Days of Blood & Starlight - Laini Taylor
~~Moved from GR~~

Days of Blood and Starlight

by Laini Taylor

Recommended to Carly by: I'm really beginning to wonder.
Recommended for: Lovers of creativity and lyrical language who aren't upset by graphic/ disturbing violence.
(By the way, unless you are my clone, don't assume that my negative review implies anything about the enjoyability of the book--we all have different reactions to things.)


And the moral of the story:
Never underestimate the power of hope, true love, and assassination.

I'm probably not the target audience: while I enjoyed Daughter of Smoke and Bone, I somehow couldn't perceive the depth and power others saw in the story. While I'm not one to partake of or even pick up on poetry, even I appreciated Taylor's lyrical language and evocative turn of phrase.Days of Blood and Starlight, as one might guess from the title, has all of the melodious language and rhythmic phrasing of its predecessor, as well as all of the worldbuilding and dark motifs. Unfortunately, I felt that certain aspects were not thoroughly considered, and two aspects hit all of my triggers: (1) glamorizing viewpoints that I found hypocritical, and (2) dwelling upon the details of certain atrocities in apparent fascination.
Unfortunately, these issues made me angry. 
You wouldn't like me when I'm angry.

My problems with the plot started pretty early. If your plan to "free" your people and bring truth, justice, freedom (and a hard-boiled egg) to the world involves one assassination, you should probably take a good look at your motivations. If it requires two assassinations, you should be rethinking your plans. If it takes more than two, then you should be wondering who the hell you think you are. Do you really believe that the populace are such sheep that you must perform wholesale slaughter of all potential "bad" leaders so that they will make the "right" choices? Do you really think that you, in your infinite wisdom, should keep cutting down the leaders that the people choose to follow?

What arrogance.

What hubris.

I don't think Karou's little scheme is acceptable, even in a last-chance-romantic variety. Anyone who thinks like that deserves to receive the treatment that they deal out. Who the hell does she think she is to dupe and trick her way into a position of power? How can she possibly even convince herself that she has "the people's" interest at heart when she sees the need to betray them? The hypocrisy of her self-righteous duplicity and the blind romanticism of a story that can somehow connive a situation in which this is presented as "reasonable" simply boggled my mind. 

Deception for the "greater good." I'm sure that always ends well.

Throughout, that wonderful quote from Terry Pratchett's Night Watchkept running through my mind:
"“And so the children of the revolution were faced with the age-old problem: it wasn't that you had the wrong kind of government, which was obvious, but that you had the wrong kind of people.
As soon as you saw people as things to be measured, they didn't measure up.”I found this blind romanticism so inherently problematic that it left me completely incredulous. What am I supposed to think when the narrator earnestly describes Karou and Akiva as "Born of mercy and nurtured in love?" How are we on such different planets? How is Akiva's little genocide so easily forgiven by the narrator that we are supposed to accept and sympathise with him rather than view him as a man who must atone for his vicious and all-consuming hatred? (Although I suppose that this is supposed to be a happy occasion! Let's not argue and bicker about who killed who...) I suppose I want to see him reeling in self-recrimination and drowning in guilt, and while I understand that he can be a sympathetic character, I don't understand the narrator's portrayal of him as "pure" and "righteous." How evil do your bad characters have to be, how stupid does your populace have to act, before these protagonists can be considered to be pure vessels of truth and hope?]


(show spoiler)



I suppose this comes down to my issue with narration. I love first-person narrators because their judgements and beliefs are inherently untrustworthy; it adds significant complexity and flexibility in interpretation because the reader is left without any solid assertions about the "moral" of the book. When you have a third-person omniscient narrator, it seems reasonable to assume that the moralizing and judgements of the narrator should be considered the "truth" presented by the story. I think much of my irritation stems from my firm disagreement with the values and "facts" presented by our narrator.

[And now let's talk about rape. I listened to this on audio. I don't know what I was supposed to be feeling about fifteen or twenty minutes (I think. It felt like an hour, but believe me, I'm not going back to check) of sweating and heaving and moist fingers on buttons and blind groping. I cannot escape the suspicion that this was somehow supposed to be strangely titillating, like all those women in urban fantasy novels pinned down by an aroused alpha male. Yes, I'm well-aware that Theago (and speaking of obvious references, I may just start calling him Iago and have done with it) was not a good guy. But have you ever noticed that there are only three outcomes to a woman threatened with rape in a book? (1) She is raped, in which case the story tends to spare the reader the horrific details; (2) She is threatened, but "fortunately," an already "damaged flower" gets to have all the fun of the gruesomely detailed rape; (3) The heroine comes within a finger's breadth of being raped, so the author gets to have all of the pleasure of describing every last sick and disturbing detail in full technicolor and yet since the deed isn't completed, somehow this isn't equivalent to graphically glorying in the humiliation and degradation of women. Guess where Karou's little experience fits?

I am so very, very tired of the tendency of YA and UF to dwell in fascination on themes of self-harm and rape. I'm tired of graphic descriptions with the little condemnatory prefix and then an author who seems to revel in pages and pages and pages of details. Taylor didn't describe the spasms and expulsion of body fluids and last wracking coughs and collapse of each person who was killed; one might reasonably consider that nothing is gained in the narrative by going over horrific and graphic details. So why should we hear about hot breath and spasms and women being forced to their knees and every little minute detail of a rape?

Reading this book made me feel dirty, soiled, and, as you might have guessed by now, angry.]
(show spoiler)

This book hit some of my triggers, and these are issues I'm not reasonable about. I've well aware that my reactions may be "wrong" and that my interpretations may be "off," but I do not think that I can change the way I feel about this book.