Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Days of Blood and Starlight: Laini Taylor Strikes Back

Last year, I had a conversation with a friend about Book Twos in trilogies, how often they are either boring retreads of Book One or sacrificing excitement and plot for Book Three setup. “I think you have to go full Empire Strikes Back with it,” I told her. Hyperdrive doesn’t work, Han gets captured and frozen in carbonite, Luke loses a hand; in other words, everything goes wrong. So I was overjoyed to see Kevin Nguyen of Grantland call Days of Blood and Starlight “Young adult fantasy’s Empire Strikes Back…” And after reading it, I have to agree wholeheartedly.

A Book Two has a lot of work to do. First, it has to uphold the standard set in the first book. The idea of a crowd of rabid fans, daily awaiting Book Two, building up Book One in their minds to impossible heights until Book Two can’t possibly compare, may scare some authors (and/or publishers) into delivering a carbon copy of Book One (slightly smudged, but still recognizable as the same exact plot and character beats). But since Karou in Days of Blood and Starlight knows about her mysterious history, it would be impossible for her to return to the innocent girl she was in Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and Laini Taylor uses her prodigious imagination to create circumstances that heighten the stakes and the terror.

A Book Two also has to set up the climactic events of the third book. This can turn into a mess of new characters shoehorned in, information dumps that won’t pay off until the next installment, and lots of boring exposition. But Taylor skillfully brings in new locales and characters, who she gets us to either care for deeply or fear almost immediately, wasting nothing as she weaves all threads together into an ending that delivers blow after devastating blow.

Days of Blood and Starlight is not only a stellar Book Two, it is also remarkable in its own right. The prose—which Taylor has said she spends ample time honing—is lovely, the plot is equal parts beauty and destruction, and the characters are achingly real.

Even though I am beyond excited to read Book Three, for once I feel OK about waiting until it comes out in 2014. I need some time to let this magnificent book settle, to let the echo of those haunting final two sentences reverberate. Because they’re just as awesome as “Luke, I am your father.”

Recommended for fans of: Daughter of Smoke and Bone (duh), awesome books (seriously, this is the best)

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