So, the first book in this series (Daughter of Smoke and Bone) was one of my favorite books of 2011 (my third favorite to be exact). To say I was excited for this book’s release is a definite understatement. Were my expectations too high? I don’t think so. I loved it. My only qualm is that it took me about a week to read…It’s massive, but that’s not it. I tend to love massive books (particularly in sequels). It was just a little hard to read because of how hard Karou had it, I think.
To the story: it takes place after a little time has gone by from the first book. And the book actually follows a whole new set of other characters. I loved that it follows Zuzana along with her adorable boyfriend. It follows the angels (Akiva, in particular). And it follows different chimera. The book was actually several chapters in before readers were allowed to see what happened with Karou. And the suspense was killing me! It didn’t help that Akiva wasn’t sure if she was alive or that Karou couldn’t even email her best friend to let her know where she was.
And when we finally get to see Karou, it isn’t very good. She’s holed up in a Kasbah in Morocco, aiding the chimera who don’t trust her. The wolf is in charge. The same wolf who had Madrigal beheaded years ago. All of Karou’s family is dead. And despite the fact that Karou is working her hardest at redemption with her people, no one trusts her or even really goes near her. She spends her days resurrecting chimera, taking over Brimstone’s old job –a job that involves a lot of physical pain and teeth collecting.
While Karous is resurrecting monsters to send back into battle against the angles, the angels are ruthlessly attacking chimera. Akiva, along with his misbegotten angel brother and sister are doing their best to actually save chimera (or at least as many chimera civilians as they can), one kid at a time. And not all is copasetic in the land of the angels. There’s creepy politics on both sides of the war.
It was hard reading about so much brutality and pain. All the innocent chimera who were murdered was intense! So was Karou’s guilt. She won’t have a thing to do with Akiva (how could she after what he did to her family?). And she knows her situation at the Kasbah is not the best. She never feels safe from the hungry eyes of the Wolf. And all she gives up and all the pain she inflicts on herself to resurrect soldiers will never equate to forgiveness. She also comes to realize that the soldiers she brings back to life are being sent to massacre angels and not to save innocent chimera. But, she is so mad at herself for her past that she keeps doing what she’s doing.
The book really picks up when Zuzana comes to Morocco! Karou gets a lot of her courage back with the need to protect her bestie. Also, watching Zuzana and her boyfriend play music for a room full of monsters was so awesome! When more and more signs are indicating an angel rebellion and a change of direction for Karou, a tiny bit of hope finally shines through. This book is about pain and suffering. It’s about needing to forgive yourself enough to do what is right. And it’s about knowing what is right versus what is easiest.
It has an epic ending that makes book 3 seem so much further away. There’s more monsters, more fighting, more war, more hilarity with friends, more Akiva, and just more everything! It reminded me of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy at points (which is a huge compliment coming from me).
I think part of the reason it took me so long to finish was that I know how brave Laini Taylor is. She is not afraid to kill a character (or a whole family) off. She is not afraid to let a great person be tortured. This book has so much pain (physical and mental), and I can see this taking anyone a little bit longer to get through. There was actually a point though, when I put the book down and was afraid to continue. I did not want something to happen that seemed very likely would. But, if I didn’t continue, I would not have then read one of the best YA twists ever! Seriously, I was surprised before the epic end even started.
I was surprised, I was terrified, I was sad, I was laughing out loud, and I finally at the end was just a little bit hopeful. This book did everything I wanted it to and I was not disappointed. One of my favorite things about it is Karou. Her guilt, her loyalty, her strength, and her friendship just make her out to be one of the best YA main characters I have yet to meet. And this book really took it out on her and tested her to her capacity. And while for a while she did seem to give up hope or at least give up her sense of morality; I knew that she would eventually get it back. I feel like I know her, like she’s a real person. And aren’t those the best characters, the ones you just feel like you know?
Was it as good as the first book? Probably not. But was it still a fantastic sequel? Definitely. I have high hopes for book 3, in more ways than one. I give it a 9/10. It was a little hard at times, but hard can be really good.