Monday, June 30, 2014

Review: Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor

Title: Days of Blood and Starlight
Author: Laini Taylor
Series: Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy, Book 2
Pages: 513
Published: November 6, 2012
Publisher: Hachette Book Group
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?

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
This is a hard book for me to rate. Once upon a time, I could remember everything about every single book I read. I never had to reread anything--it could be years before I pick up a sequel, and immediately I'd remember exactly what happened in the first. In current times that is not the case, though. I don't know what the reason is, if the book didn't explain things enough or if I'm just going senile in my old age of 18, but I had a very difficult time remembering enough about The Daughter of Smoke and Bone to enjoy much of Days of Blood and Starlight.

When we last saw Karou, she was leaving the world in disbelief of her long lost love, Akiva, who'd broken her heart in the cruelest way possible: by killing her entire family. We spend the first dozen chapters of the next novel both thinking Karou is dead and knowing she is not, because her friends believe she could be but we, as readers, know that there cannot be anymore story without our blue-haired protagonist.
Akiva, ravaged by an extreme amount of heartbreak for the second time in his life, is back to spying on people while they sleep and taking orders like a good little soldier.
Karou is a mystery to the world. The girl who once fought off angels is now an international museum thief. Her plunder? Teeth.
In Eretz, the few chimaera who survived the destruction that Akiva caused are either enchained by slavers or are hunted by seraphim.
Everything kind of sucks for everyone.

I think I must have skimmed over the Madrigal part of Daughter of Smoke and Bone, which was a very bad idea. Because in the second book, Karou isn't just Karou anymore: she's Madrigal too. She knows all that Madrigal knows, everything about chimaera and resurrection and that creepy dude with the white fur. And going into this story, I didn't really remember much about that.

Partially for this reason, it took me until about page 200 for things to finally get interesting for me. Many times I considered putting the book down. My love for the characters wasn't enough to save me from the confusion of this world I felt thrust into, rather than eased. And nothing seemed to be happening. Looking back, things probably were happening. Important things. But I didn't really care enough then to understand them.

Don't get me wrong--Laini Taylor's writing is just as magical and ethereal as before throughout the entire story. The writing is perfection. The characters are perfection. Even the story is perfection, because looking back I can't really see any other way for her to do the beginning in order to lead us into such an epic and heart-wrenching ending.

It's not you, Days of Blood and Starlight, it's me. I'm really bad at reading fantasy novels.

Anyway, once poop finally does hit the fan--my gosh. It gets real. And then it gets too real. And then you're lying on the floor trying to force your bleeding heart back into your chest long enough to finish the story.

It was that bad, in a really really freaking good kind of way. I'm literally in awe of everything.

The relationship between Akiva and Karou is the most tortuous part of the story, as well as it should be. I just want everyone to be happy is my most common thought when reading or watching anything. Taylor weaves a story of such heartbreak and agonizing encounters where all you want for them is to touch but all they (ahem, she) wants is to get away and still somehow manages to fill us with hope at the end without ever having her love interests so much as caress each other.

And don't even get me started on the stuff that went down in both of their lives. Days of Blood and Starlight is really about two completely separate stories, Akiva's and Karou's, and how the actions each character takes just continue to screw things up for each other, no matter that they're literally in two entirely different worlds. All throughout, everything anyone does to try and help only ends in a bloody mess, and yet at the end we still believe that things can somehow get better.

Hope is a thing with feathers, after all.
And angels and chimaera are full of those.

Emotional reaction:

A little bit of:

And a whole lot of:

The only reason this book doesn't get the full five stars is because I had so much trouble in the beginning.
Well done,  Mrs. Taylor. And touchéI'm buying the next book as I write this.

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