Monthly Archives: January 2014

Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor

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“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 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 was saving Days of Blood and Starlight for a special occasion and that occasion was the holiday season of 2013. Even though it was released almost a full year prior and I had owned it for several months, I had to wait. Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone left such a lasting impression on me that I wanted to savor the reading of its partner, Days of Blood and Starlight (which, oh praise the lord, is the middle child in a trilogy), to finally consume it during a time that would only heighten its reading. And so in two short days I lay under a fur blanket with my Christmas tree twinkling before me while snowflakes coated everything in the world outside and lost myself in the exquisite, and equally exquisitely painful, world of Karou and Akiva.

Karou’s world has been shattered—both figuratively and literally. Her monster family has been snatched away from her and massacred, while their homeland city of Loramendi has been wiped from existence, both acts performed under the banner of vengeance claimed by the Angels. Worse yet, it is Akiva that set such tragedies into motion and that betrayal has forced her to return to what remains of her people. With Brimstone dead, the demons require a new resurrectionst and while she was not aware of it at the time, Brimstone has been grooming her to do just that her whole life. So it is now Karou who sorts through piles of teeth and rebuilds lost bodies, placing souls back into them but at the cost of her own physical pain. To make life even more difficult, Thiago the demon warlord, looms over her, a constant reminder of a painful past even as she struggles to come to terms with the memories awoken from her previous life as Madrigal. Akiva is also suffering, believing that Karou is dead and forced to watch as his kin track down demon farmers and peasants to be slaughtered. Both will soon make choices that will change the futures of their races and maybe, perhaps, bring their dream of peace to life again.

Once again, it is the complexity of her characters and the unparalleled telling of the story that make Taylor a master of her craft. I cannot say enough about how unique and captivating the characters are; Zuzanna and Mik’s deepening devotion to one another (a necessary happy love story to juxtapose the catastrophic state of Karou and Akiva’s), Ziri who is the last remaining member of Karou’s previous clan, Ten’s sly and spy-like presence, the arrogance of the emperor angel Joram and the conniving, ruthless intentions of his brother Jael. I especially loved how you were given a clearer view into the world of the angels, only to learn it is a truly hateful and soiled place. I came to admire Liraz, Akiva’s warrior sister, so much more and was thankful for a book that had not just one, but several strong female leads. Akiva’s pain is palpable through Taylor’s writing, as was Karou’s but I do have a huge thank you to send out to Ms. Laini Taylor. I have a theory. We’ll call it the Second-Installment-Heroine-Collapse theory (SIHC for short), based on the pattern I’ve come to see amongst Teen trilogies where the heroine was an extremely strong, intimidating, powerful figure in the first book, but then suffers an utter breakdown in the second book. I’m not by any means saying that what these heroines have suffered in the first book is not deserving of a breakdown, but it is disappointing to watch such kickass female characters dissolve into simpering fools of inability when really, all I want to see is the heroine own her emotions and keep the strength I admired so much about them in the first book. So, thank you Laini Taylor for doing just that with Karou. This story is dark, extremely dark, but while Karou has suffered, and continues to suffer unimaginable losses, she maintains her inner strength and sanity to remain true to who she is. I breathed a huge sense of relief when I saw this was not a book that had fallen to the SIHC philosophy.

I cannot say enough about this book and how much I loved it. The world that Taylor creates is one you can immerse yourself in completely, with returns to modern day settings here and there to keep you balanced. I craved those moments when she would reveal more about the glass citadel of the angels or the deep woodlands where demon peasants lived. It was an all-encompassing, imaginative environment and very few authors can draw me into their vision as vividly as Taylor’s writing does.

I’m aware that this review is quite longer than what I usually write but I suppose that is what happens when a book grips and compels me as much as Days of Blood and Starlight did. I cannot wait until the conclusion of this trilogy, Dreams of Gods and Monsters, is published in April and yet I am reluctant for that day to come because I just want this series to go on and on and on. Taylor’s writing is based on quite common themes- tyranny, betrayal, family, hope- but it is the wrapping of those themes that makes her series so breathtaking. I, along with numerous friends who have borrowed the first and second book from me, eagerly wait for another dose of magic from Laini Taylor.

Devon – a1000booklife

Other books by Laini Taylor: Dreamdark series (2007 and 2009), Lips Touch (2009) and Daughter of Smoke and Bone (2011)

 

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The Shining by Stephen King

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“What you got, son, I call it shinin on, the Bible calls it having visions, and there’s scientists that call it precognition. I’ve read up on it, son. I’ve studied on it. They all mean seeing the future.”

It’s an oldie, but boy is it a goodie. I have always known the reputation of Stephen King as a mastermind of horror. While I’ve seen the movie version, I have to admit this is my first encounter with the horror genius that is Stephen King. Maybe it’s because my mother imbued in me a true sense and respect for King’s ability in his genre that it was only recently that I decided I was enough of an adult to make a leap into the dark swimming pool of his work. And after that decision was made, what better novel to start with than The Shining? I was certainly not disappointed.

Jack Torrence, a struggling writer, has found the perfect creative get-away and way to provide for his struggling family as the caretaker of the infamous Overlook hotel nestled away in the mountains of Colorado. For the entire winter he, his wife Wendy and their young son Danny will be the only inhabitants of a hotel that is known for grand parties and famous guests. But this hotel has a darker side as well, infested by the memories of gangsters, murder and death, and all of these forces will be drawn to Danny. Dick Hallorann, the Overlook’s head chef, recognizes that Danny possesses a unique ability, much like his own talent, and it is Dick who warns Danny that there are places within the Overlook that will take a dangerous liking to his “shining”. The Overlook ultimately does so by praying on Jack’s weaknesses and, combined with regrets and memories from the past, turn a loving father into a horrendous face that is unrecognizable.

King can certainly weave an intricate tale of horror. It’s a different kind of horror however, not the kind that is bathed in the gore that is so common in modern day movies and entertainment, but one that is based on suspense and psychological fright. The fact that  a child is at the center of the story creates a sense of vulnerability that is compounded by the other assortment of emotions the Overlook causes within this small family.

The history of the Overlook was intriguing and King takes advantage of that curiosity that many people likely have when climbing into a bed in a hotel and wonder how many (and what kind of) people have slept in the very same bed before they have. However, he takes it beyond that common query and questions what can be left beyond in locations by the passing of time and the events that have taken place there. It’s always been an interesting concept that tragic events may leave behind some manner of energy that imprints a place with those negative occurrences. It seems to be a core theory of the paranormal field and in the case of the Overlook, it is a hotel with such an extensive history, most of which is negative, that the presence of a sensitive individual breathes life back into shocking memories.

The book, to me, at its core was about demons; personal, past, present, real. Having been originally published in 1977, this modern day edition came with a foreword written by King in which he acknowledges that the novel was that much scarier in his mind because the evil that shines through in the story is due to the hotel, but also because of the experiences and person that Jack is. In some ways, The Shining forces us to acknowledge that not all evil can be squarely blamed on the paranormal and that much of it is of a human making. There’s no doubt that Danny’s presence strengthens the activity within the Overlook and that these paranormal experiences are real. However, the reader is forced to wonder if things would have been different if Jack had not been so flawed to begin with, had not been abused himself as a child, had not become an alcoholic as an adult. Just as Danny’s precognition feeds the ghosts of the Overlook, the Overlook fed off of Jack’s character flaws.

Though The Shining is over 30 years old, it still held a considerable amount of literary sway and left a lingering impression. When discussing it with a few friends they all agreed that it was a book that they can remember exactly where they were when they read it. King has that level of skill and can certainly weave a tale of horror that stays with you by stressing the human elements and flaws of his characters. I will certainly be picking up its successor, Doctor Sleep, soon with hopes of the same results.

Devon – a1000booklife

Other books by Stephen King: Stephen King has written extensively in the Horror genre but some of his more recent releases include 11/22/63 (2011) and Doctor Sleep (2013)

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