Author: Laini Taylor
Genre: YA, AWESOME, paranormal, romance
Publication Date: November 6, 2012 (Little, Brown for Young Readers – North America)
Source: Publisher-provided finished copy
Summary: 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?
☆: 4.5/5 stars – a DEFINITE must read for 2012, and another wonderful chapter in the “Smoke and Bone” saga!
Review: I’m very, very happy to say that this second installment in the “Smoke and Bone” trilogy has absolutely NO middle book syndrome at all. None. We get to return to two worlds that have become very near and dear to my heart – that of Earth, our world, and Eretz, the world of the Seraphim and the Chimaera. There’s a ton of action, a lot of heartache, and some breathtaking magic involved, so buckle up, fans of book number one, because not only will this book kick you in the feels (repeatedly, I might add), it’ll also kiss it all better. Or almost.
My only semi-complaint: pacing. The first fourth was a little on the slow side, when we ended on such a huge reveal from book one. Picking up several weeks (if not months) after the end of book one, there’s a lot explanation of what Karou’s been up to (and Akiva too), and a lot of outlining what’s pretty much going to be the main plot for this book. And that was good, as I wanted a general framework to work with (since Taylor threw in so many delicious plot twists in the first book), to follow everything fairly easily. She definitely delivers on both the easy following and the plot twists (oh those twists!), but the set-up could have been a little cleaner, and the pace a little faster. Generally, I’d say there’s a lot of rightfully mopey Karou and Akiva, both having severe feels over the way they parted as things are set up for us, and a lot of Karou trying to find her place within both worlds considering that huge reveal on her identity at the end of book one. Is she human? Is she Chimera? Is she both? Or is she neither? While the pacing was slow, I do see why Taylor did things this way – it was great exposition to how Karou was doing after the revelations in those last pages of book one. Same with Akiva, though I’d still say this is, at least for the first half, more of Karou’s story than his (second half, it’s more of his story). After that, things pick up just fine, but it’s still a bit of a slow kick-off to such a huge book.
Basically? With this book, Taylor proves that not only can she do amazing character writing, she can also deliver huge emotional payoffs to the audience without sacrificing anything. What does this mean? She doesn’t pull any punches, she doesn’t use too many typical YA tropes (I’d say the “star-crossed lovers” trope is used, but even that gets turned on its head quite a bit in this story) to do so, and she kills her darlings with absolute glee. So in my book, this makes her one of my favorite authors. She shows pain in so many ways and so well, and there’s so, so much pain in this book. But guess what, guys? Pain is sometimes the only way characters (and people in real life) can grow and change. Transformation is not supposed to be easy, or happy. It’s supposed to hurt. And with this book, Taylor makes that point again and again. And it’s an important point, one that YA (especially paranormal YA) seems to be blinding itself to in an increasingly alarming manner.
Now, for the worldbuilding: we get a lot deeper into Eretz in this book. If book one was mostly about things happening on Earth, then this book is all about Eretz. By including characters like The White Wolf (Thiago), Ziri (the last of the Kirin, Karou/Madrigal’s race, in his “original flesh”), and others, we really get a better look at the many varied species and sub-species of the Chimaera. It was absolutely delicious and a very important bit of worldbuilding I was looking forward to, and Taylor hit every note just right. We also learn more about the Seraphim’s history with the Chimaera in terms of the wars, the campaigns, and toward the end of the book, where else the angels hold dominion (no pun intended – you’ll get it if you read the book) within the world of Eretz. Even with so much death happening in this book, everyone is so alive and active regardless of their side in the new war, and it was such a joy to read, guys, I can’t even tell you how much.
And finally, the romance/relationships: It’s still there, guys, though it’s under the “my only love, sprung from my only hate” Shakespearean area of tropes. There are so. many. feels – not just for Akiva and Karou, but (surprisingly) Zuzana and Mik, Issa and Karou, and Lir, Hazael, and Akiva (one of my favorite sibling/bromances in YA lit EVER. EVER guys, not even kidding, with this book). You’ve heard of the “glass case of emotion” meme? Yeah. This is one of the books that will fall under that meme just well. Get your tissues because this one will kick (and eventually, lick) your feels into submission.
Final verdict? If you read book one, you MUST read book two. If you haven’t read book one – what are you waiting for? This is another stellar addition to Taylor’s trilogy (and bibliography in general), and its place on my best of 2012 so far is very well deserved indeed. “Days of Blood and Starlight” is out now from Little, Brown FYR in North America, so be sure to check it out. This is a book definitely worth your time and money, so go! Read! Now!