Days of Blood & Starlight—Laini Taylor
Freaky chick, you say?You can't imagine.I am priestess of a sandcastle in a land of dust and starlight. (41)
Akiva's wretchedness was a gnawing thing. It was taking him in bites and he felt every one—every moment the tearing of teeth, the chewing gut misery, the impossible waking-nightmare truth of what he had done. (7)
Once upon a time, the sky knew the weight of angel armies on the move, and the wind blew infernal with the fire of their wings. (161)
I read the first book in this series, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, for my Vaginal Fantasy Rewind and LOVED it. So I was both anxious and wary to start this sequel.
Following the events and reveal at the end of Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Karou is trying to come to grips with her recently-remembered past life as the chimaera Madrigal. She is living in Morocco with the White Wolf, Thiago—the being who sentenced her to death during her past life. Thiago managed to carry many of their people away from battle in thuribles, and Karou is working with him to help rebuild the chimaera armies (one slow tooth necklace at a time) so that they can fight for their existence against the angels. Until, that is, Karou realizes that Thiago is not interested in protection, he's only interested in revenge and death. He's also biding his time until she trains his spy, Ten, to kill Karou. Meanwhile, Akila, along with his brother Hazael and his sister Liraz, are back to their old work as part of the angel hordes, again trying to eradicate as many chimaera as possible. At the moment, Akila and his siblings are the only angels who recognize the existence of the remaining hole in the sky which would allow them to invade Earth, but when their evil uncle finds out about it, he decides to take advantage of the Earth's adoration of angels and invade.
There are some great "secondary" characters in these books. Zuzana is one of my favourite characters of all time. She's feisty and defensive in all the ways that a best friend should be. When she and Mik go looking for Karou and find her and then help her build chimaera even though they're slightly terrifying...heartwarming. Also, the relationship between Zuzana and Mik is disgustingly adorable, in the best way. Akila's brother, Hazael, was great comic relief. Here's a quote that's an example, when he's talking to his sister, Liraz: "Are you saying you don't love me?" Hazael asked Liraz. "Because I love you, I think." He paused in contemplation. "Oh. No. Never mind. That's fear." (14) Hilarious. I'm not ashamed to admit that I got a little teary when he died, and then Karou couldn't do anything to bring him back.
There were also some big issues that were tackled in this book, under the guise of the story. Things like the presence of war as a result of fear towards a people who is different from your own, what really separates us (even among different types of chimaeras, particularly those who are carnivorous and herbivores). Nothing felt preachy or overbearing, but the bigger causes for this seemingly neverending war between the angels and chimaera were questioned.
Taylor is fantastic at the tease. She'll almost reveal something in Morocco, and then take you across the universe to where the angels are for a chapter before going back and letting you know what happened. Great writing and editing on that front.
I learned a new word: caravansary, which means an inn, usually with a large courtyard, specifically designed to accommodate caravans. (Makes logical sense once you think about it, but I'd never heard the word before.)
While I thought this was a well done sequel and enjoyed that it's more about building up to what I'm sure will be some sort of culmination in the next book, there were more points where I was disappointed by the happenings than in the first. Perhaps the biggest problem that I had was the attempted rape scene, where Thiago attacks Karou. It just felt so needless. I understand that Karou had to get rid of Thiago's essence in order to install Ziri in that body, but I think there are other ways and threats to Karou that would have accomplished the same end. I also think that Karou's reaction is exactly what people expect of attempted rape victims: that they will fight to the death to prevent the violation. In some cases this is true, but it also is a big problem with respect to the definition and understanding of rape as a whole. I may be reading too much into this, in that it's fiction, but I've been thinking a lot about the portrayal of rape in fiction and the realities of rape since reading Jon Krakauer's Missoula.
Even with my dislike of that specific aspect, I'm looking forward to reading the next book in this series because it's so beautifully written and unlike anything I've ever read before.