Meredith Holley's Reviews > Days of Blood & Starlight

Days of Blood & Starlight by Laini Taylor
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's review
May 07, 2012

it was ok
bookshelves: chosen-girls, motherless-daughters, slaves, utopia-dystopia, young-adult, punching-tour, needs-a-sassy-gay-friend-real-bad, reviewed
Recommended to Meredith by: Stalin
Recommended for: Pol Pot

** spoiler alert ** If there's one thing that makes my blood boil and my skin ripple with creepy crawlies, it's a story that disrespects real suffering. For me, this was one of those. Even though it started off really well, the second half majorly crashed and burned. Think there are two stories of suffering in this series: the teen-angst romance and the story of genocide and grief. This was such a huge fail for me in the way the grief story becomes an afterthought so the teen-angst romance can get back in the spotlight. This story is about how attraction to a hot guy molds a girl and changes her fibers, defines (in some undefinable way) who she is, and grief is something that, while uncomfortable, passes like a bruise. I think the opposite is true.

Murder and the Manic Pixie

I googled "genocide statistics," and these are the numbers the internet came up with for me:

Armenia: 1,000,000 killed from 1915-1923
China under Mao: 58,000,000 killed
USSR under Stalin: 20,000,000 killed (Robert Conquest, The Great Terror)
Holocaust: 5,700,000 killed from 1933-1945 (Nuremberg Trial)
Khmer Rouge (Cambodia): 1,600,000 killed between 1975-1978
Bosnia: 250,000 killed from 1992-1995 (U.S. State Dept.)
Rwanda: 1,000,000 killed in 1994
Somalia: 300,000 killed from 1991-present (IRIN, a UN agency)
Darfur: at least 450,000 killed from 2003-present (UN High Commission on Refugees)

It is kind of interesting that when we talk about war and genocide, we round the numbers so cleanly. We shove individuals off the statistics because one million makes a catchier number than 999,876. Or, maybe, we just estimate because it's not possible to even know how many people died. It is certainly not possible to estimate how many survivors have been broken by genocide, not to mention the lives broken by racism and sexism, the slightly more chill siblings of genocide.

Chris Hondros photograph of Samar Hassan, 5, screaming, covered in her parents' blood after they were shot in Iraq
Chris Hondros, Samar Hassan, 5, screams after her parents were killed in Tal Afar, Iraq

I understand why Stalin’s regime romanticized and justified genocide, and the same with Pol Pot, Hitler, and Mao. Propaganda is useful when you are clinging to maniacal power. And as Eddie Izzard says,
We think if someone kills someone, you go to prison, that’s murder. You kill ten people, you go to Texas, they hit you with a brick – that’s what they do. Twenty people, you go to a hospital, they look at you though a small window forever. And, over that, we can’t deal with it. Someone who’s killed a hundred thousand people . . . we’re almost going, ‘Well done! You killed a hundred thousand people? You must get up very early in the morning! I can’t even get down to the gym.’

About this book, though . . . we see a lot of genocide in the world . . . and it seems disrespectful to me to romanticize a genocidal warlord, whether it is for the purposes of propaganda or for the purposes of a YA fantasy novel. Pushing Akiva’s choices onto the Emperor, or whatever he was called, just doesn’t ring true to me. You kill the people you kill, even if someone else told you to. And I’m not saying that books for a younger audience can’t talk about genocide. The Gregor the Overlander series blew me away when it went into genocide. Truly amazing. This book, though, was a whole book full of manic pixie dream girls dabbling in genocide and then gazing at each other.

Even the dudes in this book are manic pixie dream girls. And it’s like, you know: genocide just gets so monotonous and tiring after a while. Genocide ennui is so now. You kill and kill, and at first it’s fulfilling, but then you’re like, “this really isn’t getting me laid the way I thought it would, even though I got these eyes of fire and a dreamy widow’s peak and, like, shawls fulla moth-birds I picked up at Hot Topic.”

Then, you gaze across a crowded battlefield at this girl, and she’s all, “OMG, all I want is hugs! And I know you (view spoiler), but I’m pretty sure it was just because you loved me sooooo much!”

And then her wise, exotic nanny is all, “Honey chile, you just gotsa go get yo man! He only (view spoiler) ‘cause he’sa grievin’ fo you. If you go back to him, maybe it will bring peace ta tha whole wide universe and tha moons’n stars.”

Really? . . . Really?! It kind of highlights how convenient the resurrection convention of this series is. It’s okay that he’s a mass-murdering fuckhead! We’ll just bring the people we cared about back to life, and no harm done!

Romeo and Juliet

Partway through this book, Karou somewhat heavy-handedly reminds us that Daughter of Smoke and Bone was the story of Romeo and Juliet + genocide, which, duh. Thanks, Karou. I, um, read it.

Now, I love Romeo and Juliet. I love it a lot. When I was in college, my genius roommate used to convince guys hanging out at our house to perform the balcony scene with her as a comedy. The play makes this wonderful, sad-clown comedy. Juliet is a crazy person, wanting to pluck Romeo back to herself like a little bird on a string, bwuhaha. Romeo is a self-centered ass, in love with the idea of being in love and bragging about his girlfriends to his buddies. It is kind of hilarious, especially set to the backdrop of the plague breakout in Verona, which gives some perspective to the childish dramatics of our couple.

I have also seen one completely earnest, sad, beautiful production of Romeo and Juliet. The actors playing the couple were living together in real life, and they had this palpable spark between them that made the star-crossed fate truly tragic. The lighting was intimate, like the production in Slings and Arrows once it turns beautiful (here at 2:50) and the couple was still dumb and cursed, but I may have teared up a couple of times because they were beautiful and hopeful.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone caught elements of both comedic and tragic readings of Romeo and Juliet perfectly. The real tragedy in either reading is that the story of these lovers can only exist within this window of time. It can only exist with the suicide at the end. Like any romantic story, it only works if the sun sets at the appropriate time. Otherwise, you start to realize that he snores, and she chews too loud. He says all his sentences as a question; she can’t ever remember to put the cap back on her toothpaste.

Or, worse than snoring, as Taylor so beautifully showed in Daughter of Smoke and Bone, he has the capacity in him to commit genocide and kill every one you ever loved. It is beautiful because that changes the entire game; it changes the entire person he is. He is not the person dreaming of peace and respect for all creatures. He is the person killing them.

“Or is he?” Days of Blood and Starlight asks in its backwards bulldozing over the beauty of the first book. Maybe he was super provoked and it was okay that he killed and betrayed everyone because he was like, really, really sad. Awww. Poor little mass murdering fuckhead. He was so sad!

Romeo and Juliet in awkward metal clothing from Darren Nichols's ironic production in Slings and Arrows

Romance and Grief

So, the thing that bothers me in the fallout in this book is Karou. This story assumes Karou's devotion to this dude, into whose eyes she's gazed for like twelve seconds, would be a strong enough feeling to overcome her grief for her family.

It creeps me out when women in real life blindly stay with men who make them feel terrible. It says something to me about the degradation of the soul. I think that plenty of smart and interesting women do that, but it is at its base a creepy choice to me. But, then, nothing in this story built up to Karou for that type of creepy choice, so her actions and feelings for Akiva just made no sense to me. There was this idea that it could be noble to go back to someone who made you feel the worst you could possibly feel. It’s not romantic, but it’s also confusing.

It also makes no sense to me because romantic feelings (especially early, fiery romance) are like a delicate collectible unicorn figurine, and grief is like a jackhammer. Sometimes romantic feelings can’t survive someone’s table manners and overuse of the word “absolutely,” and it is beyond me to conceive of a situation, aside from being creepily insane sufferer of Stockholm syndrome, where romantic feelings could survive the murder of one’s whole family.

Other Miscellaneous Complaints

Am I wrong, or did all the hand-burning on the doors stuff happen when Karou was seventeen? But, I know Brimstone made her a baby because she has memories of her childhood, and it’s never indicated that they are false. So, like, this book is trying to tell me that Akiva was the nicest guy ever, and dreaming of peace, but then he did all of the hand-burning stuff in reaction to seeing Madrigal get killed? But, he just waited seventeen years to express his heat of passion genocide? That makes no sense.

Also, if the hamsas work after you cut off a hand – so they have some kind of magic of their own aside from the soul inside of the body – why didn’t they just burn hamsas into the outside of the walls of Loramendi? Further, how did the whole group of angel soldiers stand around holding the hamsa hands without also accidentally hitting each other with hamsa magic? Dumb.

And why be such an asshole to Ziri, book? Why be such an asshole to the ONLY actually badass character in this entire story? WHYYYY????

wolverine yelling whyyy into a storm

In Conclusion

Overall, I often don't agree with that advice to writers (I think from Faulkner) to "kill your darlings," and I feel like writers often misapply it because they have something to prove. But, in the first book, Taylor so boldly worse-than-killed Akiva by revealing him to be a mass murdering fuckhead. Trying to resurrect his character by romanticizing what he did felt cheap and disrespectful in this one. Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot, like Akiva, all had motivations for their mass murdering, but they were not romantic motivations. It is not romantic to commit genocide or kill your girlfriend’s family. It is not romantic to make another person feel terrible. It’s not romantic to want to make out with a guy who killed your family. It just isn’t.
I got a copy of this book from a friend, and nobody paid me anything to rip it to shreds with the crescent blades of my keyboard.
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Reading Progress

May 7, 2012 – Shelved
June 25, 2012 – Shelved as: chosen-girls
June 25, 2012 – Shelved as: motherless-daughters
June 25, 2012 – Shelved as: slaves
June 25, 2012 – Shelved as: utopia-dystopia
October 22, 2012 – Started Reading
October 27, 2012 –
43.0% "". . . but his smile, it was just wrong. Like he'd learned it from a book.""
October 28, 2012 –
72.0% "Um, I'm sorry, but seventeen years is not heat of passion. Why are all these women sucking?"
October 28, 2012 –
76.0% "Yeah, that must get boring . . . eyeroll."
October 28, 2012 – Shelved as: young-adult
October 28, 2012 – Shelved as: punching-tour
October 28, 2012 – Shelved as: needs-a-sassy-gay-friend-real-bad
October 28, 2012 – Finished Reading
October 31, 2012 – Shelved as: reviewed

Comments (showing 1-50 of 110) (110 new)

message 1: by j (last edited Oct 22, 2012 07:30PM) (new) - added it

j for a second i thought you already had one and i was all o_0

Meredith Holley Dude. I gots one. Now I am jumping out of my skin to read slow.

message 3: by j (new) - added it

j oh. well them i am all o_0 and 8(>_<)8

message 4: by [deleted user] (new)

Oh man, so jealous of your book in hand! Woooo!

message 5: by B0nnie (new) - added it

B0nnie There seems to be a preview of about 25 pages on Scribd

Farah I know we don't know each other but You. Have. That. Book? and here I am, dying to read it. OMG!

Meredith Holley I. Am. Loving. It.

message 8: by [deleted user] (new)

Uh oh. Third act reveal not so great?

Meredith Holley Do you want me to say?

message 10: by [deleted user] (new)

Oh, I'll wait patiently for review. I was just thinking of reading this today but maybe I'll go screwicorn instead.

Meredith Holley Yeah, I gotta get to that still. But, I keep wanting to read books, you know, that I will admire, or something. Not that I don't admire G&C books, but . . . different. Ugh, I'm so annoyed at this book. I will maybe just have to watch Dexter for the rest of the day and not even start another book at all.

message 12: by [deleted user] (new)

Television can be very therapeutic.

Meredith Holley And, as you say, it doesn't watch itself.

message 14: by [deleted user] (new)

2 stars?! Oh no!

Meredith Holley This book definitely made me stupider.

message 16: by [deleted user] (new)

Sigh. I hate to hear that. :/

message 17: by Meredith (last edited Oct 28, 2012 01:43PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Meredith Holley Well, you know, there were two ways it could go. It just went the way where I have to heat-of-passion manslaughter it.

Meredith Holley I believe there is a strong chance.

Meredith Holley To clarify, I am pretty sure I'm going to be somewhat alone in my anger. And that makes me even angrier.

♆ BookAddict  ✒ La Crimson Femme Sparrow wrote; "I got a copy of this book from a friend, and nobody paid me anything to rip it to shreds with the crescent blades of my keyboard. "

Awesome. ^_^

genocide = never appropriate assholiness hmmmm. Sometimes genocide just saves time.

message 21: by Meredith (last edited Oct 31, 2012 06:48AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Meredith Holley That IS a good point. The classic efficiency argument for genocide.

message 22: by j (new) - added it

j that is exactly how i figured this would go after the end of book one. i hate to say i told you so, but...

♆ BookAddict  ✒ La Crimson Femme Sparrow wrote: "That IS a good point. The classic efficiency argument for genocide."

lol - If one is to end the conflict - "kill them all - men, women and especially children".

Farah Only 2 stars?! Aw, I really had high expectations for this book.

Meredith Holley Joel wrote: "that is exactly how i figured this would go after the end of book one. i hate to say i told you so, but..."

I was thinking, "Joel told me so" almost the whole second half of the book.

Meredith Holley Farah wrote: "Only 2 stars?! Aw, I really had high expectations for this book."

You might like it better than I did, though.

Tatiana I totally get your point. How do you see Karou in all of this though? Her hands are hardly clean either.

message 28: by Meredith (last edited Oct 31, 2012 06:15PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Meredith Holley Yep. I thought she was an incredibly co-dependent coward. Karou was mostly who made me angry in the story. I thought her character development made zero sense. There are so many levels on which it makes no sense to me, and then so many other levels on which it pisses me off that I don't even know where to begin. (view spoiler)

I thought Karou was TERRIBLE. She was the thing I thought was terrible. As a character. I'm not mad at Akiva (view spoiler) because I thought that was the single thing that made the first book great. I'm mad at the book for presenting the idea that love conquers all, even (view spoiler). I think that is a ridiculous message.

I do feel like I need a little more explanation about Akiva, but I'm not angry about him particularly. To me, the message of his story has that weird thing where (view spoiler). I think it's pretty weird to say someone who was okay with doing that in the first place would get so moralistic when he realizes his girlfriend (view spoiler) Anyway, to that extent, his character seems lame and unbelievable. But, Karou is the one that pisses me off.

TheBookSmugglers Glad to have seen this review. I finished writing mine and found myself wondering about the same things. In the end, I think I liked it a bit more than you did (3 stars) but I sure do see your points.

Meredith Holley Yeah, it did drive me crazy.

In retrospect, the thing that I think is at the root of what bothered me about this, which I didn't articulate, is that it is the sense that Karou and Akiva were the victims of everything that goes on in this book.

First, I find it annoying to read about people who turn their own bad behavior into an explanation of how they're the victim. While I think Karou and Akiva are both victims and villains, I think the villain side would have been more interesting to hear about and easier to write in a way that was not so messy (just from a storytelling sense).

Second, I don't really feel like they are more victims than anyone else in the book, but it was like this hipster attitude that they got to victimization first, so they were the coolest about it.

Anyway, I also had high hopes for this, and the first half set me up to think those hopes might be fulfilled. Big let down for me.

But, I have read so many other good books lately that it's not a huge deal.

message 31: by Bea (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bea I completely understand why you are upset about this book and everyone's reaction. Nothing is more annoying than understanding that a book/movie creates a problematic world view and the fans of said book/movie (i.e. Avatar, Revealing Eden, etc) not being open-minded enough to even consider your understanding.
That said I am a fan of this book. I don't exactly see Akiva as an abuser (a la Beast from Beauty and the Beast). I thought things were taking a turn for the worst when it seemed like Karou would suddenly forget that Thaigo was not only a sadistic murderer but her sadistic murderer.
I don't view Akiva in the same light as you because I understand that he is and was a soldier first and foremost. Once Madrigal was beheaded there was nowhere for him to go but home. I just wonder how you expected him to handle things after he went back (or didn't for that matter). I worry that his only option was to die or be disinterested in life (both unhealthy and problematic). These were really the only other options.
If I understand you, you want Karou to hate him or at the least not forgive him for his actions?

message 32: by Meredith (last edited Nov 10, 2012 12:27PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Meredith Holley So, I agree that is who Akiva is, and I looooove that about the first book. I think it is absolutely beautiful because it is harsh and true. You don't just meet a guy and have a romance and get to bypass all the baggage he carries. I think it seems so human that someone trained to live in violence and be a soldier would have that reaction. I don't think it's justified because I think someone who chooses to commit genocide is responsible for that, no matter how they were raised, but I think it makes sense and makes an incredible and beautiful twist in the first story.

I also love it about the first book because I think these types of fantasy stories can be so extreme and flashy, but that heightened, somewhat symbolic storytelling can really resonate with a lot of daily emotional life. So, like, while none of it would ever happen, at the same time, there is that feeling of, "That is just like life," just condensed and packaged and decorated. And the first book did that feeling of infatuation and then brutal reality so beautifully.

So, the thing that bothers me is the fallout in this book and how it assumes Karou's devotion to this dude, into whose eyes she's gazed for like twelve seconds, would be a stronger feeling than her grief for her family. Maybe this is just me, and my own judginess, but I have no respect for women (and I even question the sanity of women) who value the idea of romance, as seemingly randomly attached to some random hot dude, over their own experience of life.

That sentence doesn't really make sense, so I'll give some examples. For example, I am someone who, if I am dating a person and that person seems disinterested in me, I'd just as soon break up, regardless of whether I still feel attracted to the guy, because why would I be together with someone who doesn't actually like me or have any respect for me? There are some things you can come back from, like forgetting an anniversary or giving me a picture of himself on my birthday or, maybe even, kissing another girl. But, killing my family? I can say with 99.9% certainty that if I guy made me feel the way it feels to lose family, there would be no question of going back from that. That is the worst feeling I have experienced or can imagine, and I can't conceive of an emotionally honest situation in which a girl would still feel attracted to the person who made her feel that way. It doesn't matter to me whether it made sense for Akiva to kill them - I think it totally does - it just makes Karou awful to me. And I think that if all of her family magically can get resurrected, that doesn't really change anything and is kind of cowardly storytelling.

BUT, I have seen plenty of women blindly stay with men who make them feel terrible. While I respect the value of allowing women to make those choices for themselves (and obviously in real life, we never know each other's motivations) my personal feeling about it is that going back to someone who makes you feel terrible is an emotionally dishonest and cowardly choice. Not romantic.

So, this is a long post because I feel like it might be difficult to explain if it's not immediately obvious to someone else. Overall, I often don't agree with that advice to writers (I think from Faulkner) to "kill your darlings," and I feel like writers often misapply it because they have something to prove, but I think it would have been useful to follow that rule here, like I felt she did in the first book. This book felt like she was trying to give all the characters do-overs. That's funny in the Guy and Campbell books, but kind of pathetic in this one, I think.

Eh?Eh! Oh man! I loved your review! Er, I hope my intention of linking didn't result in your removal of it. :( You approached it with a critical eye and as silly as it sounds, I love coming to your reviews to find out what I missed. I always miss a lot. I read through a fairly sheltered upbringing and don't make the connections.

Meredith Holley I don't know what that means about linking! I realized I wanted to re-write it. I remember I used to wait like a week before writing reviews, and I think that is a better policy than shutting the book and ranting the way I do now.

Anyway, I'm almost done, but I just wanted to take it down while I was re-writing.

Eh?Eh! Whew! Okay! Never mind! Nothing! Look over there!

I do this thing of thinking everything is about me. It has come to my attention that this is untrue, especially lately. Sigh.

Meredith Holley haha! No, it is about you! I am writing you a new review!

Eh?Eh! :)
My head = reswollen.

Meredith Holley Whew! No anorexic heads allowed around here.

Spider the Doof Warrior I... politely disagree.

Meredith Holley tommie wrote: "hahaha aw. an eh-review."

I don't know what that means!

Meredith Holley tommie wrote: "oh hahaha because you wrote it for eh! you said so yourself!"


Meredith Holley Synesthesia wrote: "I... politely disagree."

I have no response to this, but I'm thinking the lack of description shows an intent to not get a response back. So . . . you're welcome.

Nabiya Macpherson I concur! I, too, was completely thrown off by the 17 years delayed vengeance, the hamsas apparently working like friggin' flashlights to be shone at specific people, the ridiculousness of all the instalove, flashbacks, and most of all: the simple way in which the author just skims over all the genocide killings.

I read the first book (and was disappointed) and I have a similar reaction to the sequel. The only reason I picked the sequel up is the same reason I finished reading the first: I feel that the world Taylor created, and some characters (holla, Ziri!) have (had?) potential.

But like Kevin Sorbo, all I can say is DISAPPOINTED!

message 44: by Meredith (last edited Dec 08, 2012 12:55PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Meredith Holley DISAPPOINTED!!!"

Yeah, I really loved the very end of the first one. For me, it redeemed the boring parts. But, this one just made me cringe. But, yes, holla Ziri!!!

Did you read Lips Touch Three Times? I loved that one, though I have to say, all of them are sort of tainted by how squicky this one made me feel.

ilovebakedgoods (Teresa) Terrific review. I haven't read this yet. I am a bit deflated now that I've finished reading your review. I was really looking forward to this but now I'm sort of hesitant. You raised a lot of really good, thoughtful points. I'm torn between agreeing with you on one level and then telling myself to read it anyway because I really enjoy her writing and maybe certain things that bothered you won't bother me as I read. So torn. Your points are very valid to me.

Meredith Holley Totally! And tons of people love it, so you very well might. You could definitely give it a try and see for yourself.

ilovebakedgoods (Teresa) Yeah, I am going to start it today so we'll see!

Meredith Holley Good luck!

Debbie I'm in the middle of the book and I totally get what you're saying.

message 50: by Meredith (last edited Feb 07, 2013 05:39PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Meredith Holley If he were really doing it for a long period of time, that makes it even less of a heat of passion situation. Or just equally not heat of passion. Like, it was obviously deliberate and thought out.

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