Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor (review copy) - WARNING! I cannot review this book without spoiling the others in the series. Read no further if you're planning on reading this series and don't want it spoilt for you.
Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a new way of living - one without massacres and torn throats and bonfires of the fallen, without revenants or bastard armies or children ripped from their mothers' arms to take their turn in the killing and dying.
Once, the lovers lay entwined in the moon's secret temple and dreamed of a world that was a like a jewel-box without a jewel - a paradise waiting for them to find it and fill it with their happiness.
This was not that world. From Amazon UK
Oh wow. I don't even know what to say. Days of Blood and Starlight is absolutely incredible, but in a completely different way to Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Blood and Starlight is just as epic as Smoke and Bone, but for completely different reasons!
After the events at the end of Smoke and Bone, Karou is left broken. The only ever family she's known, Brimstone and his assistants, are dead. As the chimaera no longer had their resurrectionist, the seraphim slaughtered their way through the ranks of the chimaeran army, leaving them victorious. The end of the war. But the end of war doesn't mean the end of the problems. With the memories that flooded back after breaking the wishbone with Akiva, the memories of her life as Madrigal, Karou is left with the knowledge that her people were dead or enslaved. In the company of the chimaeran soldiers who survived, she is constantly reminded that this is all down to her; because she saved Akiva from death all those years ago, he escaped with the knowledge that led to the chimaera's destruction. The guilt and the shame lay heavy on her heart, but she atones in the only way she can; as she worked for Brimstone, Karou knows how to ressurect dead chimaera, and so has become the new resurrectionist for the chimaeran rebellion.
Akiva is distraught. When he believed Madrigal had died, his sights were set only on getting revenge on those who had killed her. Now he knows that Brimstone brought her back as Karou, he is overwhelmed with guilt over what he caused to come to pass; the destruction of those who loved her and kept her safe for all this time, and with knowing he couldn't have done anything worse to hurt Karou and the love she felt for him. Despite knowing they will never be, Akiva can't help but long for the dream they once both had; the dream of peace, the end of killing, the beginning of a life worth living.
This may sound like I've gone and spoilt the book, but I haven't. All of this you find out quite early on. Laini Taylor is a genius who takes the plot of the story much further than you would have thought possible, so I really haven't given much away - so much more happens! Compared to Smoke and Bone, this is a harder book to read; the first book was all about the love, but with this book, there is so much bad. Guilt, shame, grief, pain, and that's just the emotions. This is the aftermath of war, and there is a lot of death and indescribable terror. Blood and Starlight can be quite visceral, but without bring gratuitously graphic in the violence. There is blood, pain, and extreme violence at some points, but never at any point does it feel like it's too much, and there's never any over-the-top gore. But it's true to war, true to the story, and doesn't hide away from the grim, disturbing aspects.
One of the things I loved most about this book was the varying view points. The story is mainly told from Akiva and Karou's third person point of view, but to show us the full scale of how this war, and the actions taken since the end, effects the many different people involved, we get their point of view. An angel soldier disgusted with the order she has been given, a chimaeran child who has been freed from slavery by the rebel army, yet is still not out of danger, one of the Emperor's guards, a chimaeran rebel, a seraphim captain, so on and so forth. It makes this novel one of the most grown up YA novels I have read, showing just what war can do to a land, can do to the people who live in it. It's very thought provoking, and has you asking how can this possibly end, if every action is retaliated against, if every death on one side leads to death on the other? How can there be peace if those in charge are set on revenge? Which side is the "good side" when both are committing such appalling atrocities? The small moments from the eyes of other people dashed every thought about right and wrong from my head, and I found myself scared of turning the page, scared of the next awful thing I might read. Blood and Starlight takes a brilliant look at what war and peace really are, what they really mean, and I can only applaud Taylor for showing truth.
It's not all lows though. Zuzana and Mik make their appearances, and they are just the most amazing characters for bringing the laughter and the smiles to every character they meet, as well as the reader. And there are so many twists in this book, it's unbelievable! Just when you think things are looking up, something will come along to knock everyone back onto their backsides, time after time.
Days of Blood and Starlight is just phenomenal, the dark to Daughter of Smoke and Bone's light, and will hurt your heart more than you would believe. With the ending (Oh my god, the ending!), I have absolutely no idea where things are going to go from here in book 3, but one one thing is for certain; the future looks bloody horrific - and I cannot wait! Laini Taylor, I salute you!
Thank you to Hodder and Stoughton for the review copy.
Published: 8th November 2012
Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton
Buy on Amazon US
Laini Taylor's Website
Daughter of Smoke and Bone UK Website
My other reviews from the series:
Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Daughter of Smoke and Bone Book 1)