Book Check: Days of Blood and Starlight, by Laini Taylor

Title: Days of Blood and Starlight

Tell Me About the Author: Laini Taylor is the pink-haired, pixie-esque mastermind behind the bestselling Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy. It was the first book in the young adult fantasy series that brought her national acclaim, but she was already well-tuned in the art of constructing alternate magic-laced worlds. She explored the world of fairies in her Dreamdark series, and gave new meaning to the phrase "true love's first kiss" in Lips Touch: Three Times. The latter was a finalist for the National Book Award for Young People's Literature. Days of Blood and Starlight is the second book in the Smoke and Bone trilogy, and is a page-turning expansion to her opus of angels and chimaera (beasts with human intelligence and physical attributes).

And this Novel is About What? The trilogy is set in the human world that we know, but not exactly. Earth is connected to Eretz, a parallel world in which a centuries-old conflict rages. Eretz is occupied by angels and chimaera, and both sides want to see the other destroyed. There is a link between the two species, and that is the trilogy's heroine Karou. She is introduced in the first novel as a blue-haired art student living in Prague who is under the auspices of a family of chimaera. She is hunted down by an angel, Akiva, only to have the beautiful winged creature fall in love with her. The romance is not a mere twist of fate. Karou was actually a chimaera in a previous life who had fallen in love with the same angel, causing a collision between the two warring factions. Their forbidden love brings about the ruin of the chimaera race.

The second book in the series sees the surviving chimaera regrouping in the human world in a deserted castle in Marrakesh. Karou is not just a resurrected chimaera; she too has the power to resurrect her fallen comrades. The process for resurrection is a bit grim, and thankfully Taylor skips out on the grisly details after the first few occurrences. Karous is charged with essentially building a chimaera army to retaliate against the angel kingdom. Back in Eretz, Akiva and his brother and sister are discovering that despite their victory, the angel leadership is conducting more gruesome campaigns for absolute control.

This all may seem a bit farfetched, even for a fantasy series, but Taylor works wonders with her prose and dynamic detail to character. From The Hunger Games to the Matched series to the Divergent series, hormone-induced love triangles are all the rage. Taylor's characters, while still following the motif of the intelligent and headstrong heroine and the beautiful,yet, hyper-masculine love interest, are fully rounded beings. Karou and Akiva love each other, but they are commanded by a greater sense of family, friendship, and loyalty. Like the people in the world we live in, Taylor's lovebirds understand that there's much more than meets the eye.

Should I Read It? Yes, but not before you've read the first book. Though Blood and Starlight manages to avoid the soggy plot trappings found in most middle volumes (like the second book in the Matched series), you'll need the full backstory of Karou's and Akiva's love affair to fully appreciate their inter-species conflict. The magic of Taylor's writing is not her wild imagination; it's her ability to make the world inside her head seem real. Even if you're not prone to fantasy, it's hard not to appreciate Taylor's vivid conjuring of Marrakesh, Prague, and the war-torn world of Eretz. There's also a timely political undercurrent, one that reminds its readers that the only difference between angels and chimaera is physical countenance. They both bleed, and they both die. And both love.

You're still reading this and haven't bought your copy yet? Get a move on - the third and final book, Dreams of Gods and Monsters, will see an army of angels invading Earth on April 8, 2014.

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