Days Of Blood And Starlight: Unstoppable Momentum & Atmospheric Power AKA THIS BOOK WILL OWN YOU

This is that rarest of creatures: a sequel that bests the original. Just to put that in context, Daughter Of Smoke And Bone was one of the greatest YA novels ever written, a burningly brilliant and resonant story that seared the senses with its gorgeous intensity.

Days Of Blood And Starlight is better.

Yep, I said it.

Days Of Blood And Starlight

Days Of Blood And Starlight

Laini Taylor proves herself to be an extraordinary resurrectionist. Creating a new literary creature more powerful than any before it. She has upped the emotional intensity, sharpened the sarcasm and brutal wit, exponentially increased the sheer B-movie monster awesomeness of it all, supercharged the zingers and snark, and, somehow, impossibly, she has taken her incredible gift of subtle, moving and fearsome character work to a whole new level. And of all this is presented in a glittering, hypnotic and sensual style that steals into the senses and makes you something other than what you were.

What the hell, Laini Taylor? How did you get so much more awesome than you were before? How did you take your huge canvas from Smoke And Bone and then make us realize that it was just a tiny corner of the vast universe you were actually working on? How did you trick us into believing Smoke And Bone was a deluxe, widescreen theater experience (which was so much bigger than anything else we were reading), when really it was like an YouTube video on an iPhone 3 compared to the IMAX scale of Blood And Starlight?

How did you change the way I looked at YA, and at books and writing in general… And then change it AGAIN with this?

Days Of Blood And Starlight (UK Cover)

Days Of Blood And Starlight (UK Cover)

The expansion from book one to book two is even more impressive when you consider that the story is much more focused, in time, in place, in intensity. And yet Taylor spins magical realms from the smallest of details. Those realms are not merely other worlds, but also emotional truths, physical realities. Her writing is heady, stunning, and mesmeric. These are characters and worlds that once you inhabit them, inhabit you. Putting this book down is an impossibility; your heart and soul just will not allow it.

Plot is all in Blood And Starlight, so I shall give none of it away here. All you need to know is that the stakes are radically higher, the emotions are turbo-charged and relentless, the atmospheric power of the novel is off the charts, and Taylor keeps everything tight, controlled and focused with extreme screenplay skill. Not a single word is wasted; everything charges forward, in the manner of an exhilarating but terrifying rollercoaster. It’s almost too much to take in because you power through it so quickly. The incredible views flash past because there’s no stopping the momentum.

Just read it. Love it. And then wait, helplessly, for the next one, your mind and body singing, reeling, resonating. And good luck starting any books after this; because after this, nothing is quite the same.

Rating: Five out of five chimeras

Daughter Of Smoke And Bone: Love makes magical creatures of us all… AKA… love will f**k you up

To read Laini Taylor’s beautifully written Daughter Of Smoke And Bone is to be lost in a mesmerizing haze that bewitches your mind and your senses, your heart and your soul, with a visceral magic that is utterly rare.

It’s a YA novel of depth, complexity, violence, darkness, loss, lust and all-consuming love, told with a hypnotic but forceful poetry; it lulls, savages, rages and dreams, as it spins its rich, riveting tale of other worlds in collision with our own.

The narrative centers on a girl named Karou, who has bright blue hair, startling tattoos on her palms, and an extraordinary talent both for drawing, and for being mysterious. She lives in Prague, a city which lives and breathes mysteries and beauty in its light and its architecture even at its most ordinary of moments. In this novel, those moments are rare; for Karou, the city is charged with otherworldiness, things not quite as they might seem, a constant gothic murmur that speaks of ancient folklore.

But Karou is in high school, and the novel sets its “baroque contemporary” tone by opening with some priceless awkwardness as she realizes that the nude model in her life-drawing class is her irritating ex-boyfriend, who so recently broke her heart. In many ways, yes, she’s a teen, with teenage problems and anxieties (homework, boys). There’s just one slight difference; she has magical powers and lives with demons.

That is merely the most surface of details in a novel that steadily, unstoppably fills your head with a dizzying myriad of extraordinary details, like thousands upon thousands of beautifully rendered filigrees in a vast cathedral of stories and worlds. It’s a stunning, breathtaking, at times almost overwhelming experience. A love story is set against a centuries-old war between otherworldly beings; simply referring to them as angels and demons doesn’t do justice to the brutal psychological and emotional clarity of Taylor’s writing. She’s created more than just a world; she’s willed into existence a panoply of beings, religions, creation stories and battles for survival. It’s as though Taylor is channeling hardcore and profound myths from the deepest levels of the collective unconscious, in a manner that leaves the reader reeling. It has a similar impact to Michael Ende’s The Neverending Story, leaving you resonating with deeper truths about storytelling and being human; leaving you dreaming furiously.

It’s not just Taylor’s writing, which attains the unusual, hypnotic and stormy cadences and tones of poetry and myth; and not just her perfectly observed, wonderfully nuanced and entrancing characters; it’s her sheer storytelling skills and chops. It’s one thing coming up with a brilliant story; quite another to tell it brilliantly. Most writers are lucky if they can do one of those things. Taylor does both, effortlessly, seamlessly. This is fiction that makes you forget it’s fiction, a book that makes you forget pages are being turned. She knows how to unfold a story, when to deploy information and revelation, how to hook you and draw you in deep.

In short, this is magic of the highest order, spellbinding fiction that absolutely defies any surface categorization of angels, demons, “urban fantasy”, love story… it’s something else; a new magic.

Rating: five out of five spooky tattoos.