Novel: Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor | Goodreads
Release Date: April 8, 2014
Publisher: Little, Brown
Two worlds are poised on the brink of a vicious war. By way of a staggering deception, Karou has taken control of the chimaera’s rebellion and is intent on steering its course away from dead-end vengeance. The future rests on her.
When the brutal angel emperor brings his army to the human world, Karou and Akiva are finally reunited – not in love, but in a tentative alliance against their common enemy. 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.
But with even bigger threats on the horizon, are Karou and Akiva strong enough to stand among the gods and monsters?
The New York Times bestselling Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy comes to a stunning conclusion as – from the streets of Rome to the caves of the Kirin and beyond – humans, chimaera, and seraphim strive, love, and die in an epic theater that transcends good and evil, right and wrong, friend and enemy.
I’m not as big on fantasy as I used to be, because so much of it feels repetitive. Daughter of Smoke and Bone a few years ago pierced my veil of trope-induced numbness because I’d never read any fantasy as inventive or intoxicating: Prague, a blue-haired girl who collected languages and stole teeth, the monsters themselves. Not only is the concept phenomenal but the writing and masterful plotting embellish the narrative in all the right ways. I thought I’d lost the ability to be caught up in a book that claimed larger-than-life stakes or bargaining with the fate of the universe.
Although Daughter of Smoke and Bone came out a few years ago, each book is so esoteric that I couldn’t read the finale until I’d gone back and reread them (which I hadn’t managed to do until winter break of this year.) My history professor actually inspired this, because it was one of the few YA books she’s read. I’m notoriously awful at finishing series, because I don’t like grappling with the emotional impact of endings.
This series is based on another world, Eretz, with portals into our mortal one. In that other world, there are angels and chimaera, who have battled each other for control. Although the angels dominate, the chimaera have always had a secret: they have a resurrectionist, who can recreate their beastly bodies using a pain tithe and teeth.
Enter Karou. For years, she was just a human living in the mortal world, running errands (stealing teeth) for the chimaera family she visited often. But when she discovers that she’s actually a resurrected chimaera whose forbidden romance with an angel is largely responsible for the war, her entire world shatters — even more so when the angel she loved slaughtered her chimaera family. Now, she lives with the chimaera army, trying to stop the angels from invading the human world — their next target.
Each book in this series has done a marvelous job of complicating the previous ones — introducing characters and new threads that are distinct and full-bodied. Laini Taylor’s style includes clever cliffhangers at the end of each chapter and deft pivots between a range of voices, so my attention never wavered. The overall effect is cinematic. The tension and plot twists display such talent. All in all, it’s a stunning series for a whole host of reasons and I’m amazed by Laini Taylor’s ability to pull it off.
The third book (spoilers ahead!) begins post-angel invasion, and circulates through a ton of characters’ narrations. A pleasing omniscient narration also neatly tied up loose ends and lent a storybook-like air to it. There’s Eliza, the secretive scientist locked in a bitter rivalry, who’s running away from a recurring nightmare. Akiva, our passionate angel trying to end a fierce civil war. His sister Liraz, stony and unshakable. Karou and Zuzana. Jael and Razgut. The pure range of personalities, and how they mesh and compliment each other so well, adds such volume to the story, which is exciting on its own anyways. Taylor has a knack for knowing when to switch narrations so that it’s always fresh, and that skill magnifies the delicious tension underlining the whole book. She can also drop whole voices entirely, and isn’t afraid to kill off characters, ensuring that you’ll be yanked around emotionally the whole time.
The chimaeras and the angels tentatively join forces, but everyone in their makeshift army is uneasy. Karou’s bruised and somewhat traumatized by her experiences with the leader of the chimaera army. But she’s still the resurrectionist, building bodies to resurrect fallen chimaera soldiers who can best the angels.
It’s hard to put into words exactly how much there is in this book — so many plot threads, characters, and scope. It’s fully OTHERWORLDLY, and that’s the magic of it. It will sweep you up and swallow you. It goes back into the history of the characters, building up a stunning mythology. It has humanizing moments of painful conversations and regrets. And it also has the action: the failed plans, the complications, the fighting.
Because of that, the character dynamics are complicated and overwhelming in the best possible way. Although it’s intense and full of life-or-death situations, there are also moments that are funny and tender. I loved that my heart was always racing, and that the plot twists were never ending. It was one of the best series endings I’ve read in an outrageously long time.
The prose is absorbing and beautiful. The characters are complex and their relationships even more so. I became personally attached to the distinctness of each voice that Taylor used — so, so many people. Additionally, the cleverness of the plot cannot be overstated.
I don’t throw this around easily, but this is an epic series. I’m astounded by how well thought out everything was. It would take nothing short of brilliance to craft this narrative. It’s a lot, and so the pacing could lag a little at times, but Dreams of Gods and Monsters is an unquestionable success for me. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime kind of read.