The first book Daughter of Smoke and Bone – see my review here – was recommended by fellow blogger and author, Sara Letourneau. It blew me away with the quality of the writing, the sheer vividness of the world and the storytelling with the plot twists that I didn’t see coming. Would I enjoy the second book as much?
Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a new way of living – one without massacres and torn throats and bonfires of the fallen, without revenants or bastard armies or children ripped from their mothers’ arms to take their turn in the killing and dying. Once the lovers lay entwined in the moon’s secret temple and dreamed of a world that was like a jewel-box without a jewel – a paradise waiting for them to find it and fill it with their happiness. This was not that world.
I turned from the first book, humming with excitement and shock at the ending – and found myself initially slightly adrift. The opening chapters are a little fractured and Taylor didn’t devote any time in rebonding us with the two main protagonists and star-crossed lovers. I’ll be honest – I was a bit disappointed. However, the excellence of the writing continued to draw me in and I soon became drawn into the story, once again. Taylor’s prose style is poetical and doesn’t hold back – her epic tone could so easily be overblown, verging on parody if she wasn’t as gifted as she is. It gives her apocalyptic world, wracked with war, a tragic, almost operatic edge.
The characters are similarly larger than life. The war weariness and grief suffered by both Akiva and Karou are so bitingly depicted, I could all but taste it. For as the war becomes ever more bitter and bloody, at what point do they abandon their duty to their fellow fighters and own species – and commit the ultimate betrayal, namely treason? Karou is particularly caught, as without her the embattled chimaera don’t have a chance. Not a state of affairs that their leader, the savage wolf leader, Thiago, at all relishes.
I really enjoyed the fact that neither side is the ‘good’ side, or the ‘bad’ side. Both angels and chimaera are capable of acts of dreadful savagery and yet, there are warriors on both sides who also show mercy. It is the leaders on both sides who are the savages – particularly the ghastly Emperor Joram, who I loved to hate. As Karou is battling with these weighty matters, the chirpy humour she displays in Daughter of Bone and Smoke has been knocked out of her, so until her two friends Zuzana and Mik pop up, there isn’t much light relief. Himself has struggled to get through this book because in the depths of February, he has found it a rather bleak read. There are also high levels of violence, and while there is nothing gratuitous, the hefty mood music created by prose highlights the senselessness of the slaughter. However, I was pulled along by the power of the story and the vividness of the characters.
This is a powerful story that will reverberate with me for a while – but whatever you do, don’t start this series with Days of Blood and Starlight. In order to do justice to the story arc you really must get hold of Daughter of Smoke and Bone, but if you have read it, then do track this one down and if you do, persist with it – it’s worth it.