Friday 23 November 2012

CBR4 Book 98: "Days of Blood and Starlight" by Laini Taylor

Page count: 528 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Date begun: November 6th, 2012
Date finished: November 8th, 2012

This is the second book in a trilogy, and it will contain spoilers for The Daughter of Smoke and Bone. So if you haven't read that book, skip this review, and come back when you've read both books. The review will be here when you're done, I promise.

Everyone still here, any spoilers are your own responsibility. In the previous book, Karou, teenage blue-haired artist of mysterious origins and raised by monstrous creatures, met a strikingly beautiful angel who tried to kill her on their first encounter, and then they fell in love. Akiva, the angel in question, had a history with Karou, although neither of them realised it at first. Once Akiva discovered Karou's true identity, and revealed it to her, their future together was pretty much doomed.

The Daughter of Smoke and Bone was a mystery story of star-crossed lovers, and ended on a hell of a cliffhanger. Days of Blood and Starlight can be summed up as: What if Juliet woke up in the crypt after   her days asleep, and discovered that Romeo had not killed himself when he believed her dead, but instead gone on a revenge rampage, killing her closest family, destroyed her city, and aided in the attempted genocide and enslavement of her entire people? Because that's pretty much where Karou is now. How do you forgive the man you love after something like that? How do you, if you're Akiva, ever make amends?

This book is not a love story, it's a story about defiance, and rebellion, warfare, heartbreak, disillusionment and angst. There are some brighter episodes, mainly provided by Mik and Suzanna, Karou's human friends who are adorable and hopeful and optimistic to the point of silliness, really. Even when confronted with the dangerous and painful reality of Karou's new life, Suzanna stays so perky I wanted to shake her.

Karou's existence is one of loneliness, pain and regret, working herself to near exhaustion to help what is left of the Chimera rebel against the tyrannous Seraphim. Akiva, reunited with his siblings in an elite Seraphim army unit, believes Karou to be dead (again) and knows that the things he was brought up to believe are all lies. Both races have endured a millennium of hate and warfare, and there is no end in sight. With Karou, he once dared to dream of something different, and better, but their dreams are all ashes, partially because of his own actions.

It's a huge departure from the tone and feel of the first book, and a brave thing to do with a young adult book. The vast amount of dystopian young adult fiction out there shows that Taylor isn't the only one to see that teens can take their fair share of bleakness, death and angst. While this book was bleak, I was pretty much as gripped by the story as I was by the first book, and I'm deeply impressed that Taylor explores the very real consequences of Akiva's seemingly unforgivable actions. With the trend of former villainous characters turned heroes begun with Buffy the Vampire Slayer (exactly how many people did Angelus  and Spike really kill in their years as evil vampires, and how quick was Buffy to forgive and forget all that), it's nice to see someone taking a different approach. He may have been the love of her life, but can (and should) Karou forgive the horrific things that Akiva did out of grief and rage, believing her dead forever?

It's understandable that Karou has been changed by the revelations in the previous book, but I was still sad to see her literally a cowed shadow of her former self. She is a little bit to quick to take things on surface value, and not question the situation around her, just because she feels guilty and partially responsible for the attack on the attack on the Chimera capital. Karou in Daughter of Smoke and Bone was strong, independent, brave and defiant, not so much in this book. I did like the introduction of new characters, both on the chimera and angel side of things. Akiva's siblings were an especially good addition.

Something completely different than I was expecting, but still very well written, and very engrossing, I'm now very curious to see what Taylor is planning for the final volume of her trilogy. Having written two such very different books in the series so far, and with the events set up towards the end of this story, no matter what happens, it's going to be interesting. I'm honestly not sure if she intends for all this to have a happy ending, and I have trouble seeing exactly how she'd achieve it, but I'm certain that come next year, I'll be eagerly anticipating the next book.

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