DREAMS OF GODS & MONSTERS (Daughter of Smoke & Bone #3)
Author: Laini Taylor
Read Date: 10 April 2014
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
In this thrilling conclusion to the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy, Karou is still not ready to forgive Akiva for killing the only family she’s ever known.
When a brutal angel army trespasses into the human world, Karou and Akiva must ally their enemy armies against the threat–and against larger dangers that loom on the horizon. They begin to hope that it might forge a way forward for their people. And, perhaps, for themselves–maybe even toward love.
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.
Review summary: Perhaps too ambitious, but a dramatic finale that readers who have journeyed with Karou will certainly appreciate.
*SPOILER WARNING FOR PLOT DETAILS*
“Gods and Monsters” picks up exactly where “Days of Blood and Starlight” (2012) left off, as the Emperor of the Seraphim leads the Dominion into Earth in a spectacular (albeit contrived, on his part) and apocalyptic fashion.
Throughout the series, Laini Taylor has veered away from making the story conform to the general idea of what angels and demons should be like, but in the epic opening sequence, she gives humans exactly what they are looking for—a great host of angels coming down from heaven, complete with bright shining robes and harp music. Never mind that they just want our weapons. Worldwide panic and media frenzy ensues.
The angels have good intel (from Razgut the Fallen Angel) and did not need to ask any of the puny humans to “Take us to your leader”; they head straight for Vatican City for an audience with the Pope. Meanwhile, in Morocco, Fake!Thiago managed to convince the chimaera to ally with Akiva and his Misbegotten army so that they can take out Emperor Jael and the Dominion. They all go back to Eretz to make plans and to meet up with Akiva’s brethren.
The ensuing drama—involving tense alliances, even more tense romance, political maneuvering, betrayals, intense battles, cake metaphors, pining for chocolate, and Mik and Zuzana taming otherworldy beings and stealing wishes—is well-paced and meticulously plotted, unlike “Blood and Starlight”…except for some factors, which I will discuss later.
Many YA authors would do well to take lessons from Taylor in depicting romantic tension, but not many will be able to live up to her lyrical style. And speaking of romantic tension, the outcome of Akiva and Karou’s story is pretty much a given, but Taylor pulled out a surprising new pairing, which she wrote without all the epic-ness of Akiva/Karou or the cute and fuzzy of Mik/Zuzana but is no less ship- and squee-worthy. I am rooting for this new ship and hope a spin-off about them is in the works!
There are 4 reasons, though, why I couldn’t give this book a full 5-star rating.
1. Eliza — Eliza is a new character in the series whose appearance seems random, especially considering that this is already the final book. Taylor also wrote in Karou’s fake grandma Esther into the plot for the first time, but at least she was mentioned before, and her appearance had an effect on the plot. But while Eliza was an intriguing character, I did not feel like she was important to the endgame, except perhaps to reveal more portals between worlds and to become the means by which Earth became aware that not only were there real “angels” but also real “demons”. Her backstory, which is tied to Razgut’s, is good material and expands the mythology of the series, but without it, I don’t think this book’s plot would have been affected or made worse.
2. The Stellians — The Stellians are a race of Seraphim to which Akiva’s mother Festival belonged. They were also mentioned before, but they make an actual appearance in this book as they track down a powerful magus who is unknowingly endangering the universe: Akiva. But again, while the background mythology is interesting, it does not feel important to the central story of the war between the chimaera and the seraphim, or the rebellion against Emperor Jael.
3. Akiva’s Magic — So Akiva turns out to be a magus. While what he did at the climax of “Blood and Starlight” was rather awesome though out-of-the-blue, on hindsight, I did not question it too much because the demonstration of his power felt very organic. In this book, however, there were instances that felt too contrived, like him being able to come up with countermagic to the hamsas. He couldn’t even consciously harness his powers at this point, but all of a sudden, he came up with something that will allow the chimaera and seraphim to fight together without the chimaera accidentally flashing the angels. Not to mention this now allows Karou to touch Akiva without him getting hurt *wink, wink* Way too convenient.
4. Off-screen Battles — I was surprised when I realized Jael’s army in Eretz has apparently been defeated and saw that Kindle’s tracker only had me at around 87% of the book. But where was THE epic battle that will see Jael on his knees? The victory happened off-screen! All the toying around with Jael later on was satisfying, but I was disappointed that readers did not get to see the battle. There was more action in “Blood and Starlight”. 😦 And if there’s anything worse than a badly-written sex scene fade-out, it’s off-screen climactic war victory.
I understand that the readers needed to be where Karou and Akiva are (in Vatican City, trying to convince Jael to leave Earth peacefully), but it would have been more satisfying to have them return to Eretz and somehow figure out how to turn the tide in their favor (perhaps with the aforementioned Akiva Magic?) And then knowing that a mysterious force (later revealed) indeed helped the chimaera/Misbegotten troops to win? Unsatisfying. 😦
I figured the rest of the 13% of the text will be devoted to resurrecting the chimaera souls that Brimstone hid away, to strengthening alliances between the peoples of Eretz, and after that, Karou and Akiva can finally settle down. Well, there was some of that, but there was also a lot of Stellian stuff, which ended up separating Karou and Akiva once again, only to have them both be brooding and miserable. Again. The training that Akiva was supposed to be undergoing wasn’t even detailed. It was as if Taylor didn’t want the story to end and looked for a way to stretch the tension between Akiva and Karou even more. This was all well and good before the Stellian stand-off happened, but by this time, I just wanted everything to STOP. 😦 Akiva and Karou have earned their happily ever after by now.
The things I liked about the book significantly outweigh the things I did not like, though. It was perhaps too ambitious, but it is still a dramatic finale that readers who have journeyed with Karou will certainly appreciate.