Days of Blood & Starlight by Laini Taylor
Series: Daughter of Smoke & Bone, #2
Published: 2013, Little, Brown and Company
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Contains spoilers for Daughter of Smoke & Bone (my review)Goodreads · Amazon · Barnes & Noble
Karou’s whole body was rigid. “Yeah? Okay," she said, staring up into the stars. "Let's see. You know how, at the end of Romeo and Juliet, Juliet wakes up in the crypt and Romeo's already dead? He thought she was dead so he killed himself right next to her?
“...Well, imagine if she woke up and he was still alive, but..." She swallowed, waiting out a tremor in her voice. "But he had killed her whole family. And burned her city. And killed and enslaved her people.”
A recurring theme of Days of Blood & Starlight is how words are not enough. Mere apologies from Karou to her people cannot negate the fact that she is one of the reasons that the chimera have all but been destroyed. Likewise, Akiva knows that any regret he expresses to Karou cannot repair the love they once had. And for me the words of this review are an insufficient means of expressing my thoughts on this book. But suffice it to say that I loved this book. Days of Blood & Starlight is tells a different sort of story than its predecessor, Daughter of Smoke & Bone does. It’s a darker, bleaker tale, but one just as compelling.
This is not a story for the light-hearted. Days of Blood & Starlight picks up shortly after the concluding events of Daughter of Smoke & Bone. Karou has found her way to Eretz, the world of seraphim and chimera, but she is too late to prevent the genocide of the majority of her people. The genocide that her former lover, Akiva, helped lead before he realized that his love Madrigal was not dead, but reborn as the human Karou. Together they may have been able to work again to give hope to their people that constant warfare is not the only way to survive. Now, any regrets that Akiva has for leading the war efforts, and that Karou has for having loved Akiva, are too little, too late.
Nearly two decades ago, an angel (seraphim) and a monster (chimera) fell in love and dreamed of a peaceful world. A world where the seraphim and chimera armies were not constantly trying to one-up another. A world where they could simply coexist. But of course that did not happen. If only Madrigal and Akiva had time enough to gather a large group of pacifists. If only Madrigal had not been executed for her “betrayal” of her people. If only Akiva had learned Karou’s identity before he set into motion the plans for the extermination of the chimera. If only. Separate, both Karou and Akiva are driven by their guilt, their fear, their anger.
Karou is but a ghost of the girl readers met in Daughter of Smoke & Bone. She is not the spirited, carefree girl whose biggest concern was finding out about the mysteries surrounding her chimera family, and why her adoptive father Brimstone needed so many teeth. In many ways, she’s lost her innocence. By lifting the veil that had hidden her memories of life as the chimera Madrigal, Karou has become exposed to many dark, brutal realities. Not only is her innocence gone, but with it are her hopes and dreams for peace. Her name literally means “peace,” and is a bitter reminder of all that has failed. As Karou replaces Brimstone as the resurrectionist for the chimera army, her (and their) main goal is in vengeance, for their numbers are too few to hope for much more.
Akiva is now referred to as the Beast’s Bane by the seraphim, and is ashamed of all that he has helped his brethren accomplish (or kill, rather). The majority of Akiva’s narration deals with his acceptance that he has played an integral role in the genocide of his love’s people, and that the love he and Karou once shared is forever gone. It also deals with Akiva’s new desire to look for hope in new ways, and to prevent the complete destruction of the chimera. In Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Akiva is purposely made into a more mysterious character; only when Karou remembers her past does Akiva begin to gain defining characteristics. In Days of Blood & Starlight, Akiva shares the title of protagonist with Karou, allowing readers to better understand the nuances of his character. It’s not always pretty, as the majority of the book is not, but he becomes more realistic for all of his flaws and dogged determination to ensure that some good remains in the world.
A number of other characters share narration time with Karou and Akiva. I mentioned in my review of Daughter of Smoke & Bone that I was not always a fan of Taylor’s decision to use multiple points of view in that book; here, she continues to expand upon the number of narrating characters. And, again, I am not sure of the necessity of that tactic (here even more so than in the first book). Karou’s friend Zuzana and her boyfriend Mik bring some levity and normalcy to the story, but I’m not sure they really deserved as much narration as they received. This is first and foremost a story about war and broken hopes, and the transition between those heavier topics and Zuzana and Mik’s roles felt a bit strained at times. Taylor also introduced a few new characters as narrators, but none of them really seemed to serve a major role in the story as a whole, making me wonder if the purpose of their narrative could have been just as well told in another way. Outside of the strange and sometimes awkward choices in points of view, I really have no complaints about this novel.
The pacing of this novel and its place within the trilogy as a whole are worth mentioning briefly. While Daughter of Smoke & Bone is a novel of discovery and romance, Days of Blood & Starlight is a novel of lost hope, of war, of death. I think it has a distinct plot, but it also includes many elements that are clearly setting up for the finale. This novel ends with promises for hope and redemption, which I assume will be the driving forces behind Dreams of Gods & Monsters. There is some set-up in this book, as well as some major worldbuilding. It is in this book that readers are really introduced to the world of Eretz and the centuries-old conflict between seraphim and chimera. Parts of the novel have a slower pace (most noticeably the first half), but I never found the pacing unbearable. Taylor’s understanding of her fantasy world is nothing short of impressive and I think it’s conveyed in such a way that really helps the reader grasp its intricacies.
Minor issues aside, I really do think that Days of Blood & Starlight is a worthy successor to Daughter of Smoke & Bone. Through this book, Laini Taylor has proven her versatility as a writer; she’s able to transition quite seamlessly between the romantic daydream that is the first book into the grim nightmare that comprises the second book. I will not spend much time speculating as to what the third book will contain, although I do hope that there will be some sort of redemption for Karou and Akiva and the seraphim and the chimera.
Rating: 4.5 stars