Hardcover, 528 pages
Published November 6th 2012 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
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?
I wasn’t as enamored with Daughter of Smoke and Bone as some of my friends were and, in fact, I am still conflicted over the first novel. Usually, when I don’t enjoy the first novel a lot, I don’t read the sequel because I don’t feel the urge to do so. However, the title of the sequel captured my interest. It is so evocative – the title alone built splendid worlds in my mind. Some people are attracted by covers, I go for titles. It’s normal!
So with that entirely useless introduction, let me begin my length deconstruction of the sequel to Daughter of Smoke and Bone. There are many things I want to talk about but let’s ground my review (if you want to call it that) in this statement: I liked Days of Blood and Starlight a lot. I didn’t expect to do so but I did.
Whereas the first novel had a narrow perspective through which the world was viewed (the story is mainly narrated from Karou and Akiva’s perspectives), DoBaS utilizes many different perspectives to relate the story. This has a universalizing effect – the world of Eretz seems so much more vibrant than it would have been had we not seen it through the eyes of the deerlike Chimaera, the Silversword who dies for no reason, heck, even Jael. It’s like you are standing in the center of a ballroom and listening to the whispers cascading through the crowds reiterating their presence in the room. Without these whispers, you would still be in the room and people would still be present around you but they could be a figment of your imagination. So, that was well done.
The world building is exquisite here. I recently tried to read a so-called YA high fantasy novel and the biggest thing lacking in it was the world building. Even in fantastic settings, there needs to be a logic to the world. Even to its ecology. Eretz comes alive to the reader in colours, in the terror of the fleeing Chimaera and in the violence of the angels. The imperfectly reconstructed city is just as intriguing as the Stelians about whom no one knows a thing.
One of the troubles I had with DoSaB (the first) was that Madrigal seemed less developed than Karou. I know that they are the same person, at least on paper, but honestly? They are not. A person or a sentient living being is shaped by the experiences that she has, the relationships she has and if you think about it carefully, Karou has not had the same kind of relationships and experiences as Madrigal even though she has the memory of them. So while I was invested in Karou, I felt I didn’t have a chance to get to know Madrigal when she is herself and not half of a pair of a doomed couple. This disparity is addressed somewhat in DoBaS but I think that there still remains room for more development – I would like to read about Karou being faced with Madrigal – it would be so awesome to see her haunted by a ghost of herself. Moving right along to some spoilery bits, avert your eyes! (I wasn’t as emotionally invested in Hazael so while his death was sad, I wasn’t as sad as I felt I could have been. I think that a bit more time spent developing Hazael’s character would have solved this. However, I recognized his importance to Akiva and I wonder how his death will affect him. I also wonder what happens to them when they die? Do the angels believe in God?)
Zuzana and Mik were awesome. Perhaps my favourite parts in the novel. They brought a necessary lightness to the otherwise tension filled narrative. Karou was annoyingly submissive for the first half of the book but her actions were understandable and therefore did not fill me with rage and frustration as passive heroines are wont to do. On the other hand, I was disappointed by how…anticlimactic the meeting with Joram turned out to be. I expected Joram to be much more monstrous than he was…his hubris finally got him however, and yay for that.
The romance is, thankfully, toned down. I, who am allergic to mush, had a hard time with DoSaB precisely because it was chockfull of sweet moments that made me want to gag. It’s just a thing, okay? Days of Blood and Starlight had a lot of romantic angst, a lot of tortured longing but it was modulated and not melodramatic. I thought that Taylor managed to convey Karou and Akiva’s pain without dipping into pathos. The White Wolf was never a contender for Karou’s feelings, thank goodness but I think this new character, Ziri, may be a serious rival for her affections.
The plot twisted in ways that I didn’t expect it to and that is always fun. I like not being able to predict the author’s mind. The end is particularly brilliant as it forces two enemies to unite over a common enemy. I really liked this novel, it dealt with themes of betrayal, strength, death and humanity. It creates tense moments where the well being of one has to be sacrificed for the good of hundreds. It shows that love is so much more than just different sides in a war. Being a woman transcends species and strength is more than just the muscles in your arm. Days of Blood and Starlight was a splendid follow up to Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I recommend it.