Days of Blood and Starlight

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for Daughter of Smoke and Bone. You can read my review of this novel [here].

Days of Blood and Starlight was written in by Laini Taylor and first published in 2012. It is the second book in the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series and is preceded by Daughter of Smoke and Bone (2011) and followed by Dreams of Gods and Monsters (2014) and the spin-off novella, Night of Cake and Puppets (2013). As the story picks up shortly after its prequel left off, you really need to read the books in sequence to have any idea of what is going on.

When Karou broke the wishbone with Akiva, everything changed. The memories of her life as Madrigal came flooding back to her, bringing with them the shame of her treason. Learning what Akiva did to Brimstone was the final straw, sending her fleeing to Eretz to see what became of the Loramendi for herself. In its ashes, she finds Thiago – the man who once executed her – and accepts her fate as the new resurrectionist of the chimaera army.

Akiva returns to his people broken and world-weary. When his search for Karou uncovers a thurible bearing her name, he convinces himself that she must have perished. As the seraphim, under the lead of their ruthless general, Jael, begin to turn their wrath on unarmed chimaera farmers, Akiva begins to do all that he can to keep Karou’s memory alive by sabotaging their attempts by night.

However, Akiva and Madrigal’s dream of peace seems further away than ever. As the seraphim target the weak and unarmed, Thiago retaliates by tasking Karou with building more powerful bodies for his men – over-muscled and able to match the seraphim in flight. It seems as though both sides will fight until they wipe each other out, until an old friend delivers a message to Karou, offering a different way to end the conflict… 

I begin this review with a word of warning. Days of Blood and Starlight does contain a few scenes that sensitive readers could find distressing. There are a couple of instances of implied torture, as well as one scene of attempted rape. While none of this is graphic, you might want to give this a miss if you find the depiction of such things to be distressing.

This is one of the hardest novels that I’ve had to review in a long time. If you can remember back to 2015 when I first discovered Daughter of Smoke and Bone, you will remember that I was blown away. I’ve read a lot of novels since then but it still remains one of my favourite young adult novels and I would recommend it to any fan of urban fantasy stories. While I did enjoy reading Days of Blood and Starlight, I unfortunately can’t deny the fact that it also had a lot of problems. The biggest issue I had with the book was its structure.

Middle Novel Syndrome is a really big problem that affects lot of young adult trilogies. It’s basically when a book has a really strong first novel, but then then the sequel serves as little more than an extended build-up to the climatic final instalment. Days of Blood and Starlight was very much a middle novel. It doesn’t really have a plot of its own, it’s just an escalation of events.

In a book as long as this one, this is certainly a problem. Karou barely leaves the chimaera camp in  and only really interacts with a handful of characters. While she does slowly find out more about Thiago’s plans through these conversations, it does quickly become repetitive as the novel repeats very similar scenes over and over, showing Karou raising the dead, expressing her doubt over what Thiago is doing, and worrying about the safety of her small group of allies as they are sent away on missions.

This was more than a little frustrating. A lot of the action occurs off-page, meaning that Karou only witnesses the aftermath as her friends return injured (or in thuribles) after their missions. I honestly felt that Taylor could have trimmed over a hundred pages out of this novel and lost nothing. Disappointingly, the final few chapters of the book were also very rushed. After a lot of build-up, the remaining characters were hurried to Eretz, presumably to position them where they need to be for the finale. I won’t spoil this for you further here, but I found it to be really unsatisfying. The book even ended with the words “to be continued” which felt like a bit of a kick in the teeth, ultimately leaving the novel feeling incomplete.

However, despite the lack of action, I never got bored. The world-building of the story was still outstanding. Laini Taylor is a beautiful writer and so the story really flowed, blending the fantastical glimpses of Eretz with the gritty reality of life in both the chimaera and seraphim camps. While we did learn a lot about the chimaera in the first book, this is the first real chance the reader has to experience their way of life. The story goes to great lengths to show the impact that war has had on many of the creatures, exemplified by the way that Thiago is forcing peaceful souls to be reborn in monstrous bodies to make them better suited for combat.

While the tone of the novel is a lot darker than that of Daughter of Smoke and Bone in many ways, hope does soon begin to return to the story after its particularly bleak start. As Karou learns exactly what Brimstone had planned for her, it becomes very clear why her name is the chimaera word for “hope”. There is a very real way that the dwindling chimaera people can be saved and Karou holds the key to be able to do it. Similarly, through Akiva’s chapters, we begin to see that there are other seraphim that share his dissatisfaction with the war. Suddenly, it is not just Akiva and Madrigal. It seems that there are good number on each side who could be convinced to make peace.

Taylor also excels in writing strong and believable characters, which is no mean feat when half the cast are anthropomorphic animals. The best parts of the story are the small moments – the little conversations and small actions that show friendships being forged. Because of this, my favourite character by far was Zuzana. She is like a breath of fresh air, providing the story with much needed humour. I love how easily she accepts the existence of the chimaera, and their curiosity towards her goes a long way to make the monstrous soldiers seem more human.

While Karou is a very different character now that she recalls her previous life, she is still wholly likeable. I really felt for her as she was torn between her sense of duty to the chimaera and hatred of Thiago. Her friendship with Ziri was also rather sweet and I look forward to seeing where it will go next, though I do have the feeling that it could develop into a love triangle in the final book.

However, if you were a fan of the romance in Daughter of Smoke and Bone, you may find yourself disappointed. After Akiva’s actions in the previous book, it’s understandable that Karou feels a great deal of animosity towards him. The two characters only spend a few chapters of the novel together and their relationship certainly does not develop at all. In fact, Akiva’s plot arc didn’t feel quite as strong as Karou’s on the whole. A lot of character development occurs off page, with him coming to the conclusion that he must take extreme measures to end the war seemingly out of nowhere. While this was disappointing, I am confident that he will have more to do in Dreams of Gods and Monsters.

So, I think I’ve rambled for long enough. All in all, I did enjoy this book but I don’t think that it was anywhere near as strong as Daughter of Smoke and Bone. While the characters and setting were memorable, the book didn’t have much of a plot and ended on a rather frustrating cliff hanger. However, I am optimistic that the climax of this story will be spectacular. I look forward to seeing if I am right in a future review.

Days of Blood and Starlight can be purchased as a Paperback, eBook and Audio Book on Amazon.co.uk

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Laura @BlueEyeBooks
    Dec 11, 2017 @ 04:09:41

    I totally agree with you on this, Kim. When I first read Daughter of Smoke and Bone, I absolutely loved it. But when I moved onto the second book, it just felt like a bridge, which, as you mentioned, is sadly common in YA trilogies. I really hope you enjoy the finale, though. Overall, I thought the series was really quite something and very unique in it’s overall concept (especially with the discussion of connotations that the word ‘monster’ seems to invoke). Lovely review!

    Laura @BlueEyeBooks

    Reply

  2. Trackback: Shadowblack | Arkham Reviews
  3. Trackback: Night of Cake and Puppets | Arkham Reviews
  4. Trackback: Dreams of Gods and Monsters | Arkham Reviews

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