Friday, November 16, 2012
Review: Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor
Title: Days of Blood and Starlight (Daughter of Smoke and Bone, #2)
Author: Laini Taylor
Rating: 5 Stars
If Daughter of Smoke and Bone was a dream, a mirage, a masterpiece of writing and phrases and words, overlapped and edited and fine-tuned to create a perfection of romance, snark, and pulsating chemistry, all tinged with a palpable undertone of bittersweet, Days of Blood and Starlight is like a hard slap, the cold splash of water, and the startled opening of ones eyes into the bleak, war-ridden, fragile, and bloody reality of life. Unlike most trilogies which follow in a steady rhythm of romance or action or paranormal mystery, Laini Taylor breaks all imaginary constraints and reveals to us the completely unexpected, for Days of Blood and Starlight is as far removed from its predecessor, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, as any novel could possibly be. In fact, the only similarities between the two lie in Taylor's atmospheric writing, her distinct characterizations, and the general plot continuation. In all other aspects though, Laini Taylor has surpassed my wildest expectations and written a novel that I can claim, in full confidence, that is far, far better than its predecessor. I gave Daughter of Smoke and Bone 5 Stars, just as I did Days of Blood and Starlight, but in reality, this novel deserves 500 Stars.
Days of Blood and Starlight picks up not long after Daughter of Smoke and Bone ended with Karou coming to the realization that the only family she's ever known has been murdered by the only man she's ever loved. Thus, the tone for Days of Blood and Starlight is set; one of revenge, grief, heartbreak, sorrow, despair, and yet, despite all that, hope. What stands out the most, to me at least, is how real Taylor's novel is. Both Daughter of Smoke and Bone and Days of Blood and Starlight unfold in a sequence of events driven by fate, by destiny, and not entirely by choice, much like our own lives. While we all do have a certain amount of say in the direction our lives lead us, it is only by fate that we meet the people who will change us or affect us in different ways and no one can deny that, at the end of the day, despite all the scattered events throughout our lives, everything comes together and makes a certain degree of sense. Things happen for a reason. For me, Days of Blood and Starlight seemed to echo that very same idea. All the events in Karou's life, first as Madrigal and later as Karou, were leading her up to this point. In fact, nothing could have progressed in this manner if Madrigal had not fallen in love with Akiva, if she had not been beheaded by the Wolf, and later if Akiva had not destroyed Loramendi, the home of the chimeras.
This, I feel, is the magic of Laini Taylor's writing. Or perhaps it's the magic of her plot. Either way, her stories unfold in such a realistic manner and best of all, she ensures that all this is palpable to the reader. Karou already made a niche in my heart in Daughter of Smoke and Bone but with Days of Blood and Starlight my heart wept for her. We see Karou at her most vulnerable and, at the same time, her most strong - mentally at least. It can't be said that Laini Taylor doesn't allow her character to grow, for she does. Each and every character we come across, from Akiva to Hazael and Liraz, his siblings, to Zuzanna and Mik, all experience some type of growth and change throughout this book. Akiva, especially, becomes a truly fleshed-out being, one whose personality is no longer as flat or connected to Karou's love as it once was. Now, seeing him as an individual with regrets, grief, and aspirations of his own, it is far easier to grow to truly love him as another person and not simply as Karou's lover.
Furthermore, Laini Taylor simply outdoes herself with the world-building in this piece. Somehow, the battered, torn, and bloody land of Eratz has become such a real place in my mind that I wish to visit it and see it, for its simultaneous beauty and terror, all at once. Yet, for all its good qualities, I do have a few minor qualms with this novel, primarily, the set-up of the book itself. Unlike Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Days of Blood and Starlight flits between the perspectives of Karou, Akiva, Zuzanna, and a plethora of secondary characters we are unfamiliar with. While I enjoyed, for the most part, the round and full picture this type of storytelling provided us with, I also found that some small chapters could have been entirely done away with. I kept expecting them to play a greater role in the novel, and unfortunately, they didn't. In addition, the secondary (or quarterary?) characters we're introduced to have such little screen time that it's tough to feel anything much for them beyond fleeting thoughts.
Nevertheless, that is a small qualm to have with a novel so perfect in every other way. Days of Blood and Starlight exceeded all my expectations (and mine were HIGH!) and surprised me with an uncanny amount of depth and a shocking slew of plot twists that had me simultaneously thrilled and upset. Furthermore, the amount of emotion this novel inspires is noteworthy. Taylor makes you feel for Karou and Akiva and while their romance, and their interactions for that matter, is extremely minimal, the bittersweet tone of their love is still felt. Neither Karou nor Akiva is at fault here and Taylor makes us see this so clearly in this piece that now, it is impossible to know in what direction the story will head. It ends off, much like Daughter of Smoke and Bone did, with a bittersweet kind of ending that leaves you aching for more, worried for these characters, and at the same time, filled with hope. I doubt I'd trust any other writer to take on such a complex novel - for truly Taylor has transformed a simple love story and made it into an intricate piece that leaves me with the knowledge that I still haven't understood it all, not fully. Needless to say, I cannot wait for the final installment in this trilogy. If there's anything I can count on, it's this: Laini Taylor will not disappoint.