22.4.14

Review: Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor


review
                 book












title:  Dreams of Gods and Monsters

author:  Laini Taylor

pages: 374

format: Hardcover

isbn/asin: 978-0316134071

buy it: Amazon  Goodreads  B&N

rating: 5/5 [in the genre] or 8/10 [all books I’ve ever read].

recommended for:  Fans of Diana Wynne Jones, Tamora Pierce, Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, and mythology.  

will i read this author again?:  Yes, for sure.  
will i continue the series?:  Meeeh. Only the novella is left. 

My Ratings Explained

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?



take home message
A gorgeous tapestry of adventure, love, and violence on a cosmic scale.  An end to one of the best fantasy series of our generation, and the beginning of a brilliant career.   


the basics
I had to take a moment before I could properly review this book.  It's amazing how a series so lately in my life can leave such an imprint.  The first book, I found good.  Not great, but good.  Then I read the second recently, and I was completely won.  I almost feared to read the last because I feared that final page and the end it brought, but I also rushed to read it as soon as it arrived because I couldn't wait.  The finale is a perfect culmination of the series, an ending and a huge beginning, a raising of the stakes.  Our beloved characters grow and find their strengths in ways both believable and remarkable.  Tragedies occur.  Lovers are foiled and frustrated.  New characters become major players, somewhat unexpectedly.  And for a over 600-page book, the pacing is breakneck.  Taylor carefully flings you between narrators to set up suspense and, as she does best, foster cringing amounts of dramatic irony.  All the while, the atmosphere is one of wonder and also one of fear and brutal violence.  Taylor no more shirks the flaws of her characters than the consequences of their actions, which at times can be devastating.  Yet she gives us better than reality--she offers hope amidst turmoil, love amidst death.  It's a gorgeously written epic that could lend itself to half a dozen prequels and sequels.  It's also one of the books that has cemented for me more than ever why I must be a writer.  


plot . 4.5/5
I can't say that all of the revelations here were set up well in the previous books.  The history of Eretz becomes a crucial plot element, including the far-off Stelian angels, but they appeared so abruptly in books 1 and 2 that I would have preferred some early foreshadowing.  The same can be said for other revelations, such as the role of Eliza the graduate student and the origin story of Eretz.  The disconnect really separates book 1 from 2 and 3 for me and lends itself to a lot of rushed exposition.  That said, I devoured this book like Cthulu devouring Earth.  I lost sleep.  I made ultimatums--"You will stop at the end of this chapter!"  Taylor is a master of pageturning.  Her alternating narrators ensure a cliffhanger at almost every chapter's end.  Instead of being infuriating, it's suspenseful.  It raises the stakes.  It reminds you that no one else knows that's going on with the others either, and her little hints of "But it wasn't" and "She wished she'd known" heighten the dramatic irony to a knuckle-whitening burn.  

Content-wise, it's a brilliant mix of war, intrigue, and social justice.  We begin with the seraphim and chimaera in a tentative, volatile truce against evil emperor Jael.  Then there's Eliza, representative of Earth, hopelessly watching the seraphim invade.  The plot is intricately woven to leave you guessing until the last moments.  And always something is happening.  The allies create a plot.  The plot is foiled.  The Earthlings are rioting.  The chimaera are in danger of extinction.  The Stelians are out to kill someone very important.  People are betrayed and slaughtered.  By the end, your head is reeling from everything that's gone wrong, but there's a last, desperate cheer for what's gone right.  It's also one of the few books in which I appreciated an epilogue, because it provides just enough hope to offset the shocking ending.  

concept . 4/5
Again, I take off points here because I felt that the whole plotline with the Stelians, which is intricately connected to Eretz' origin story, arrives from very tenuous foundations.  In book 2, we know the Stelians exist and refuse Joram's war.  That a Stelian was Akiva's mother.  And...well.  That's it.  So much devastating and plot-changing information comes out of their inclusion that I was disappointed with the lack of earlier set-up.  Taylor could have integrated them much more.  However, I also loved the way she stretched the concept of her seraphim and chimaera world to something grander and more devastating.  I won't much away, only that the elements are somewhat Lovecraftian and it brings Eretz and Earth together in ways that make their twinedness more sensical.  Within the more proximal plot of the war and the races, Taylor also does a great job of dealing with prejudice, persecution, violence, and change.  Her characters aren't good or evil.  They're changed immutably by what they've suffered.  Their sacrifices are tangible and lasting.  It's a profound view of war and its cost.  (However, must we really perpetrate the ugly-evil-villain trope?  Honestly.)  

characters . 5/5
These characters will live with me forever.  Karou is at her most powerful in this book.  She's accepted her duty and sacrifice.  She's also grown deeply, learned that duty doesn't mean unhappiness, that forgiveness is possible, that she is strong and capable on her own but that it's okay to rely on friends.  She's also much more aware of where she belongs.  Akiva becomes less mopey, which is a plus, and also gains back much of the wit and verve lost in book 2.  I would have liked to see more Ziri, but we did get much more characterization of Liraz, who's a new favorite for me.  The best was the continuing growth of Mik and Zuzanna.  Now embroiled in the struggle, they're deeply affected by their role, with good and bad scars.  They also play an integral part in Karou's plans and show their own strengths beyond their chimaera-approved duties.  None of the characters in this series are flat; but moreover, they're dynamic and changing.  They're people I'll miss and think about.  People I can't but wish were out there somewhere beyond the tears in the sky.  

style . 5/5
Can I gush more about Taylor's style?  It possesses the kind of easy beauty of a Dali painting, magical and surreal and clever and funny.  There are words you'll never see elsewhere that so perfectly capture Taylor's meaning, and descriptions more gorgeous than a photograph.  There's dark humor and dry wit, a hint of sappiness made not too saccharine by context.  There's a hint of Victorian ornateness, loads of Tolkein-esque precision, and a breathtaking atmosphere that is Taylor's through and through.  I could read her quotes over and over, and will again.  And moreover, it feels magical.  There's the feel of cool Halloween air and firefly-lit meadows and foreboding winds.  It's an atmosphere that lingers.  

mechanics . 5/5
I've complained of foreshadowing, but that's my main problem.  The book is fantastically polished.  Nothing seems excessive or slow.  There are no obvious places for trimming.  Every word feels carefully and distinctly chosen.  It's a masterpiece.  







Note: I purchased this copy.  The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.



2 comments:

  1. Wow you got that review done fast (not that I'm complaining I was eagerly awaiting your thoughts) and I completely agree about the Stellian subplot not being properly integrated it was a nice idea but it wasn't worked into the story as well as I would have liked though it took away from the story more for me than it did you even though I may have judged it a little too harshly. The novella night of cake and puppets is amazing though its really cute and in true Zuzanna rabid fairy fashion your going to love it!

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    Replies
    1. It actually came nearly a week after I finished the book, but I DID finish the book super quickly. I know, right? I think you judged right. It was just out of nowhere. I'm glad you liked the novella! This makes me even more excited to read it.

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