This book gets: ♥♥♥ out of 5
Days of Blood & Starlight, by Laini Taylor – I wanted to like this book. I wanted to like it so, so much–mostly due to the love affair I had with its precursor, Daughter of Smoke and Bone (tapped by Universal Studios for a motion picture). And that is, perhaps, part of my problem with it. High expectations. Unrealistically high expectations.
In a lot of ways, I did like Days of Blood & Starlight. As ever, Taylor’s writing is (at least in prose) totally flawless–gorgeous, in fact. Unfortunately, this book suffered from, well… middleness. The whole novel feels like the soggy middle section of a much larger book. It reminds me of The Two Towers in Lord of the Rings, doing a lot of the necessary world-building, lore-weaving, or whatever that is, at the expense of plot and character.
The story follows many different story strands that, for the first half of the book, only run parallel to each other and rarely cross. Karou spends a lot of time locked in a room, building bodies for Thiago, and surmising and ruminating and generally mulling over her dreary situation. It makes you long for the ray of sunshine timelines–cough, Zuzana, cough–and even for the snippets of war and bloodshed that sneak in.
In fact, most of the punchy dry humor I fell in love with in Daughter of Smoke & Bone has withered up in this sequel. Maybe because it’s, well, about a girl going through a particularly bad breakup. (There’s an understatement.) Oh, and all that murdering of innocents and pain tithing and stuff. There’s so much angst in this book–and that’s understandable, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that a lot of it is just moping.
And, I mean, I get that. War is a pretty mopey time. But still.
I really wanted to buy into the savage war aspect of this book, the moral dilemma of fighting a war for the sake of fighting a war, or fighting a war for the sake of peace. That’s what Taylor’s doing here, I know–crossing out of Karou’s sheltered human life into the troubled, chimaera one–but that doesn’t make me like it any more or less. We see part of the genocide unfold through the eyes of a chimaera named Sveva, but as soon as I started to care about her, she vanished. I just wanted someone to care about in this story, other than Zuzana and Mik–oh, those cute, stubborn humans. I just didn’t. Oh, except Ziri, who had a neat little backstory with Madrigal. And that ending, don’t even get me started.
Anyway, the story picks up about two-thirds of the way through, and like it did in the first book, the plot unexpectedly twists off in another direction like a runaway tornado.* I like that about Taylor’s writing, though (I recently read Lips Touch, her previous book, and it has the same style) and if it weren’t for the sluggish start, I might have had more of an emotional investment in the finale.
I give Days of Blood & Starlight a respectful middle-of-the-road rating because I have a feeling Taylor is gearing us up for a high-tension, final showdown novel, and I’m pretty stoked about that. Unfortunately, this one is just the runway.
*Three words: basket of fruit. I wish there had been more of that silly stuff in this book. Ah, well, paradise lost.