Dark necessities: "Days of Blood & Starlight" by Laini Taylor

Book: Days of Blood & Starlight by Laini Taylor

Release date: November 6, 2012

Pages: 517

Publisher: Little, Brown

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Rating: ★★★★

I'm hiding the description and the review because of potential spoilers for Daughter of Smoke & Bone, which I've reviewed here.

Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a world free of bloodshed and war.

This is not that world.

Art student and monster's apprentice Karou finally has the answers she has always sought. She knows who she is—and
what she is. But with this knowledge comes another truth she would give anything to undo: She loved the enemy and he betrayed her, and a world suffered for it.

In this stunning sequel to the highly acclaimed
Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Karou must decide how far she'll go to avenge her people. Filled with heartbreak and beauty, secrets and impossible choices, Days of Blood & Starlight finds Karou and Akiva on opposing sides as an age-old war stirs back to life.

While Karou and her allies build a monstrous army in a land of dust and starlight, Akiva wages a different sort of battle: a battle for redemption. For hope.

But can any hope be salvaged from the ashes of their broken dream?

I'm not going to sugarcoat it. This book is a bummer. It's dark and intense, and I got teary more than once. There are some lighthearted moments, but nothing near the comedy of Karou making her ex-boyfriend's, ahem, cranny itch with a wish or any of the other fun moments from Daughter of Smoke & Bone. This is a book about war. 

After turning her back on Akiva, having fallen in love with him as two different versions of herself only to find out he's responsible for the slaughter of her people, Karou travels to Eretz. There, she teams up with the man who had her executed as Madrigal, Thiago, and starts building new, terrifying bodies for the remaining chimaera rebels.

This book was difficult to read but it could have been so much worse in some respects. Karou has to cause herself physical harm as a tithe for the resurrection magic she practices, but we only really see the bruises, not the process. But even worse than her physical pain is the isolation Karou feels. The reader witnesses her working for yet cut off from the chimaera, labeled a traitor for loving an angel. Part of what made Daughter of Smoke & Bone such a delight was the friendship between Karou and Zuzana, and I felt how her absence caused Karou pain, and how the same could be said for Zuzana. And not to mention Karou's monster family is gone, and she has no idea what really happened to them.

Meanwhile, Akiva must face the consequences of having chosen Karou over his siblings — fat lot of good that did him — while keeping up the charade of a dutiful soldier. That's a theme that keeps coming up — duty. But all these characters wonder if they're really serving a greater good with their sacrifices.

As you can imagine, there's not a ton of romance in this book, but there's a lot of pining. Karou struggles with her obvious-to-us love for Akiva. She tries to convince herself that he no longer means anything to her after what he's done, but girl, she's not fooling anyone.

It probably sounds like I'm saying a lot, but I promise I'm not giving much away. A lot happens and yet nothing happens, just a lot of carnage and remorse and doubt and dread. And of course, beautiful writing. The ending is wild. I have zero clue how it'll all shake out in the last book, and I'm excited to find out.