First off: if you haven’t read Daughter of Smoke and Bone yet, you need to. Even though Laini Taylor (thankfully) includes information to remind you of what went on in the first book, to really, fully understand what’s going on in this one, you have to have read the first (unlike some other sequels out there).
When we left Karou and her angel love Akiva, they weren’t on good terms. Karou discovered that she was formerly Madrigal — a chimera, an enemy to the seraphim — and while she was Akiva’s lover, that didn’t end well. And Akiva didn’t bounce back happily; being the Beast’s Bane for the seraphim emperor, he waged war on the chimera, killing off everyone Karou loved. That’s something you don’t forgive easily. So Karou has thrown herself in with the chimera, becoming the resurrectionist — the person who brings souls back to live in new bodies — for the rebellion army, headed up by the White Wolf, Thiago.
I’m going to get this out of the way here: there are some despicable male characters in this book. Horrible isn’t a strong enough word. And the things they do to innocent people are, well, contemptible. Taylor doesn’t hold back on the horrors of war, the terrible things power-hungry men (always men; though there are a couple of — I’m running out of adjectives — loathsome women, too) will do to gain their power. And the pitiable state of their victims. It’s one of the reasons this book is so dark and, as a result, so powerful.
Akiva, on the other hand, is trying to reconcile the horrible things he’s done with his feelings for Karou, searching for some way to earn her forgiveness. He starts saving chimera from the angel attacks, which leads him — and, by extension, his brother Hazael and sister Liraz — directly into a path of conflict with their father, the emperor Joram, and their uncle Jael.
I’ll leave the plot summary there, because there’s so much more going on. Zuzana and Mik show up and not everyone gets out of this one alive. It’s a trilogy, so don’t expect a conclusion. Much like the first one, it comes to a stopping point, but there’s so much left unresolved, and so much happens in the last quarter that I’m more than anxious for the next one.
But I do have to mention this: as far as second-in-a-series books go, this one is phenomenal. Taylor’s such a gifted writer and storyteller that she was able to take a middle book that’s mostly about revenge and war and make it into something grander. Every character is fully dimensional — even the horrid ones — and I was fully invested, emotionally as well as intellectually, in where the story was going. I’m starting to think, however, that I’m going to be sad when this series ends. It really is that good.
Rated: Moderate for some mild swearing, references to sex, and one very intense attempted rape scene.