Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Days of Blood and Starlight Book Review

Author: Laini Taylor. Release date: 2012. Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. ISBN: 9780316133975.

Annotation: After her chimaera family, and most of the race, are wiped out by the seraphim, Karou uses the skills she learned from Brimstone to be the new Resurrectionist in the White Wolf’s efforts to recreate his army. Meanwhile, Akiva, determined to atone for all he has done, scours the countryside of Eretz trying to protect what little chimaera are left.

Personal thoughts: I was a huge fan of Daughter of Smoke and Bone so I was very excited to read Days of Blood and Starlight. Unfortunately, like many series, the sequel just did not cut it for me. I found it to be about 100-200 pages too long, the pacing was odd, and it was incredibly dark. I wanted a little bit of levity, but happy moments were few and far between, as were romantic moments between Karou and Akiva. I did enjoy getting to know the characters a bit better, but I felt like the story dove headfirst into the Tolkien-esque fantasy realm and left those of us who aren’t into loads of battles and swordplay in the lurch. That being said, however, I will still likely pick up the third novel in the series when it is released, because I do think there is still some potential for the author to turn things around.

Plot summary: After the deaths of her chimaera family, and most of the race, Karou finds herself at the service of the White Wolf, the chimaera leader who, decades earlier, had her beheaded when she was living her previous life as Madrigal. Karou and what is left of the chimaera army have taken refuge in the human world, inhabiting a Kasbah in the deserts of Morocco, close to one of the last remaining portals to Eretz. Using the skills she learned from Brimstone, Karou is now the chimaera’s Resurrectionist, helping the White Wolf recreate his army to return to Eretz and seek revenge against the seraphim. Meanwhile, a heartbroken Akiva, believing Karou is dead, has reunited with his brother Hazael and sister Liraz, and the trio are now in service of their father, the emperor. Determined to completely wipe out what’s left of the chimaera, the seraphim armies patrol Eretz, killing every last chimaera they come across. Akiva, seeking to atone for what he has done, takes it upon himself to save as many chimaera as he can, still believing that the dream he and Madrigal shared of peace between the two races might be possible.

Review: Well-written but extremely complex, this sequel to Laini Taylor’s best-selling novel Daughter of Smoke and Bone continues to weave the multi-faceted tale of Karou, Akiva and the parallel worlds they inhabit. Although the plot from the previous book is continued, Days of Blood and Starlight is a very different story from its predecessor. There is little to no light-heartedness in the novel, page after page filled with death, war and suffering. The romance between Karou and Akiva is also noticeably decreased in this book, with most of the focus falling on the tension building as the renegade chimaera army plots its revenge against the seraphim. While Daughter of Smoke and Bone might have appealed to the typical young adult audience who like a mix of fantasy and romance, the appeal of the sequel to a variety of different readers is unlikely. Since the novel focuses almost entirely on battle, many teens who enjoyed Daughter of Smoke and Bone for its blend of fantasy, action-adventure and romance are going to get lost in the sea of swords and gore. The pacing of the book is also peculiar at times, skipping back and forth at random between Karou and Akiva’s perspectives. Overall, Days of Blood and Starlight is an interesting but not entirely successful sequel in Laini Taylor’s series. Hopefully the third novel, set to be released in 2014, can improve upon what is still a story and set of characters that hold a lot of potential.

Genre:  Science-Fiction/Fantasy

Reading level: Grade 9+

Similar titles: Between the Sea and Sky by Jaclyn Dolamore, Daughter of the Centaurs by Kate Klimo, Falling Under and Dreaming Awake by Gwen Hayes, The Mephisto Covenant: The Redemption of Ajax by Trinity Faegan, The Space Between by Brenna Yovanoff, Sweet Venom by Tera Lynn Childs.

Themes:  Mythology, mythological creatures, angels, war, betrayal, love.   
Awards/Reviews:  Positive review from School Library Journal, sequel to best-selling novel.  

Series Information: Second novel in Daughter of Smoke and Bone series. Third novel set to be released in 2014.  

Discussion questions:

-         Do you think Karou is doing the right thing in working for Thiago? Why or why not?
-        Why do you think Hazael and Liraz agree to help Akiva save the chimaera?
-          How do you think Karou is coping with remembering her life as Madrigal and the life she’s lived as a human? How does it influence her actions in the story?
-         Who was your favorite character in the novel? Why?
-        Do you think peace is possible between the chimaera and the seraphim? Why or why not?
-        What would you like to see happen in the third novel?

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