it will go. Also, there was the idea, from those “other” viewpoints, of just how easy it is to go along with something you know is wrong until you think you are too deeply involved to get out. Sorry for such a long two cents!
AnaNovember 8, 2012 at 7:06 am
Thanks for the comments, everybody! FWIW, I do think it is well worth a read specially if you loved the first book. I am really curious to see how the story ends.
ChristaNovember 8, 2012 at 8:08 am
That’s too bad you had some reservations about this one compared to the first one, but your review has made me even more curious to read more. I love how Laini seems to write against what is considered the norm in YA and I’m hoping this will be another thought provoking and beautifully written read. *crosses fingers*
CaitlynNovember 12, 2012 at 6:21 pm
I was debating reading this since I really liked the first book but wasn’t sure where Taylor was going to go with the series. Very much appreciate the honest and hilarious tone, it’s so helpful!!
LizNovember 13, 2012 at 8:55 am
I just have to disagree with your comment about “head hopping”. Taylor uses many different POVs in this book, but that’s not the same thing as “head hopping” which is indiscriminately changing POV within a scene. Taylor is in control of her POV shifts; head hopping refers to when a writer changes in the middle of a paragraph or scene without making it clear to the reader whose POV we’re in.
AnnieNovember 13, 2012 at 11:10 pm
I actually liked this book more than the last one, in many ways.
The changes in perspective gave a richer, fuller sense of the world. One of the biggest problems I find myself encountering with most any book is the start lack of place; if I cannot believe that Hogwarts or Caverna or Eretz exists, if it is not a solid, tangible place in my mind, I cannot make myself enjoy it. And so the POV hopping provides an extra layer of reality; it only intensifies the reality we see from Karou and Akiva’s eyes.
And (brief) SPOILER ALERT:
I have to agree that Karou would have remained under Thiago’s control. She is too meek, too passive, too drained and weary and guilty to fight back unless there is a very urgent reason to struggle. Although brutal and difficult to read, his actions cornered her into making a tough decision, one that not only showed the remnants of the spark I was sure had faded, and a turning point for the character that would lay the background for the last remaining book.
I really love Taylor’s writing. Her world is satisfying, even if her characters are at times cliched and frustrating, her prose is exquisite, and for the most part, her plot devices are clever and interesting. I’m very much anticipating the next book.
KristinaNovember 19, 2012 at 10:34 am
I’m not sure I agree that Zuzanna and Mik’s presence was totally unnecessary. With the two of them replacing Ten as Karou’s ‘help’ seemed Karo was able to start becoming herself again, after months (I assume?? hard to follow the timeline). Without Zuzana and Mik, and also Issa’s return, I doubt Karou would have had the strength to stand up to Thiago like she did.
Their ability to form friendly relationships with the Chimera may also have helped the Chimera feel more empathetic and trusting towards Karou (at least enough for some of them to take her side against Thiago) – which facilitated Thiago killing Amallzag and the shadows that live, which in turn facilitated Karou killing Thiago. Again, that was just my interpretation.
I totally agree with your comments on the structure, and the constant switching of viewpoints did feel choppy especially towards the end. But overall, I loved it!
Kitchen Sink Links « Reading, Writing and the 'Rhythmatic of LifeNovember 30, 2012 at 11:44 am
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Days Of Blood And Starlight Laini Taylor Book ReviewDecember 2, 2012 at 10:01 pm
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KristenDecember 3, 2012 at 3:42 pm
I love your insightful views of this book. I share each and every one. I wanted to LOVE this book, but the plot points were just too heavy-handed. Not even Zuzana and Mik could save this book. But I’m still rooting for the amazing and talented Laini Taylor.
Review of Days of Blood & Starlight by Laini Taylor | Fantasy Cafe | Reviews of Fantasy and Science Fiction BooksDecember 29, 2012 at 2:40 pm
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