Days of Blood & Starlight by Laini Taylor
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Days of Blood & Starlight is the hotly anticipated sequel to last year's Daughter of Smoke & Bone . As soon as I cracked open the cover and peered at the first pages, I was reminded of every thing I had loved while reading book one. Very rarely does a sequel ever hold up to it's predecessor - especially as the second book in an expected trilogy but Days of Blood and Starlight did just that. I am delighted, though not all-together surprised, that author Laini Taylor managed to bring her series to a whole other level - all while staying true to what made Daughter of Smoke & Bone soooo epic! Don't let my pretty words fool you though - Days of Blood & Starlight is filled to the brim with gut-wrenching emotion, darkness & violence. Through it all though, it maintains it's wonder and beauty...there is always hope.
I've read my fair share of YA trilogies. Usually the second book out of the three is my least favorite - the hero tends to have changed a lot since book one and can be a little (or a lot) lost. This coupled with the story line often feeling like one big set-up to the impending conclusion expected in book three. (The exception to this being the Hunger Games Trilogy where book 2 is my favorite in the the series.) I definitely did not go in to DoB&S expecting disappointment. No, Laini Taylor had already proven to me that she was capable of such story-telling prowess that I knew readers were in for a treat. But, I didn't know what to expect. Never, in my wildest dreams would I have imagined a story of such grand scope - with emotions threatening to reduce me to shreds...and the brutality and sheer WEIGHT of it all! It was staggering but it also felt fitting and right. This much harsher reality was quite an escalation from what we experienced in Daughter of Smoke & Bone but I can't imagine the story any other way. I was every bit as enraptured by Days of Blood & Starlight as I'd been with Smoke & Bone.
Days of Blood & Starlight is a much broader story than it's predecessor. This is masterfully achieved with the addition of multiple POV's and a vaster scope. The beginning especially, reminded me of a beautifully shot film that lingers on a few breathtaking aerial shots before focusing on the story at hand and setting the scene. It simultaneously slowed the pace & built suspense. I have encountered stories with too many varying POV's where it dilutes the story and render it confusing but this was not one of those instances. The multiple narratives did cause me to miss more primary characters like Karou & Akiva from time to time but I thoroughly enjoyed getting up close an personal with some delightful secondary characters like Zuzana, Liraz & Ziri <3 ! In hindsight, the expansive take on the story only deepened my emotional connection to this world and the characters who inhabit it. All of this is due in no small part to Laini Taylor's remarkable gifts as a writer. She has the unbelievable ability turn a phrase in such a way as to make you want to read it twice... even three times...slowly, to soak in their meaning fully and relish in their every little nuance. This woman has the soul of a poet, there's no doubt about it!
Speaking of characters - which I feel like I should have done more of by now...if only because of how freaking awesome they are. Karou...oh Karou...as soon as she made her entrance, I remember thinking: ''I f***ing LOVE this girl!'' And then whenever she was being particularly kick-ass, or sweet...when she was being brilliant or when she despaired...and especially when she would hope, I was reminded again: ''I LOVE this girl!!'' Karou is SO one of my favorite characters of. all. time. Honestly, it was pretty much insta-love (it does exist! ) from the very beginning of Daughter of Smoke & Bone! I didn't think I would end up loving her more, but I did. Even at her lowest point, she never made me feel that I didn't get where she was coming from, or in any way hinder my fondness of her. This girl just plain rocks. I can't say my feelings for Akiva didn't grow tenfold either, because they did. Ahhh, Akiva...Akiva is still as dreamy, admirable and so, so brave. But he's also broken & at times tortured. He's deliciously strong & true and despite the horrors his past holds, he was often the biggest source of hope for me. He was most definitely the biggest source of my swooning yet again! He and Karou are admittedly in a rough place, but their connection when they shared a scene or when they remembered what they had shared before...it always managed to be heart stopping as well as bitter-sweet. *sigh* I already ache to know how their story will end.
The plot is full of surprises, and even with it's larger volume and overall feel, it never gets boring or drags. That's probably because it's so action packed. Not in the way you would expect though - it's brutally gory at times, graphic but never gratuitous in it's depiction of violence and cruelty. This is the reality in which the Angels & Chimera live in - a world both species took part in it's current state. The levels of built up hatred and animosity does a really impressive job of displaying the horrors of war and mutual hatred. Throughout the book,you can always feel the sheer weight of it all but once I had finished reading it, I was left feeling moved, enchanted and more than anything...hopeful. And if that in itself doesn't constitute a feat worthy of recognition, I don't know what does. All things considered, Days of Blood & Starlight is an explosive continuation in the Smoke & Bone series. I wish it was 2014 already and I had the whole series at my disposal to read and re-read!