Title: Days of Blood and Starlight
Author: Laini Taylor (author website)
Release Date: 8th Nov. 2012 by Hodder & Stoughton
Age Group: Young Adult
Following Daughter of Smoke and Bone was never to prove an easy task. How could any book trump the romance, the beauty, the glittering darkness of its predecessor? Of course there was no cause for concern. While Days of Blood and Stalight may not ‘trump’, Laini Taylor builds, breathing life and magic into an Eretz yet unknown to readers. She abandons romance. This time, it's war.
Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a new way of living - one without massacres and torn throats and bonfires of the fallen, without revenants or bastard armies or children ripped from their mothers' arms to take their turn in the killing and dying.
Once, the lovers lay entwined in the moon's secret temple and dreamed of a world that was a like a jewel-box without a jewel - a paradise waiting for them to find it and fill it with their happiness.
This was not that world.
Returning Karou and Akiva’s world and doomed love is a painful journey. We left them in horror and pain at the end of Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and they are found, in Days of Blood and Starlight, even deeper in darkness. The opening pages are like those few brief moments of peace, of happiness, between falling asleep with the knowledge of some terrible, asphyxiating grief, and waking, the world crashing down twice as dreadful as before.
Karou and Akiva are separated, but fighting. A war is being faught, and while the Seraphim believe themselves victorious, and the Chimaera population is decimated, all is not as lost as it may seem. It’s a story different in tone from its predecessor. Where Daughter was filled with light and love and hope, even in its darkest moments, Blood and Starlight is a tale beautiful, still, but bleak. It carries a feeling worse than that of hopelessness, but of hope lost – but perhaps not forever. The hope tangled in its pages will be drawn more from readers – lovers of these characters and their world and their creator – and faith that things must get better. After all, at the tale’s conclusion, it is difficult to see how they could get worse.
“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”
Days of Blood and Starlight is a tale of war and vengeance – of all the associated horrors and atrocities and needless violence. Readers are shown much of its greater impact, of genocide, of murdered or twisted children, of a pervasive learned hatred, and while Taylor never seems to be pushing an agenda, or concealing an underlying message, it’s fascinating to consider how this applies to life; especially in light of a recent quote she posted (do go read it. It’s short, and brilliant).
“You have only to begin, Lir. Mercy breeds mercy as slaughter breeds slaughter. We can’t expect the world to be better than we make it.”
It is certainly the greater impact of the eons old war between Chimaera and Seraphim which carries Days of Blood and Starlight’s greatest horrors, but it’s the personal, more intimate facets shown that drive it home. Through the eyes of an escaped slave girl, a seraphim sentry, a soldier, and our beloved Karou and Akiva themselves, Taylor shows the price of hatred, of greed, of bitter, empty bloodshed for its own sake.
And it is, of course, Akiva and Karou who form the book’s emotional core, and its most crushing moments. Where once upon a time, the lovers dreamed together of a new world, a better one, one free from endless war and killing, they are now separated by more than distance and race and ancient enmity.
“A dream dirty and bruised is better than no dream at all.”
The two work separately, clinging to their tattered dream. There is still innocence in that dream, however bloody it becomes, but innocence, while a beautiful garb, is not always the best armour. Akiva, consumed with gnawing agony and guilt, is a shell, and Karou as beautiful as ever, is lost. Where, once, Karou could almost be synonymous with life, she is robbed of it, drowning in grief and anger and sorrow. It’s devastating watching such beloved characters suffer so greatly, but even more so as it blinds them to the machinations and manipulations of others.
“You could look out the window today, see the sky raining fire, and say that it has all been for nothing, everything we've ever done, because now we've lost. But folk were born and lived and knew friendship and music in this city, ugly as it is, and all across this land that we fought for. Some grew old, and others were less lucky. Many bore children and raised them, and had the pleasure of making them, too, and we gave them that for as long as we could. Who has ever done more, my friend?”
There is light in this dark tale, however, in the form of Zuzanna and Mik who, separated from Karou by worlds, don’t give up on their friend. Zuzanna brings laughter, and Mik humour, and together, a friendship and romance which grounds the otherwise fantastical tale in reality, where the human world would be otherwise lost to Ertez.
Told between two worlds and the yawning pit between them, Taylor weaves her tale of war, of magic, and of course, blood and starlight, in a fashion uniquely hers. Crushingly sad and beautifully written, Days of Blood and Starlight is, as its predecessor, a triumph of fantasy and of prose, but it offers precious few answers, instead building towards a yet unknown climax and conclusion I’m not quite sure if I should dread or celebrate, but one I most keenly anticipate. Once again, Taylor delivers magic.
“One world on its own is a strange enough seethe of coiling, unknowable veins of intention and chance, but two? Where two worlds mingle breath through rips in the sky, the strange becomes stranger, and many things may come to pass that few imaginations could encompass.”
Books in This Series:
- Daughter of Smoke and Bone (September 2011)
- Days of Blood and Starlight (November 2012)
- As yet untitled (expected 2014)
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