Review: Days of Blood and Starlight, Laini Taylor

I have some serious reservations about Days of Blood and Starlight, which I will enumerate, but let me start by saying some nice things about it, because I enjoyed it very very much. Spoilers follow for Daughter of Smoke and Bone but not (unless marked) for Days of Blood and Starlight.

First of all, Laini Taylor’s worldbuilding talents are still very much in evidence. Although we already know the outline of this world from Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Taylor presents a lot of cool new details about what the world has been like all along, and she sets up more vivid places and ideas for the new reality the characters find themselves in. For example, it was neat to see the chimera that aren’t involved in the war — the small, unimportant demons who live in communities and couldn’t make war if they wanted to. Though not everyone in this world is a soldier, everyone becomes involved in the soldiers’ war.

I loved as well the way the characters were perpetually forced to reexamine their values to adjust to changing circumstances. THAT IS WHAT I LIKE OKAY.

But for real though. The second book opens months after the end of the first one. Karou has become a resurrectionist in the service of the chimera who once — in her former life — was her (terrifying) intended husband. Alive again, the White Wolf begins to make guerrilla warfare upon the angels, while Karou resurrects the dead as quickly as she’s able to build new bodies for them. This is obviously less than great for Karou, but as she feels it’s her fault that all her people are dead, she is grimly determined to keep going. However, she does not control the chimera once they’ve been resurrected. The battles the White Wolf chooses aren’t the battles Karou would choose, and she has to deal with that over and over again throughout the book. It’s great.

(Akiva has his stuff too, but he is not as interesting to me with his angsty godlike wingsiness. Whatever dude. So you saved a deer girl one time. That doesn’t make us friends. I wish his sister or brother had been the point-of-view character instead of him.)

Another piece of awesomeness in the worldbuilding department is the sudden importance of this third party, the Stelians, about whom we know practically nothing except that Akiva’s mother was one and that they write impeccable and scary no-thank-you notes. In the hands of another writer I’d worry that the Stelians would prove an anticlimax when we meet them properly in the third book, but Laini Taylor has proved impressively creative and ballsy about introducing new sections of her universe, new insane plot twists, and dumping of enormous chunks of the status quo to make way for something new.

I hardcore loved the way the book ended. I don’t mind a cliffhanger when it feels like a natural end to the book rather than a ploy to keep you in over the course of the years before the next book comes out. This ending made sense. It’s what the book was building toward all along. Akiva and Karou have been, in their different ways, fighting a war they never wanted to fight, and trying to imagine another way to live. If you’re going to end a book on a cliffhanger, I like it to be the sort of cliffhanger where you can see that the game has completely changed. (Rather than, for instance, an old-school Doctor Who cliffhanger where you know they’re going to get out of it within the first two minutes of the next episode through clever means, and then carry on with what they were doing before. And I say that with great love for Doctor Who.)

Why I am cross: Things are looking ominously love triangley. I would like to place a moratorium on love triangles for the next, like, two years. I don’t think that’s an unreasonable term for which to deprive ourselves of love triangles. There is also an attempted rape. Goddammit Laini Taylor, I was just saying hooray about how unrapey your world was. I came very close to throwing the book across the room when this occurred, but luckily I had read the end and remembered what the outcome of that particular event was going to be.

I will definitely still read the third book though. Probably really soon after it comes out. Because of the worldbuilding and crazy plot gambits.

Cf. all these reviews.