This is not that world."
Daughter of Smoke and Bone was, without exaggeration, one of the most gorgeously imagined books I have ever read. I absolutely adored it and immediately rushed out to by Days of Blood and Starlight and Dreams of Gods and Monsters. My hopes were high!
Thankfully, I was not disappointed!
After the devastating events of Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Karou knows who and what she is, and the revelation has left her and Akiva on opposed sides of the battle raging between chimera and seraphim. Each are doing their part for their kind, seeking redemption for their actions, tortured by the knowledge of what they have done to each other. As you can probably guess, Days of Blood and Starlight is a very different book to Daughter of Smoke and Bone. It’s a much darker novel. Gone is the quirkiness of Prague and Karou’s frivolous wishes. This is a book about war and the consequences for both sides. That’s not to say it is without charm. The mystery may have gone, but the magic is still very much front and centre. Now everything is out in the open, we’re free to explore the rich world Laini Taylor has created that was only glimpsed in the first book. Once again, if I wore a hat, it would be off to Laini Taylor. Her writing is as beautiful as ever and she’s now free of “the mortal world” to truly let her imagination come to life. And it’s breathtaking! From the ruined chimera stronghold of Loramendi to the lush excesses of the seraphim Astrae, it’s one of the richest worlds I’ve read in my adventures in YA.
One of my favourite parts of Daughter of Smoke and Bone was the burgeoning relationship between Karou and Akiva, and I was disappointed to see the pair separated in this book initially. But as I read on, it became less of an issue. Love stories are all well and good, but this book doesn’t shy away from the realities of war, the price of betrayal and the weight of the choices that are made. The “love story” has been pushed aside by something far bigger than either Karou and Akiva, and, as much as I miss Kariva (is that a thing? I’m making it a thing!), it needed to happen. I was placated though by the flashbacks of Akiva and his chimera lover Madrigel. Jeez, these chapters were so beautifully written and heartbreaking!
The Karou we meet in this novel is very different from the one we met in Smoke and Bone. Gone is her playful personality, her spark, replaced by a shell of a girl still reeling from the loss of everything she held dear, resigned to a life of pain and misery to atone for what many of her kind still believe to be her sins. But it’s here that Karou finds her fire, turning into a hardened survivor. While she turns to war, Akiva begins to turn away from it. His character arc in this book is wonderful as he realises the ultimate futility of a war which will never cease and the consequences of his blind obedience to a cause which is not his own. I’m so invested in these characters that I’d follow them anywhere into anything!
As with Smoke and Bone, Blood and Starlight is a complex novel that demands your attention. There are new subplots and trickily named characters aplenty. I was glad to see more of Liraz in this novel, my favourite character! Karou’s snake/woman guardian Issa returns as well, replacing the absent Brimstone. I love a good bad guy too, and the wolflike chimera Thiago and seraphim overlord Jael more than fit the bill! But really, it’s war which is the ultimate villain on both sides.
I won’t lie, on the surface, Blood wasn’t as enjoyable to read as Smoke. Some of the initial enchantment has been lost and the descent “into the trenches” of war as we go beneath the sparkling surface of magic and mythology is an emotional rollercoaster, but still, I couldn’t put the damn book down! Spellbinding and engaging to a degree I’ve rarely experienced in YA, it’s dark, and it’s bleak at times, but like its heroine, Days of Blood and Starlight still carries the spark of hope.