Title: Days of Blood & Starlight
Author: Laini Taylor
Series: Daughter of Smoke & Bone #2
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Published: November 6th 2012 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Rating: 5/5 stars ★★★★★
“Dead souls dream only of death. Small dreams for small men. It is life that expands to fill worlds. Life is your master, or death is.”
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?
5 of 5 stars to Days of Blood & Starlight by Laini Taylor
Once upon a time there was a girl who sought solace in books. She did not find it here…
Books that deliver in spades deserve a medal. It is one thing to create a storyㅡseemingly cliche with the age old angel-human star crossed lovers story, warring worlds thrown in the mixㅡand another thing to spare no expense in telling it ALL: the ugly, the bad, the reality; especially in a young adult book with its target market used to the watered down versions of grave themes like war and death which are abundant in this story.
“Days of Blood and Starlight” couldn’t be a more appropriate title for the book because really, it was all about the ugliness of warㅡdeath, bloodshed, innocent lives lostㅡbut it also spoke of hope (“starlight”), that it seemed like these two words, war and hope, will always be intertwined.
Reading Days of Blood Starlight was a heavy experience throughout. With war at its backbone and Karou’s grief at the forefront, there was no relief. Dread was a constant feeling. Who will die? Who will live? What will happen? I was almost afraid to continue reading because I know the author will not spare my feelings. I was not wrong. As if worrying for Akiva and Karou’s fate weren’t enough, the author made me love so many other characters too so then I was just a mass of nerves, anxiously turning the page, hoping that my beloved Ziri or Hazael will not die, because let’s be honest, minor characters are in more danger of dying than the leads.
I met Akiva and Karou in book one but I never really knew them until book two. Here, I learned that Akiva has the heart of gold, with love and understanding as big as Eretz’ two moons. He is brimming with hope and determination even when he is suffering, even when he is alone, no ally to help him. He’s man enough to admit his mistakes and smart enough to atone for them. Most of all, he is pitiful.. because everything he’s doing is for Karou and their dream, but Karou couldn’t care less about him.
Speaking of Karou, the sweet, brave girl who dared hope for a better life and died for it and then lived to try again. It was hard to be on Karou’s side because she always seems to be doing the wrong thing (making more monsters, fueling the revenge) yet I can’t fault her for that because she’s grieving and what Akiva and the angels had done to her kind was cruel. It would be hard to forgive, if I can at all. I understand her BUT I also want her to snap out of it. However, grief is a long process (if it ever ends at all) and the author has captured this emotion in such a realistic way that Karou’s grief is also mine. I didn’t even have feelings for Brimstone in book one. I didn’t even bat an eye when I read he died in book one. But here, here Laini tells Karou’s grief in excruciating detail, raw and gritty, that I find myself missing him and even hoping, as much as Karou, that he was alive. And just like Karou, I found myself disappointed.
Now let’s talk about Ziri. The new character that wasn’t in book one but was already part of the story. He seems unimportant at first, just a possible ally to Karou but later on, it became obvious that he would mean so much more because just like Akiva, he has the heart of gold. His loyalty to Karou is unwavering and just like Akiva, he is pitiful. He hopes for love where he can’t find it, he knows this himself, yet he persists. A great martyr deserving of a better story. (Laini better give him one, she owes it after she already broke my heart, heartbreak explained below).
And lastly, there is Hazael whose death tore me. It’s always the kind, endearing ones that get killed in these stories for maximum effect. It was sad when he died but what really broke my heart was when Laini made me hopeㅡalong with Akiva and Lirazㅡthat he could be saved only to disappoint me again. I swear, Laini likes to play with our feelings just as much as she plays with her characters’. It was when Liraz broke down, however, that I found myself crying too. I haven’t cried this hard over a book in so long. I literally needed a tissue to dry my eyes (and clear my snotㅡTMIㅡbut you get the picture).
Giving this a five star rating wasn’t even in the plans. Midway through it, I was set to give it a four. The five star was mostly for the latter 20% of the book when things really started happening. Prior to the climax, I had a lot of qualms, mostly about Zuzana’s chapters that annoy the hell out of me. I feel like she took away the gravity of the story, made light of such a dark situation, and in general, just felt misplaced in the whole scheme of things. However, I understand her purpose. Karou needed a sense of normalcy, a relief from all that was on her plate and Zuzana was the perfect solution. Also, as revealed in the last chapter, the third book is not just about angel vs chimaera war anymore but also the humans too. It would make perfect sense because to exclude humans from the story arc seemed short sighted.
To conclude and as a disclaimer (which Laini has actually said in the first book), this is not your typical fallen angel x human love story. This isn’t even a love story. It’s about war and winning that war with hope. Blood and Starlight. War and Hope. Really, that’s the best summary of this book. There’s a lot of death and suffering but a lot of light and hope as well.
Laini Taylor’s writing is stellar in this one. She made me feel all these dark emotions as convincingly as if I was a part of that world. It’s such a rare thing to have: a talent not just for writing but also for making your readers feel your characters’ emotions. Bravo.