Daughter of Smoke and Bone #2. Author: Laini Taylor.
Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a world free of bloodshed and war. This is not that world. Art student and monster’s apprentice Karou finally has the answers she has always sought. She knows who she is—and what she is. But with this knowledge comes another truth she would give anything to undo: She loved the enemy and he betrayed her, and a world suffered for it. In this stunning sequel to the highly acclaimed Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Karou must decide how far she’ll go to avenge her people. Filled with heartbreak and beauty, secrets and impossible choices, Days of Blood & Starlight finds Karou and Akiva on opposing sides as an age-old war stirs back to life. While Karou and her allies build a monstrous army in a land of dust and starlight, Akiva wages a different sort of battle: a battle for redemption. For hope. But can any hope be salvaged from the ashes of their broken dream? (Published summary.)
I think at some basic level it’s the prose that makes this such a beautiful book. Laini Taylor’s writing is seductively gorgeous, neither complicated purple prose nor simple statements. It is the language of fairy-tales and folklore.
But that’s far from the simplest thing. Days of Blood and Starlight is a rather different story than Daughter of Smoke and Bone; the first was a love story, playful and fun. This sequel has its moments of humor and its moments of love, but now the main theme is war.
And Taylor does not romanticize war. She writes a bloody, gritty war – a bestial conflict that slaughters innocents on both sides and wears away morals, that grinds down hope and swats aside individual heroes. One of the things that I most liked here was that both sides are guilty of unethical choices: aided by having characters on both sides, she writes a war, not simply oppression. It’s not evil vs. good, not even law vs. chaos. It’s two species so embroiled in this feud that they can’t pull out even when they recoil in horror at their own deeds. It’s cruelty and heroics from individuals that has nothing to do with their side.
Days of Blood and Starlight is a tale about those who dared to dream that war might end – and their struggle and sacrifice as they tried to believe.
Sexual content: Character sees through window “two sleeping figures intertwined.” Character says she’s glad she’s of a lower order, because she’ll never “lie under Jael”, an officer known to often order girls to his tent. Some kissing. Guards escort a concubine to the emperor’s chamber – later, when guards burst in because of disturbance, she is seen naked. // “Why yes, since you ask. This man did make me a woman.” From context it’s clear she means she’s no longer a virgin. Man/monster attempts to rape girl, getting so far as to pull her clothes partly off, but is stopped.
Language: 14 derogatory terms, 10 hell, 9 d***
Violence: There is war going on, and although it is usually not extremely graphic, there is a lot of blood and violence. Enough that I’m not making a detailed list; to give you an idea though, the violence includes:
Entire unarmed tribes are slaughtered at once by their oppressors; prisoner is force-fed ashes from the burned bodies of his mates (this is mostly off-screen); Multiple skirmishes between armed combatants; some characters deliberately inflict pain on themselves to ‘tithe’ it for magic.