Jean-Paul’s Rating: 3/5 stars
While the first book in this trilogy, “Daughter of Smoke and Bone“, was light-hearted fare with hints of darkness, “Days of Blood and Starlight” is dark fare with hints of blackness. Karou, after re-experiencing the trauma of her own death as Madrigal and the revelation that the Seraph she loved both as Madrigal and then again as Karou is responsible for the near annihilation of her fellow Chimaera, is almost unrecognizable from the first book. She has gone from messenger to the Chimaera resurrectionist, Brimstone, now dead at her lover’s hand, to the heavy burden of resurrectionist for the rag-tag leftovers of the Chimera army and taking unquestioning orders from the new Chimaera commander, Thiago. This is a little jarring given there’s no real build-up to this and she’s gone from unknown participant in an unknown war to the key element necessary to keeping the war going. This change of personality is understandable, but it’s a weakness of the book that it’s glossed over.
Much of the rest of the book follows Akiva on the Seraph side and Karou on the Chimera side. They follow twin paths leading to the same conclusion and their paths cross and separate multiple times throughout. On Akiva’s side, he’s already dedicated to figuring out a way to stop the madness of this war and must tread a delicate line to see his dreams to fruition. Karou, on the other hand, starts out as pretty much dedicated to the war effort and only slowly realizes that she’s become kind of a monster and must slowly back away from staring into that particular abyss. The Akiva story-line is well thought out and the evolution of his two partners is explored in a depth that makes that evolution make sense. The Karou story-line, on the other hand, is kind of a mess. If you read it as the tale of someone suffering through post-traumatic stress disorder, Karou’s actions and reactions make a little more sense and this is why a bit of a fill-in narrative about Karou for the time between book one and book two would have been appreciated. Taylor also kind of shoe-horns Zuzana and Mik from book one into book two and while their interactions between themselves and with Karou are delightful, they really don’t add to the story and it’s obvious that Taylor just needed to include them for the sake of letting people see their favorite characters again.
The biggest problem by far with the book is the facile use of a violent attempted rape to further the plot. Sadly, I can’t even say that it does that, since the rape scene is immediately followed by a strange coincidence that remains unexplained and made the rape completely unnecessary. The only possible explanations are to either make the reader hate the attacker, even though there was plenty of reason for the reader to already to do, or to make the victim fear the attacker, even though there was already plenty of reason for her to do so. If you read the story without the rape, you would miss literally nothing from the book. It was so distasteful, I pushed my review down a star.
Despite that major bit of distastefulness, I did rather enjoy this book. Probably better than the first one. It is certainly not a happy book, but there are good surprises throughout and the Akiva arc is definitely Taylor’s best thought out portion of the series to date. War makes fascists of us all and this book made that clear while wrapping a compelling story around it. I’m still kind of on the fence as to whether I would recommend the series to anyone except to the young adults they’re supposed to be written for, but we’ll see if book three can kick me off that fence one way or another. “Harry Potter” this series is not, but that’s an impossibly high standard.