Book Review: Days of Blood and Starlight

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Author: Laini Taylor

Publisher: Hachette Book Group

Date Published: 6 November 2012

Number of Pages: 513 (Hard Cover)

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

The second book in Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, Days of Blood and Starlight picks up after heroine Karou has left earth and her Seraphim lover Akiva to head into Eretz with the fallen angel Razgut in search of her Chimaera family.

This book quickly moves the story away from the mystery of Karou, instead delving deeply into the world of Eretz and the long-standing war between the Seraphim and Chimaera. Taylor’s choice to bring in not only new characters separated from the entwined story of Karou and Akiva – specifically the Chimaera children Sarazal, Sveeva but to focus on the relationships between Karou and the people from her past as Madrigal (specifically Thiago and Ziri) as well as Akiva’s relationship with his brother and sister makes for a nice, if somewhat jarring change of pace. Jarring in that if you go in expecting this book to be as flowery (in a good way) and dreamy as DOSAB you’ll be disappointed.

Days of Blood and Starlight brings the reader directly into the troubles of Eretz, the aftermath of the bloodshed and destruction of the Chimaera capital Loramendi and the beginning of the new rebellion. It delves into the politics of the Seraphim (introducing us to the Seraph king (and Akiva’s father) Joram and his brother – Jael) and those of the Chimaera, specifically what happened to the old leaders and the goings on of the new rebel force lead by Thiago.

What’s most interesting is to see the melding of Karou/Madrigal and how both of her selves manage to coexist. Karou is a consistent, charismatic and likeable lead character. Watching her struggle with the burden of resurrection, the loss of her family and the love and hate she feels for Akiva can be riveting.  She is so complete – yet so untouchable.  One of the minor downfalls of this book is that with the new storylines there’s far less of Karou than in DOSMB.

The upside is that there is more Akiva – yet, even with a bigger part he somehow remains a relatively mysterious character.  With this second book the hope was that more of Akiva would be revealed, but rather it’s much the same – a lot of pining for Karou and a desire for change. What would have been better is if we saw him focus on better developing his magic, searching for his mother and the break away Stelian Seraphim. It’s not until the final few chapters that we actually see Akiva put anything of substance in motion. (Though it is worth the wait.)

The slight twist towards the end and the introduction of Jael as the real threat to both the Chimaera and Seraphim was actually a nice – if unexpected – change of pace. And Zuzanna and Mik’s discovery of Karou’s “monster castle” adds some much needy lightness to a story that oozes misery (in a good way).

What makes this book (and its predecessor) so enjoyable is Taylor’s writing. It’s lush and poetic without being pretentious. It draws you in and paints such a vivid picture of the world and characters she’s created you can taste it. In short Taylor’s writing is visceral – she makes you care. And in doing so you become so invested that you can’t help but feel slightly bitter that you have to wait another year (at least) for the final chapter.

Days of Blood and Starlight is a strong follow up to Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Taylor continues to create a fantasy world with both characters and plots a readers will care about.

If you haven’t read Daughter of Smoke and Bone you really should read it first before checking out Days of Blood and Starlight, both make great reads.

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The Monthly Re-Read – Days of Blood & Starlight

There’s nothing like re-reading a well loved story. In fact there’s nothing better than re-reading a book period. Sometimes it solidifies your love for a story. Sometimes it solidifies your dislike (or epic hatred if we’re going the John Steinbeck route – long story. I’ll explain it another time.) Regardless I’m a big believer in the re-read.

In anticipation of Dreams of Gods & Monsters, the final book in my serious author crush Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy I’ve re-read the previous two books. Having already done a Monthly Re-Read blog about DoS&B, it’s only fitting I write one for DoB&S.

TOP TEN REASONS TO RE-READ LAINI TAYLOR’S DAYS OF BLOOD & STARLIGHT

10. The Writing
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Laini Taylor’s writing is pure poetry. Her prose is seamlessly woven, it’s the perfect tapestry of words. Quite frankly Taylor is a brilliant storyteller. Eretz

9. Eretz  
I love the world Taylor’s created – she paints a picture of a vast, beautiful and daunting land with a history just as varied and bloodied as our own. Eretz is a land you can easily get lost in (blood thirsty angels and monsters withstanding.)

8. The Stelians
The mystery behind the renegade angels who politely refuse to engage in war with Joram, Emperor of the Seraphim (and Akiva’s father) by sending a basket of fruit is killing me! Who exactly are they? Is Akiva’s mother still alive and living with them? Just how magical are they? And, how – how could they willingly sit by and let the Seraphim and Chimaera tear each other apart for a thousand years?

7. Surprises that Come in Thuribles
Without giving anything away – lets just say with all the heartbreak this series doles out, sometimes happy surprises come in inappropriately labeled thuribles.

6. New Storylines
As much as I wanted nothing but 500 pages of Karou and Akiva there’s no denying their separation allowed for the introduction of new storylines – stories that only helped to better create for the reader the depths of misery, desperation and courage war can create. Plus it leads right to number five…

5. The Perfect Collection of Minor Characters
Zuzana & Mik, Ziri, Hazael and Liraz, even the creepy and possibly crazy Razor – Taylor has a knack for writing great characters. DoB&S is teeming with colourful, unique characters that shine brightly (whether it be for good, Haxaya, or evil, Ten.)

4. The Double Twist Ending
No spoilers don’t worry! But if you’ve read this book you know there’s a few shocks along the way but the end? I did not see that coming. Not. At. All.

3. The White Wolf
Okay I know anyone who’s read this book is sitting there thinking “what the hell?” but hear me out – a great adversary is key to uniting reader and hero. In hating Thiago and his evil, manipulative, conniving ways you can’t help but root that much more for Karou and Akiva – that they change their world and that they find their way back to each other, because screw Thiago!

2. Akiva’s Redemption
Talk about soul crushing love – not only did the man live in agony for nearly 18 years believing he lost forever the love of his life, but when he finds her alive, he still can’t have her. He then spends all of his time risking his life to help save her people. All for the sake of a woman who claims to despise him. Oh my goodness – just rip my heart from my chest as it continues to pump why don’t you?

1. Karou
She’s quite possibly the best YA heroine around. Beautiful, smart, kind, courageous, tough, fighter, lover, friend, salvation of the chimaera race – she’s kind of everything. But Taylor writes her so perfectly that every role she plays is believable, heartbreaking, uplifting and well, amazing. She’s either your fantasy best friend, or your fantasy girl-crush.

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“A dream dirty and bruised is better than no dream at all.”

20 Days until Dreams of Gods & Monsters!

Top Ten Tuesday – Top Ten Favourite YA Books…at the moment

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish – I’ve been meaning to take part in it for quite some time now and it would appear today is the day for my first foray into the lovely land of weekly lists.

Picking my all time favourite anything book-wise is pretty difficult, picking my favourite YA books? Well that’s kind of a “Sophie’s Choice” for me. So I’ve decided to go with the books I keep going back to, some are relatively new reads, some not so much. But the top three are without a doubt my all time favourites. So, without further ado…

10. Graceling, Kristin Cashore 

Graceling_cover

The first in author Kristin Cashore’s sort of trilogy (more like a companion piece and a sequel) despite being first published in 2008 I first read, or rather heard it last month. (The audiobook – full cast! was my first and was awesome.) After finishing the audiobook I decided to buy a copy of the physical book and read it. Which basically solidified my love for this epic fantasy romance. Heroine Katsa is kind of everything I’d like to be.

9. The 39 Deaths of Adam Strand, Gregory Galloway

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Galloway’s Adam Strand is an unusual kid – plagued with the constant need to commit suicide, he is constantly killing himself, only to feel utter disappointment when he comes back to life, some 39 times. Perfectly dry, perfectly macabre The 39 Deaths of Adam Strand is unlike anything else in the YA canon.

8. Hey Nostradamus, Douglas Coupland

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Arguably Coupland’s best book, this is the story of a fictional school shooting in Vancouver, British Columbia in 1988. Told from multiple first person narratives it is the perfect blend of themes like religion, sex, grief and adolescence.

7. His Dark Materials, Phillip Pullman

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Many know these books as the series about two kids who set out in essence to kill god – but it’s so much more. An in depth and intelligent commentary on life, organized religion, the afterlife and science, the books though controversial are, well, epic.

6. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky

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You can mark this as one of the first books to break my heart. Chbosky’s Charlie is painstakingly tragic and poignant as the titular “wallflower”, this coming of age story should be read with tissues in hand. Perks also happens to be one of those rare books to make a seamless transition to film. The movie adaptation starring Logan Lerman and Emma Watson is astounding, and totally worth watching.

5. The Outsiders, S.E. Hinton

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Ponyboy. Darry. Sodapop. Greasers. Socs. Friendship. Family. Rivalry. This book has it all. Even more amazing despite originally being published in 1967 the book still holds up 47 years later.

4. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee 

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There are so many life lessons in Mockingbird – but what makes it so good is that it never feels preachy. Each lesson serves a purpose, and really when Atticus Finch is teaching you morals it’s hard not to listen.

3. The Spectacular Now, Tim Tharp  

“Life is spectacular. Forget the dark things. Take a drink and let time wash them away to where ever time washes away to.”

“Life is spectacular. Forget the dark things. Take a drink and let time wash them away to where ever time washes away to.”


I love this book. The story of loveable ne’er-do-well and teenage lush Sutter Keely pulls you in, takes you for a ride and blows your mind with its unconventional ending.

2. Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Laini Taylor 

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This series is my current obsession, and though I dearly love Days of Blood and Starlight (the second book in the trilogy) series opener DOSAB is a book I go back to time and time again. With a love story that spans not just lifetimes but worlds, the book unfolds so beautifully and yet so unexpectedly. It’s a real gem. (28 days until Dreams of Gods and Monsters!)

1. The Fault in Our Stars, John Green The Fault in Our Stars

There’s no denying I am definitely a JG fangirl – I have often wondered where he was when I was in high school and in desperate need of characters like Margot Roth Spiegelman, Quentin Jacobson, Lindsay Lee Wells, Alaska Young, Miles Halter and most importantly Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters. Of his four books what makes TFIOS my favourite (and makes it top not only this list but the list of my favourite books) is the reality with which it is so deeply entrenched. Despite what some say, this is not an “issues” book, this is a love story. An honest, innocent, beautiful love story, one that doesn’t just draw you in but makes you invest in each character. Best of all you’ll laugh just as hard as you’ll cry.

A Favourite Exc…

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“As long as you’re alive, there’s always a chance things will get better.”

“Or worse,” said Liraz.

“Yes,” he conceded. “Usually worse.”

Hazael cut in. “My sister, Sunshine, and my brother, Light. You two should rally the ranks. You’ll have us killing ourselves by morning.”

– Days of Blood and Starlight, Laini Taylor

***66 days until Dreams of Gods & Monsters!***

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Year End Review

As 2013 comes to an end I wanted to look back on the books I’ve blogged about this (my first year of book blogging!) year. This was a year of great highs (The Silent Wife –  If you’re in the mood for something not YA this is the book to read. It’s amazing.) And some major lows (Beautiful Creatures) and some disappointments (*cough Allegiant cough*.) But all in all it was a great year of reading. Here’s to 2014 and the all the new literary gems to be discovered!

What was great

Eleanor & Park, Rainbow Rowell EleanorPark_thumb
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

In my opinion, Eleanor & Park is one of the best YA novels of 2013. Perceptive, funny, sophisticated and touching, Rainbow Rowell’s charming misfit lovebirds melt your heart and make you yearn for the excitement and turmoil of first love.

Clockwork Princess, Cassandra Clare CP2_cover
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

The finale to Cassandra Clare’s prequel trilogy, The Infernal Devices, has been a bit polarizing amongst fans of the series. Personally I loved it. And that’s saying something because I wasn’t overly keen on the first two books. I didn’t mind them, I absolutely loved the steam punk elements and the Victorian England setting, but this last book had me finally falling in love with Tessa, Will and Jem. I truly loved the way Clare ended this story. I thought it was strikingly heartfelt and absolutely moving. Plus *spoiler alert* that whole thing with Tessa morphing into a giant angel was super cool.

World After, (Penryn and the End of Days #2), Susan Ee WorldAfter
Publisher: Skyscape

I have yet to finish my review of this book but I needed to put it on the list. Susan Ee is a bit of a phenomenon – having self published the first book in this series (Angelfall – awesome) only to see it become a massive success. This is her follow up and it lives up to the hype. Plus Penryn kind of puts to shame other major heroines (Katniss, Tris etc.) she doesn’t complain, she just gets on with it. Her sense of self preservation knows no bounds. Love it.

The 39 Deaths of Adam Strand, Gregory Galloway adamstrand
Publisher: Dutton Books (Penguin Group)

The 39 Deaths of Adam Strand is one of those little gems you weren’t looking for but have the good fortune to simply happen upon. After reading a review from the A.V. Club I knew I had to read it. Existential is the best way to describe Galloway’s novel. Adam Strand is so frustrated with life, so overwhelmed with  boredom he kills himself. Over and over again. As his frustration grows at his inability to make death stick Adam takes us on a journey through the mind of an insightful, self-absorbed, too smart for his own good teenager. Macabre, witty and shrewd The 39 Deaths of Adam Strand has to be the most unsung YA novel of 2013.

“Life is spectacular. Forget the dark things. Take a drink and let time wash them away to where ever time washes away to.”

“Life is spectacular. Forget the dark things. Take a drink and let time wash them away to where ever time washes away to.”

The Spectacular Now, Tim Tharp
Publisher: Knopf Books

Okay it wasn’t a new release but who cares? This book is amazing. Incidentally so is the movie – except for the ending. Don’t get me started on the ending. Regardless this is a book I highly recommend. Tharp’s Sutter Keely has to be the most likeable teenage-alcoholic-ne’er do well in literary history. The best part of The Spectacular Now? The ending. Which I won’t spoil, you should go read it. Like now.

Days-of-Blood-and-Starlight-HBDays of Blood and Starlight, (Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy), Laini Taylor
Publisher: Little, Brown

I’m in love with Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy. In Love. Like hardcore. Obsessed? Probably. But definitely in love. I couldn’t wait for this book and when it finally came out I devoured it – twice, back to back. Taylor’s poetic prose coupled with her knack for creating characters you can’t help but fall in love with (or hate with the passion of a thousand fiery suns – I’m looking at you Thiago) makes this series more than worthwhile. Plus the blistering, heart-breaking and overwhelmingly quiet burning passion between main characters Karou and Akiva is kind of everything.

What was meh

Allegiant, Divergent Trilogy, Veronica Roth Allegiant2
Publisher: HarperCollins

Possibly the biggest disappointment of the year, the last book in Veronica Roth’s thrilling Divergent trilogy came in with a bang and left with an astounding fizzle. I don’t despise this last book. But I can’t deny feeling a little shafted. It’s not the choices Roth made that bother me, those I respect. It’s how bloated, convoluted and downright ridiculous aspects of the book were. There was just too much going on, story lines were stretched so thin there was no authenticity anywhere. And for the first time in the series I found myself not caring about Tris and Four. And really – there’s no way Tris would have left her gun behind. Never.

13 Reasons Why, Jay Asher ThirteenReasonsWhy
Publisher: Razor Bill

I know – I know, a lot of people really love this book. And I respect that. I really loved the overall concept, I found the way the touchy subject of suicide is discussed was done in a sensitive and appropriate manner. I also couldn’t help but feel 12 of Hannah Baker’s 13 reason’s for ending her life were a bit superficial. And quite frankly, there’s really no reason that’s truly acceptable.

Dead Ever After, Charlaine Harris
Publisher: Penguin

Ugh.

“Do you sometimes wish you could fast-forward a week? You know something bad’s coming up, and you know you’ll get through it, but the prospect just makes you feel sick?” Yes. This book.

To truly understand my complete and utter disdain for this book is nearly impossible unless you’ve read it yourself. Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampire Mysteries was never going to be one of the great literary feats of the 21 Century but when it began it was enjoyable entertainment. Sookie Stackhouse was a great, kooky, feisty and likeable heroine. Throw in some otherworldly-ness, smokin’ hot vampire love triangles and loads of shenanigans in small town Louisiana, this series was pleasantly thoughtless entertainment. But as the series progressed it became ridiculous and laborious. By the time the final instalment rolled around in the form of Dead Ever After I was reading the books out of sheer spite (and with some minor hope that they might redeem themselves in this final outing. Alas it was not to be so.)  Dead Ever After was the worst of the thirteen book series. THE WORST. And that’s saying something. Silly, boring, predictable and with the lamest copout ever it’s quite possible Harris herself had lost all interest in Sookie’s adventures in Bon Temps.

What I can’t wait for in 2014

Avalon, Mindee Arnett Avalon
Publisher: HarperCollins
On Sale: January 21, 2014

Science Fiction doesn’t get nearly the amount of respect it deserves. I’m hoping with the release of Mindee Arnett’s Avalon that might change. First described to me as Firefly but with teenagers this is the story of Jeth Seagrave and the group of teenage mercenaries he leads who travel the numerous star systems stealing metatech. Despite being a topnotch thief all Jeth cares about is earning enough money to buy back his family’s ship from his lethal boss and getting his younger sister Lizzie away from a life of crime.

Interstellar space travel, teenage mercenaries, criminal masterminds and mind control are just a few of the many elements that make up Avalon.

Dreams of Gods and MonstersLaini Taylor GodMonsters
Publisher: Little, Brown
On Sale: April 8, 2014

So we’re back to the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy. This is the third and final instalment in the series and naturally as someone with an unhealthy obsession I’m obviously counting down the days (101!). Taylor’s Karou is one of the best female heroines out there, tough, witty, resourceful and vulnerable she’s a class act.

CityHeavenCity of Heavenly Fire, Cassandra Clare
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
On Sale: May 27, 2014

I love the Shadowhunter world Cassandra Clare has created. It’s inventive and fresh, and really how could you not love a world where the fabulous Magnus Bane resides? This is yet another series finale, this time for Clary Fray and the shadowhunters of the New York Institute. With (dreamy) Jace filled (literally) with heavenly fire and the sociopathic demon-angel hybrid Sebastian on the loose creating evil nephilim this is bound to be one doozy of a closer.

(Don’t You) Forget About Me, Kate Karyus Quinn
Publisher: Harper Teen Forget About Me
On Sale: June 14, 2014

Okay truth be told I’ve already read this, but it’s on my list because I want others to know how good it is. Kate Kurys Quinn weaves an intriguing, spellbinding tale of two sisters with extraordinary powers living in an extraordinary town filled with secrets. This is a story that’s both haunting and magical, unexpected and refreshing. It’s also so tightly wound that unravelling the many secrets within the books pages is a truly thrilling experience.

Despite having read and blogged about all four of John Green’s books I’ve left them off this list because let’s face it if I put in one I’d have to put in all of them. Much like the rest of the world I’m a little in love with Green. The Fault in Our Stars has become one of my all time favourite books and there are times when I wonder how any of us every lived without the witticisms and philosophical insight of Augustus Waters.

Early in the new year expect reviews for World AfterUntil YouThe Rosie Project and Hemlock.

Book Review: Dreams of Gods & Monsters

Author: Laini Taylor
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Date Published: April 8, 2014
Number of Pages: 613
Series

What’s It About?

After deceiving the rebel Chimaera army Karou has managed to seize control. After a shocking truce sees Akiva’s Misbegotten siblings align themselves with the remaining rebels the groups are forced to work together to stop the Seraphim emperor Jael procuring arms from Earth, not to mention preventing the apocalypse.

On the far side of Eretz the Queen of the reclusive Stelian clan sets out with a small group to find – and kill – the unknown magus stealing their power.

And on Earth as the invading angels shock and awe humanity a young scientist discovers a truth that has the ability to destroy not just the world but every and all universes.

The Story

Gods Monsters

They’d left nothing behind but thoroughly empty dishes and – this would be on for the conspiracy theorists – several long blue hairs in the shower where an angel’s hand had stroked a devil’s head, locked in a long – and so very long-awaited – embrace.

Beginning with the reaction to Jael’s army of Seraphim on Earth interspersed with flashes to Eretz and the integration of Akiva’s Misbegotten brothers and sisters with Karou’s’ Chimaera rebels the tension is intense. Palpable. The story takes off at lightening speed moving between character viewpoints – some like Karou & Akiva who we’ve come to know so well and others we’ve been dying to hear from (Liraz she has a soul! Who knew?) Taylor also introduces a knew character in the form of doctorate student Eliza Jones. At first Eliza’s story seems disruptive – every time the story shifts from Eretz and back to Earth and the discovery of the bodies in the pit you find yourself cursing the lack of Karou and Akiva. Eliza’s story though becomes more and more riveting and mysterious, so in tune with the overall story you eventually find yourself desperate for more.

The action is acute and never missing for too long – in fact the story plays out almost like a film with the perfect balance of conflict, fighting, strategizing and romance (and not just from Akiva and Karou.)

This exemplary melding of themes, genres and stories comes down to one thing – Laini Taylor is a genius. Her ability to seamlessly weave a multitude of stories together in perfect harmony is something to fawn over. Her ability to ensure that each of those stories is told to its fullest, given its dues and serves a purpose is awe inspiring. Like J.K. Rowling, Taylor planted seeds to her story’s ending at the very beginning, and like J.K. Rowling she didn’t disappoint in allowing those seeds to grow and bloom into a nearly perfect ending. This final chapter in the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy was well worth the wait. Stirring, dramatic, surprising and heartfelt Taylor managed to maintain the realities of the worlds she created while leaving readers happy and, interestingly enough, salivating for more. (Is it possible? Dare one hope?)

From the impending threat of apocalyptic doom spanning two worlds, to the revelation about the vile fallen angel Razgut’s previous life, to the uncloaking of the mysterious – and supremely powerful – Stelians, to the sweet romance of humans Mik and Zuzana and the epic, heartrending, soul searing love story of Karou and Akiva not to mention the life threatening deception Karou and Ziri are trying to pull off – each story plays a role, each story connects somehow, magnificently to another and another, spinning an ending that makes for a book you can’t possibly put down.

The Writing

Let’s just take a minute to discuss the unbelievable beauty of Taylor’s prose – it is equal parts poetic, fluid and colourful without ever being over the top. It’s nearly impossible not to speed through her stories simply because her writing is so easy. Not easy in the sense that it’s “dumbed down” because it’s not (how can it be when you’re throwing out words like “cartilaginous”? Amirit?) Easy in that it flows, it’s melodic. It’s stunning.

Karou & Akiva’s Epic Love Story

I hate anyone who likens their story to Romeo and Juliet. Hate. Their story is uniquely their own. Sure they’ve got the whole star-crossed lovers deal but their strength, their determination to succeed, their inability to ever truly lose each other is something altogether different. Even when in Days of Blood & Starlight Karou’s anger blinded her (or attempted to) love for Akiva it was there, tangible, and weighing heavily on everything she did. In Dreams of Gods & Monsters Karou accepts this love, realizing that in denying it she’s weakening herself by denying her right to her own happiness. Which is incredibly profound and moving. But what truly solidifies this couple at the top echelon of YA romantic couples is that they are always willing to sacrifice their own happiness to save others and most importantly – they’re both acceptance of this fact in each other. Seriously how much more romantic can this be.

Shout Out to a Great Supporting Cast

No review of this final book would be complete without a nod to the colourful cast of characters littered throughout the series and this final chapter. Zuzana and Mik are a given as the best representations of what being colour blind really means – it’s presented simply in their easy acceptance of both the Chimaera and Seraphim, their desire to help both. Ziri and Liraz – opposites attracting so perfectly. The disfigured, ruthless Jael and the snivelling Razgut, both of whom you can’t help but love to despise and yet feel sorry for in the strangest way possible. And the even smaller players – The Shadows that Live, Virko, Nightingale et al. Each character, regardless how minute their part in the story is so wonderfully designed, so full and multi dimensional you want to know each and every one of their stories.

Dreams of Gods & Monsters the final book in Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy is a grand and heroic ending – brimming with intellect, heart and romance, it offers the perfect closure to a riveting story while not fully closing the door on a world overflowing with possibility. 5/5