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