Monday, September 29, 2014

Book Review: Dreams of Gods and Monsters

Book Review: Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor 

Goodreads Description: By way of a staggering deception, Karou has taken control of the chimaera rebellion and is intent on steering its course away from dead-end vengeance. The future rests on her, if there can even be a future for the chimaera in war-ravaged Eretz.

Common enemy, common cause.

When Jael's brutal seraph army trespasses into the human world, the unthinkable becomes essential, and Karou and Akiva must ally their enemy armies against the threat. It is a twisted version of their long-ago dream, and they begin to hope that it might forge a way forward for their people.

And, perhaps, for themselves. Toward a new way of living, and maybe even love.

But there are bigger threats than Jael in the offing. A vicious queen is hunting Akiva, and, in the skies of Eretz ... something is happening. Massive stains are spreading like bruises from horizon to horizon; the great winged stormhunters are gathering as if summoned, ceaselessly circling, and a deep sense of wrong pervades the world.

What power can bruise the sky?

From the streets of Rome to the caves of the Kirin and beyond, humans, chimaera and seraphim will fight, strive, love, and die in an epic theater that transcends good and evil, right and wrong, friend and enemy.

At the very barriers of space and time, what do gods and monsters dream of? And does anything else matter?

My Review: Goodreads ate my last review and I've had trouble summoning motivation since then, so hopefully this all comes out coherent.

Dreams of Gods and Monsters picks up just after the nail biting ending of the previous book, with Karou and Akiva trying to unite their rebel armies within the Kirin Caves. Laini Taylor beautifully mastered the tension it takes to join two opposing forces. It did not feel too easy, nor did the squabbling armies take away from the deeper story. The tension not once let up throughout the whole story, much like the previous novels in the trilogy, which made this book incredibly difficult to put down.

What delighted me most, at the end of the day, was the way Taylor continued to add more to her plot and deepened her story right up until the end. We were introduced to new characters, and old characters have their roles completely transformed. I must admit, I didn’t see Razgut having such a big role in the final book and was so pleased to see it. Though it was probably because I underestimated the story, which is my own fault, as the hints and character progression had been there since day one. Possibly, because there's so much more to this book and this series, it was easy to overlook him as a minor character with an interesting backstory.

And ultimately, his backstory is what made the book interesting, as it led into a deeper stories with the other parallel worlds, not just Earth and Eretz. After all, if there are two worlds, why not more? Taylor delves into this and more, which left almost an unfinished feeling to this book. It was my biggest and probably only problem with the series. Taylor dug deep into lore in the last quarter of the book, and it was due to how late the information came that made it so surprising and unusual. It's difficult to introduce a whole shwack of new information at the end of the story, as it often opens things up to more conflict and plot points. After reading the last page, the first thing I did was hop online and search for any news of a sequel, another series, something, because all the information that was introduced felt like the beginning of something new.

I think that's what frustrated me. I loved every bit of the worldbuilding and the plot, as most of the set up had been there from the very beginning and was obviously well-thought out. But with such a grand story, I wanted a grand ending, and it felt like I got that and just a bit of a taste of more to come. It sounds nice, but at the end of the day I wanted a resolution, not the introduction to another new series. Now, if Laini Taylor wrote a series about the godstars and what it all means, I would be thrilled and devour every book she put out, but it almost feels like a bit of a money grab, in the sense that the author is trying to sell me another book while I still haven't finished the one in front of me. But that's a whole 'nother blog post.

At the end of the day, the story comes back to Karou and Akiva, the main figures and driving force behind all that's happened. I was very pleased with the way their relationship was handled in the wake of miscommunication and war. Karou, much more than in previous books, feels incredibly fragile and almost bested by the events and traumas that have taken place over the last three books, and though she still had some serious kickass in her, it was great to see a main character actually affected by what was happening around them and show the wear of a battle-heavy life. In contrast, Akiva's character loosened up and became the kind of lovable partner you'd want to envelope and never let go. In this, too, I was extremely pleased. Most often with YA, it seems like the boys are brooding and the girls are peppy and sassy. Though Akiva and Karou came off that way at the beginning of the series, their characters have pretty much done a complete 180 by the end of this book, and the way they've changed is both believable and a step outside the YA formula. And we all know how formulas make us yawn.

Nearly everything about this book made me extremely happy. Laini Taylor is a magician with words and makes me believe in magic. The only thing that really disappointed me was that it didn't feel like a final book to me. Though all the plot and worldbuilding worked wonderfully, it left too many questions and opened too many doors for me to get a sense of closure for this story. I guarantee we'll see more Smoke and Bone books in the future, and though I will devour them with fervor, I still feel a little cheated, a little like the only way this follow up series could sell is if it had a strong lead in from Gods and Monsters, which is silly. If readers loved the first series, they'll read the second, without having to include the YA version of, "Next time on Daughter of Smoke and Bone..."

TL;DR: 4.5/5 stars. I wish I could have had a sense of closure. Otherwise, it left me in awe of Laini Taylor's writing skills.

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