Monday, 16 January 2017

Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor

I'm a little particular in my YA, as so much of it seems to be the same, same story, same beats. I'm always happy when someone breaks out of that mold into something more exciting, and when I read the first Laini Taylor book in this series a couple of years ago, I was delighted. There was a love story, but it wasn't insta-love and goddamn, was it complicated. By the end of the book, there weren't fake reasons keeping them apart, but damned good ones, ones I didn't know how they'd ever be surmounted.

The world too, was likewise rich, and the main plot intense, and all and all, this felt like it was its own thing within a genre that is not necessarily noted for that.

Much, much later, I find myself back here, and you know what? I enjoyed the second book almost as much, although I was sitting and trying to summarize the plot and realized that of the two plots, not a ton happened in one, but it was all so well done I didn't mind. Things needed to be a bit unchanging, the badness getting ratcheted slowly up, to both explain why Karou did what she did for so long, and to get to the point where she snapped.

Karou, the blue-haired former chimaera in a human body, is the new resurrectionist for the chimaera in this one, after the deaths of everyone she loved in the last book. Except, of course, for Akiva, the seraphim, but she has good reasons to hate him. He's back fighting the chimaera as one of the conscripted soldiers of the Emperor, well, actually, bred soldiers. All bred by the Emperor, given no rights, not even permanent rights to their names. He's cannon fodder.

The war intensifies as the chimaera fight back, killing first seraphim forces directly, then attacking civilians. The seraphim are doing the same. On both sides, a few, pitiably few, see the insanity of unending wars for revenge and power, but don't know how to make it stop - previous attempts have not gone well.

I was delighted that Zuzana, Karou's human friend, was back in this, and thoroughly enjoyed her relationship with her boyfriend, Mik. Every time they were around, the story started to sparkle just a little bit more, as Karou is understandably not in a cheery mood. Taylor excels at writing joyful dialogue, even if she's written a story where it's in short supply.

This is not YA where the main character hides things from her parents and can go home at the end - Karou has no such safety net, and neither does the world. Bad things happen, and continue to happen - including attempted sexual assault, which was upsetting but didn't feel gratuitous. And the twist that came out of that moment was a really excellent one I would not have seen coming.

It still feels as though, of course, Karou and Akiva will find their way back to each other by the end of the third book. But given what Taylor's been putting them through, they'll have earned it. I'm also not as sure about the ending as I would be if this were many other YA novels.

This isn't deep literature. But as fantasy adventure, albeit fantasy adventure aimed at teens, it's really very good.

3 comments:

  1. Zuzanna is a badass! She was one of my favourite characters too.

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  2. I agree, she's a great character! I think the second book was my favourite, but I seem to be somewhat in the minority on that.

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    1. I haven't read the third, but I feel like the second book was very strong!

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