Nothing like Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Days of Blood & Starlight had no room for blood-pumping romance or self-discovery. The absence of happiness was felt in every moment, leaving a bleakness that permeated each page. With delicate and simple prose, Taylor wove a tale of endless heartache with perfect pacing that was so achingly beautiful it hurt. Unlike many of her peers that shy away from the gritty details of how much is required of the protagonist in order to succeed, Taylor embraced the challenge. With the fate of the world at stake, Taylor truly allowed us to experience just how devastating the war had been for both sides, the disturbing choices that both sides had to make in order to weaken their enemies and the sacrifices demanded by everyone involved. At each turn, Taylor helped us to feel both the weight of Karou’s duty to the Chimera and her guilt for her role in their demise.
Karou is unrecognizable, her vitality and zest for life replaced by an all-consuming shame for her involvement with Akiva. Having lost everything and everyone close to her in her life, she’s a mere shell of the person she once was, resigned to work with the Chimera in an effort to undue the harms she feels she has caused. Using her own flesh for tithe, causing physical pain to temporarily obstruct her emotional hurt, she makes her way through this new world in a daze. Yet somehow, she remains as determined and strong as she was in Daughter of Smoke & Bone. Her feelings of duty to her people, and her need to perform penance were her motivators in the face of daily threats to her life, and isolation from those few people left with whom she held dear. I couldn’t help but admire her courage, even during her weakest moments, especially when she was faced with the one who led to her unravelling – Akiva.
Akiva underwent such tremendous character development in Days of Blood & Starlight that I not only began to understand him, but I also started to respect him. While he coveted Karou from afar, he was mindful of how deeply he had betrayed her trust and was mostly respectful of keeping his distance. His determination to save Karou from further harm was why I found his actions so genuine – he wasn’t helping Chimera and leading a revolution because he thought it would reunite him with Karou; he was doing those things because he realized how futile war – how meaningless cruelty and vengeance – were. It was nice to see him develop on his own, independently of Karou, rather than as an extension of her.
Dedicated to expanding the world we only caught mere glimpses of in Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Days of Blood & Starlight is a gorgeously crafted sequel that I would argue is even better than its predecessor.