This review contains spoilers for Daughter of Smoke and Bone.
“I am one of billions. I am stardust gathered fleetingly into form. I will be ungathered. The stardust will go on to be other things someday and I will be free.”
Oh hey, have you met Laini, goddess of pink hair and beautiful prose, who has unequivocally established a spot in my top, let us say three, favourite authors of all time? Am I being too dramatic? Maybe. But also no, because seriously. My mind has been blown yet again by Laini Taylor’s almost painfully beautiful writing, her boundless imagination, and her relatable and emotionally charged characters.
Here’s the synopsis:
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?
One of the difficult things about picking up an established series years after the initial hype is that enough time has passed for the negative reviews to float to the surface. Days of Blood & Starlight is one such book that seems to have a lot of mixed reviews and I couldn’t help but worry they may influence my opinion before I even began. Like many reviewers, I adored Daughter of Smoke & Bone, the first book in the trilogy, and really hoped this would be a worthy follow up even if it was said to be much different than the first. Truthfully, it was very different but in the end that took nothing away from how much I became completely smitten with it.
I think the main complaint I hear about this book is the lack of romantic development between Karou and Akiva after the intensity of their romance in Daughter. I for one was completely unbothered by this and actually really enjoyed how Laini flexes her literary muscles and shows us how huge a scope this story is beyond just our two beloved characters. I also love a good slow burn romance and after how explosive their love was in the first book, I was happy for this step back to allow it to build up again. The anticipation is half the beauty in my opinion. There is a time for love and a time for war, and Laini says it is the latter for now.
It’s so refreshing to me how Laini challenges the classic archetype of the beautiful, majestic angel equals morally good and the grotesque beast equals evil. In a bloody war spanning a thousand years, there are souls of all kinds amongst both the beautiful Seraphim and the monstrous-looking Chimaera. There are angels with souls as vile as they come and monsters that have souls like “fireflies in a garden”.
While the tone is bleak and often startlingly brutal, the main characters offer strong morality which feels like small beacons of hope in a dreary landscape. I was filled to the brim with feeling for the loyalty shown between friends and brothers and the great acts of sacrifice they make for each other. More than a few moments made me want to weep and hold these characters and cover their pain.
Old characters are developed beautifully and a few important ones are introduced for the first time. I could write an entire post on Ziri, the young Kirin and the last of Karou/Madrigal’s kind in original form. He is precious and adorable and I’m terrified to find out how everything works out for him. And Mik and Zuzana are seriously couple goals, you guys. They have the cutest, most sarcastic banter and I just loved every moment with them.
I’m so anxious to find out how Laini resolves this epic tale and luckily for me I won’t have to wait (one of the good things about reading an already completed series!). I have a feeling this one will be going on the list of favourite series of all time.
My rating: 5/5 stars
Title: Days of Blood & Starlight
Author: Laini Taylor
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company, a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc.