by Laini Taylor
To be published by Little, Brown BYR
on November 6, 2012
Source: e-ARC via NetGalley
Summary (from back of Days of Blood and Starlight Exclusive Extended Preview copy):
Art student and monster's apprentice, Karou had always burned to know where she came from, and where she belonged. With the simple snap of a wishbone, she now has all the answers. But along with the truth she sought comes another she would do anything to undo. 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 family. Filled with heartbreak and beauty, betrayal and secrets, Days of Blood and Starlight finds Karou and Akiva on opposite sides of a war that rages across worlds.
My take: In a word: WOW. Laini Taylor has produced a haunting, heartbreaking second installment in this fantastic series.
This review should be spoiler free for both books and will start with a mini-recap of book one...
Daughter of Smoke and Bone deals with issues of identity, as Prague art student Karou struggles to uncover the mysteries of her past. Everyone in Karou's art class thinks that the crazy drawings in her sketchbook come out of her vivid imagination. In fact, the chimaera that she draws are real. Karou can open ordinary-looking metal doors and access a secret workshop or magically step into the streets of Paris or Marrakesh. The secret workshop she visits belongs to Brimstone, her guardian. Part crocodile, part lion, part ram, he crafts necklaces made of bone and teeth, beads and gems. Karou doesn't know why he strings the necklaces, but she obligingly uses the portal doors to gather supplies for him from around the world. When she crosses paths with Akiva, an angel, she's finally able to unravel the mystery of her former identity, of the bone-deep enmity between angels and chimaera, and of the special connection she once had with Akiva.
"Her [old] life ... was twining itself into her life as Karou, and it was fraught with death, with loss, and at the core of her stunned grief was the knowledge that she had enabled it."Just as Karou feels her old and new lives twining together, Days of Blood and Starlight more fully twines Karou's memories of her past into her present, circling back to offer even more details about some of the dramatic events touched on in Smoke and Bone. That book ended on a note of tragedy and betrayal, and Days of Blood and Starlight continues on in the same vein.
"Looking back now, Karou could scarcely believe her own naiveté, that she had believed the world could be some other way, and that she could be the one to make it so."Daughter of Smoke and Bone was about the quest for truth, but sometimes hearing the truth can be hard. In book one, Karou was a quirky, carefree art student. In Days of Blood and Starlight, she has become older, wiser, and much sadder.
Days of Blood and Starlight is a grimmer, darker book than its predecessor, a story that takes an unflinching look at the repercussions of hatred between groups and the seemingly endless cycles of war and bloodshed and retribution that can ensue. I recently read the Iliad as part of a book club, and at times the blood feud depicted here had that same sort of tragic/epic feel, evoking that heartrending mix of bravery and futility with which soldiers march into battle. There's a heart-stopping confrontation between two renowned warriors that reminded me a little of the showdown between Hector and Achilles.
“In the cycle of slaughter, reprisal begat reprisal, forever.”
Yes, Days of Blood and Starlight is dark at times, but this darkness is balanced out with some lighthearted moments. That's one of my favorite things about Laini Taylor's writing -- it manages to be both lyrical and melancholy, both whimsical and resonant. This book has many suspenseful, tense moments, fantastic plot twists and deeply emotional scenes.Though the story's setting moves from Prague to Marrakesh, Zuzana and Mik appear to provide some much needed comic relief. Pop culture references, from Monty Python to the Clash -- also serve to lighten the mood at times. Not only do old friends (and enemies) reappear, there are also some fantastic new characters -- let's just say I was happy every time Ziri appeared on the page and hope he'll have a big role in the next part of the story.
If Daughter of Smoke and Bone was about resurrection -- the smoke used to lure the souls from dying bodies and the bone that Brimstone crafts into necklaces -- then Days of Blood and Starlight balances grim bloodshed with glimmers of hope. There is plenty of death in the book, both literal casualties of war and the metaphorical death of trust and love and honor and innocence. But ... there is also stardust. Karou says:
"It doesn't matter what happens to me. 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."Once upon a time, two lovers dreamed of the world reborn. Both their dream and their love died. Can both love and starlight shine out of the bleak darkness in this story's next installment? You can bet I'm going to be there to find out!
Be sure to stop by Hot Off the Presses tomorrow, because this book will be one of the winner's choices!