Tag Archives: ‘Daughter of Smoke and Bone’

Book Review Saturday – Days of Blood and Starlight

I debated for a long time whether to even tackle a book like ‘Days of Blood and Starlight’ in my weekly book review; I feared it was too much for me. After much deliberation, though, I’ve (un)wisely decided to go ahead with it, and all I can do is hope I don’t get swept away in a torrent of emotion.

If I do get swept away in a torrent of emotion, by the way, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Image: lainitaylor.com

Image: lainitaylor.com

‘Days of Blood and Starlight’ is the second part of a trilogy – the first book in this series was ‘Daughter of Smoke and Bone,’ and the third part, ‘Dreams of Gods and Monsters’ will be published next year. I don’t think I’ve ever read a novel so packed full of imagination as ‘Daughter of Smoke and Bone,’ and I’ve been eagerly awaiting its sequel for months on end. When I eventually managed to get my hands on ‘Days of Blood and Starlight,’ I devoured it – so much so, in fact, that I think I’ll have to go back to the beginning and read both books again, just to savour the utter miracle that is Laini Taylor’s mind.

‘Daughter of Smoke and Bone’ introduced us to Karou, a character who also takes centre stage in ‘Days of Blood and Starlight.’ A seventeen-year-old with bright blue hair who lives in Prague and studies art alongside her best friend Zuzana, Karou is an independent, talented and intelligent young woman. She does have the irritating habit of disappearing without warning whenever she is summoned, however; Zuzana wonders what Karou does every time she runs off, but Karou can never tell her. The only hint to Karou’s secret life is the fantastical drawings she makes of half-human, half-animal hybrid creatures, all of whom have names and whose adventures Karou uses to entertain Zuzana. But what Karou has never made clear to Zuzana is that these drawings are far more than just works of art. They are portraits taken from life, and the individuals they depict are far from imaginary. To Zuzana, they are merely characters in Karou’s imagination, but in truth they are Brimstone, and Issa, and the other members of Karou’s ‘family’, who have raised her since infancy. Karou is their ‘eyes and ears’ in the human world, and they need her to carry out various tasks for them – hence, her need to disappear whenever they call her.

For Karou’s family are monsters – monsters who love, and who care for one another, and who fight bravely for their place in the world. Their strange and frightening appearance is not their whole story, however. They are ancient and powerful beings, among whose terrifying powers is the ability, when conditions are right, to raise the dead.

‘Daughter of Smoke and Bone’ takes us through the standoff between Karou’s family (who are known as ‘chimaera’) and the seraphim, who are far from being the angels a reader might expect. These seraphim are militant, savage warriors who keep track of the amount of ‘beasts’ (chimaera) they’ve killed by the amount of tattoos on their fingers, and they are determined to wipe the ‘stain’ of the chimaera from the face of their realm, Eretz. Unfortunately for Karou, she meets an angel, a seraph named Akiva, and they discover they have a connection that goes far deeper, and much further back in time, than either of them expected.

‘Days of Blood and Starlight’ picks up after a massive showdown between the seraphim and the chimaera that took place on earth – in Prague, specifically – which finished ‘Daughter of Smoke and Bone.’ Karou is reeling with grief having suffered a massive bereavement, and she and Akiva have been separated – seemingly forever. As well as her grief, Karou is struggling to deal with the truth about herself, and what she is; she has also begun to realise that the work of raising the dead which was begun by her foster-father Brimstone has now fallen to her. She has been training for it all her life, sometimes without even realising it, but she still finds it an incredibly onerous burden. She is kept on a tight leash by Thiago, the White Wolf, an extremely powerful chimaera who has set his sights on destroying the seraphim; the angels, of course, are not going to take this lying down, and are fighting back with increased savagery against the chimaera. Over the backdrop of this supernatural war, Akiva is searching for a way to find Karou and try to heal the rift he has caused between them, and she is fighting to keep her people alive.

With the help of three people from her past who she feared were lost forever, Karou keeps struggling to survive – but in a world where angels are the enemy, and not all the monsters are good, how can she know what she’s risking her life to accomplish is right?

If this summary sounds confusing, that’s because the books are so intricately plotted that trying to make a synopsis of the story is well-nigh impossible in this short space. We are thrown into a world of resurrectionists, hybrid creatures, tattooed angels, thuribles containing the souls of the dead, hamsas with the power to repel the seraphim, multiple worlds, massive battles, brutal savagery and tender affection. It is a huge canvas, and every inch of it is covered. Laini Taylor’s writing is beautiful and poetic, and in her hands a 500+ page novel with small type and a massively complicated storyline just zips past. However, we have a romantic melodrama which (I have to be honest) got a bit much for me in places – I had this problem with ‘Daughter of Smoke and Bone’, too, but that’s just because I’m not a huge fan of romance novels, to begin with – and there were points in the book which I felt were a little ‘wordy’ just for the sake of it. Having said that, when the words are as beautiful as the ones Laini Taylor uses, that’s not always a bad thing. The world/s Taylor creates seem real enough to live in, and her characters spring off the page – especially the non-human ones – and I adore the way she’s flipped the angels vs. demons thing on its head by making her seraphim the furthest thing from heavenly that you could imagine.

In short, if you’re in the mood to get lost in a rich and vibrant other world, and you’re able to follow a complex plot, and you have a strong stomach (some of the battle scenes are graphic in these books), you really can’t go wrong with ‘Daughter of Smoke and Bone’ followed by ‘Days of Blood and Starlight.’ You just might look a bit like this once you’ve finished reading them, particularly back to back:

Image: mischiefmonster.deviantart.com

Image: mischiefmonster.deviantart.com

Happy weekend, y’all. Hope you’re tickling your eyeballs with something good!

Aaaand We’re Back…

Happy Thursday!

I was taken away from my duties at the keyboard yesterday by a ‘real life’ issue, but today it should be business as usual. I hope this blog post finds you all well?

I had a bit of ‘thinking time’ yesterday, during which I was furiously plotting (of course) and amusing myself by writing ‘blurbs’ for the backs of my future novels. I only managed to do a few of these blurbs, but – as well as being a lot of fun – I realised that they had a wonderful and useful function, too. As I sat, trying to find the catchiest way to condense a plotline into 100 words or less, I realised: What a great way to focus your mind on the important bits of your story.

This is not my book shelf, but it *really* looks like it.

This is not my book shelf, but it *really* looks like it.

I’ve blogged before about blurbs in relation to other books, and how they can make or break your decision to pick up a book if you saw it on a shelf. Some people will be attracted to a particular blurb, while others will not; a good blurb can sometimes fool an unwary reader into buying a not-so-good book. (This, of course, has happened to me on several occasions – but I’m not going to name names, this time!) Blurbs are vital when it comes to selling a book, undoubtedly. But they’re also useful tools for those of us who like to create books. I’m going to start doing one for every idea I’m currently mulling over, just to see what I come up with.

Anyway, yesterday, I found myself writing blurbs for the book I’ve just written, and the sequel that I’m planning. I also wrote a blurb for the book I’m currently working on, and the sequels I’m planning for that one. And, as well as making me really think about the important, essential details of the plot, it also made me excited about what I’m doing. It made me realise what’s interesting and intriguing about the stories, and it got me to really investigate the ‘hook’ of the books I’m working on. Writing them filled me up with that particular sort of restless ‘fizz’ you get in your blood when you’ve really hit on something that you love to do. The blurbs I wrote may never grace the cover of anything – come to that, the books I’m writing may never grace a shelf, anywhere! – but that’s not even the point of writing them. It was just an exercise to help me, and as well as that, I really enjoyed it.

Does anyone else make out chapter plans when starting a novel, by the way? I did when writing ‘Tider’ (the old WiP) but I haven’t made out a chapter plan for my current WiP yet. I have a clear idea where I want the story to go, and so I didn’t feel the need to actually write down what I wanted to do in each chapter – I figured an overall plot structure would do. However, I do find myself stopping and re-reading what I’ve written a lot more regularly than I did with ‘Tider’. It’s like I tend to forget where I am in terms of the plot, and I have to remind myself every so often. With ‘Tider’, I had the written novel structure to refer to. I didn’t always stick to it, of course, and the story changed and morphed as I wrote it, but I did lean quite heavily on the chapter plan, and the story ended up exactly where I’d planned it. The plot of the current WiP, tentatively entitled ‘Eldritch’, is a lot less complicated than ‘Tider’, and I suppose this was the rationale behind not sketching out the contents of each chapter on paper first. However, I wonder how much further I’ll get with the book before I need to revisit that decision! I guess I’m the kind of person who needs a plan and a clear structure. It’s hard to write a detailed chapter plan for a book that doesn’t exist yet, but – just like writing a blurb – it really helps your brain to focus on what you’re doing and what you want to achieve, and it makes you sort the important details of the plot from the supporting structure.

I also started reading Laini Taylor’s ‘Daughter of Smoke and Bone’ yesterday – its blurb was just too intriguing to pass up. However, I sort of wish I’d waited to start reading it until I was finished with my current project, because the book is just… stupendous. Incredible. There aren’t enough superlatives! Reading something so good, when you’re trying to write yourself, is a bit overwhelming. It sort of makes you think ‘what do I think I’m playing at, trying to write books?’ I’m really enjoying it so far – it’s not really the kind of book I normally love, but the author is dealing with her subject matter in such a fresh way that it really appeals to me. Also, there’s the writing – the gorgeous, gorgeous writing! I have to stop talking about it, in case I swoon.

And, as for the blurbs I wrote yesterday? Here’s the one I wrote for ‘Eldritch’, my new WiP. See what you think:

” ‘Jeff Smith is such a boring name. Sometimes, I wish names could get passed down from your mum instead. I think I’d have a lot more luck with girls if I could introduce myself, Bond-style, as ‘Asotolat – Jeff Astolat.’ “

Ever since his mother’s death, Jeff’s life has just ticked over. He can’t remember the last time anything interesting happened to him, and his dad is as normal as dads get. That all starts to change as his thirteenth birthday approaches, and he gets three very weird gifts from three eccentric old relatives…

His Eldritch Test has begun, and Jeff’s life will never be the same again.