Review: Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor


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?


Oh, Laini Taylor, you wonderful woman. I am so in love with your epic awesomeness that I’m sort of jealous of your two-year-old daughter (who I will never match in amazing cuteness).

When the Daughter of Smoke and Bone came out and took several months more to come out in India, I defied all cosmic odds by finding an online bookstore that would ship it to me for free. And I DEVOURED it. I composed entire poems in my head while reading the book. I wrote, “You will be rewarded with cosmic goodwill and hard cash” on the front of my notebooks. I even bought a glossy, hardback copy of Lips Touch: Three Times because I knew Laini and Jim wouldn’t disappoint.

This time, though, I just couldn’t find a bookstore with no shipping costs, and I had to get the e-book. To my surprise, the e-book version was gorgeous too! Sigh, bliss…

On with the review, already!

Days of Blood and Starlight, is as incredible as its predecessor. In South India we get this little snack called a “bonda” It has crispy deep-fried dough on the outside, and as you crunch your way through the high-calorie goodness, you suddenly reach a spicy filling. And as you continue chewing, you get to the bittersweet coconut chutney. Then to an explosion of spices again.

Days of Blood and Starlight is that. It starts off crisp and well-paced with hints of humor and wonder. It gets to the spicy part with the Revenants and the Dominion and the bastard army (Legion, I guess). It has the bittersweet moments with Karou and Akiva (I am all praise for this relationship- but I promise, more on that later) and even some of the minor characters. And then it has that incredible ending.

(For the record, I love bondas. Sometimes I think I subsist on the awesomeness of the bondas we get in the college canteen)

KAROU, our hither-and-thither girl:

Oh, Karou. Karou, Karou. You’re no longer a blue-haired fairy skipping through the streets of Prague. No, you’ve become sharper, leaner, harder. You’ve had to make difficult choices and ally with difficult people. You’ve had to battle your own conflicted emotions, and deal with the loss of the only family you know, and deal with the bloody world of Eretz and the chimaera rebellion that is so new, yet so old to you.

My heart broke for Karou at several points in the story. I swear, when she went from loneliness to having wonderful people around her again, I cried for joy. Karou deserves happiness. She isn’t a whiny YA heroine. She has her self-doubts, yes, who doesn’t? But with Karou, that character of hers shines. She isn’t weak, no. Lonely and conflicted, yet headstrong and wonderful, she is my favorite YA heroine.

And she remains to be so with this second book.

AKIVA, Beast’s Bane and Prince of Bastards:

Well, he isn’t really. A bastard, I mean. Literally, yes, but…never mind.
I loved Akiva again in Days. His pain, the hard reality of his life and his purpose in his bloody world- everything we knew about him from Daughter­- is magnified tenfold in Days. The stalwart love he has for Karou shines brighter than the inferno of his wings. And Akiva is not simply a love-interest fluttering around doing nothing. He has his own story-arc, his own
“choices” (an important word in the book), and two secondary characters attached to him who make the story incredibly richer. He is well fleshed-out and written with beauty, solemnity and the right amount of brokenness. He is a consummate and powerful soldier, but one with a heart, and also a wonderful brother and man. (Notice I say ‘man’.)

The secondary characters in this book are also incredibly well-written. Take Zuzana and Mik, who I love to pieces. They are great comic relief and wonderfully placed as well. Take Hazael and Liraz, who we didn’t know much about in Daughter but come to brilliant life in Days. Take Thiago with his games and Joram with his brutality. Take even Ziri (he’s new). Everyone is important and no one is cardboard.

The plot itself is amazing. It came together so incredibly in the end, all the little threads and the big snowballs, all the big-bads and magic and blood and pain and love and beauty, to build to an incredible climax. When Madrigal and Akiva dreamed of a new world, I wondered how they’d ever get anywhere near that dream. With the end of Days, they seem one step closer but oh, still so far.

Days does not bring the lovers close in one epic apology but explores both of them- their motivations, their mindsets, their surroundings- and brings them together in one genius move that leaves them in each other’s presence but still unsure. I applaud Laini Taylor for this. Karou and Akiva are both so clear. Why they do what they do, why they then regret or accept it, how difficult it is to make tough choices when you’re on opposite sides of an endless war- everything is laid out for the reader to understand and interpret.

The setting itself is vastly different from Daughter. While Daughter had a fairy-tale charm to it, Days is so much more. It is bloodier, nastier, with monstrous armies that carve smiles on their enemies and villains with a penchant for hands. It is about the choices we make and the true meaning of being a hero or a soldier. It is about a world torn by war, which can be remade only by love and coexistence and infinite tolerance. It is about friendship and loyalty and trust and the ability to protect rather than avenge or destroy.
(It also occasionally has passages as fluffy and delicate as lace, and language that sparked off the page in typical Laini style)

I loved the Days of Blood and Starlight. I loved it for matching my high expectations, I loved it for not being just a filler-book, and I loved it for its epic ending. I loved it for Zuzana and Karou and Akiva and Mik and Ziri.

5 stars, and an excited-Zuzana-hop.        

ALSO

Comments

  1. arrgh! I couldn't stomach the first book!
    I know I know!

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  3. Mmm, bonda sounds good! haha, so glad this one lived up to your expectations because as big as a fan as you are of Laini Taylor's, I bet your expectations were sky high so that really counts for something! I'm going to start reading it soon - I'm looking forward to new settings and old favourite characters!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha, it is good. And yep- Days Of Blood and Starlight is a do not miss book.

      Delete
  4. I'm going to be reading this super soon! So glad you gave it 5/5, as I also really enjoyed the first novel. Great review!
    Alex @ Possession of Books

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