Dreams of Gods and Monsters

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for earlier in this series. You can read my reviews of these novels here:

Daughter of Smoke and Bone | Days of Blood and Starlight | Night of Cake and Puppets

Dreams of Gods and Monsters was written by Laini Taylor and first published in 2014. It is a fantasy story that tells the continuing tale of two star-crossed lovers, and the world-spanning war between their people. The novel forms the final part of the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series, following Daughter of Smoke and Bone (2011), Days of Blood and Starlight (2012) and Night of Cake and Puppets (2013). As it carries on directly where these previous instalments left off, I would strongly recommend reading the books in sequence to have any idea of what is going on.

Karou has finally managed to seize control of the chimaera from the shadows, but it has come at a terrible cost. Thiago the White Wolf has been destroyed but his body is now inhabited by the soul of gentle Ziri, the last of the Kirin. Still, this is a small victory for Karou as it has enabled her to broker a tenuous alliance with Akiva and his rebel faction of Misbegotten. Although their numbers are few, they finally have a chance at defeating Jael once and for all.

However, it will not be easy. With the help of Razgut, Jael has led his army through the gate to Earth. His hope is to gain access to the humans’ weapons of mass destruction, and with them a way to destroy the chimaera forever. Yet his arrival sparks chaos all over the world. For the first time, humans have irrefutable evidence that angels exist. When Ziri’s demonic-looking original body is then found buried in a traditionally Muslim country, this excitement quickly turns to violence.

As Karou and her friends battle to save the chimaera, something worse still is brewing. Bruises are growing in the sky over the Far Isles and the Stelians know that it is a sign that something terrible is coming. They have the power to contain the threat, but the only way that they can do so is by hunting down the one who is responsible…

As a lover of Taylor’s writing, I have been putting off finishing this series for the better part of a year due to the fact that I was so worried that the ending would disappoint me. This is a really difficult review for me to write as I am sad to say that I struggled to get through this book.

I had braced myself for the fact that Taylor’s previous novels have all had a tendency to be slow burning. However, Dreams of Gods and Monsters seemed to take this a step further than the previous two instalments. There was an awful lot of sitting around before the chimaera returned to Eretz, and even more before the chimaera and Misbegotten manage to agree on a plan. Following this, there was another lull again before the plan was actually put into action. This was how the first three hundred pages of the novel was spent.

Even once the story felt as though it had started to move, there was still something that was somewhat anti-climatic about it. The story felt even more like a middle novel than Days of Blood and Starlight did, even though it marked the end of the series. It flitted between several groups of characters, including some key players who had not been truly introduced until now, and just seemed to be generally lacking in focus.

Yet, for all my gripes, Dreams of Gods and Monsters is still beautiful. Taylor’s prose, while occasionally purple, is deeply poetic and painted a haunting view of both Eretz and Earth. While the story could certainly be grim at times, it always carried the faint trace of hope and this what truly kept me reading. No matter what happened, it was easy to empathise with Karou and share her dream that, one day, the chimaera and Seraphim could live side by side. Even though I struggled to get through the novel at times, I never got to the point where I did not want to read on. After the heartbreak of Brimstone’s death in Daughter of Smoke and Bone and Ziri’s sacrifice in Days of Blood and Starlight, I was desperate to find out if there would ever be a happy ending for Karou and Akiva.

I also felt that some of the implications of the novel were fascinating. I love the scenes that just explored the reaction of the world at large to angelic beings suddenly landing in the Vatican. Taylor illustrates the reaction of the media and select secondary characters through a series of vignettes that captured their utterly realistic reactions. These ranged from ecstasy to violence, especially as different religions found themselves at loggerheads.

However, I was ultimately left feeling disappointed. The threat of Jael’s army on Earth is too easily dispatched and the novel did not take any time to explore what this meant for the chaos that their arrival had created. This major defeat also, surprisingly, occurred a hundred pages before the end of the novel. The remaining chapters were spent exploring the rise of an almost Lovecraftian new threat, yet did not leave enough time for the implications of this to be truly addressed or resolved. The result of this was a very rushed open-ending to the novel which made me wonder if Taylor has plans to revisit Eretz in one of her future books.

In terms of characterisation, Dreams of Gods and Monsters was very varied. I did feel that Karou’s forgiveness of Akiva, though something that had been building for a while, turned into passion a little too quickly. The vague love triangle that she had with Ziri in Days of Blood and Starlight was also quickly swept aside to make way for a budding relationship between Ziri and Liraz. While I did feel that this came entirely out of left field, especially as Liraz has previously only shown revulsion for chimaera, it did allow the Seraphim to gain a lot of personal growth over the course of this novel.

Yet, as always, it was Zuzana and Mik that really stole the show for me. I loved the way that their characters have evolved over the course of the series as this always felt totally natural, especially as they were forced to come to terms with some pretty terrible things. I also loved that they both had an important role to play with this story, ultimately becoming instrumental in saving the day. As the only major human characters in the tale, this is certainly no mean feat.

My biggest disappointment was the villains. Jael is neutralised far to easily in this story, and Razgut once again largely escapes without punishment. For me, this was a huge disappointment as I felt they deserved more of a climax. While we do finally learn who Razgut was before his fall, this ultimately does not have much of an impact on the story. In fact, the whole subplot involving Eliza and Razgut’s surprising shared history really felt a little tacked on. While it helped to further build the mythos of Taylor’s world, it felt more as though it was the seed of a future story than an essential part of this one.

I think that about covers everything. All in all, I was left disappointed by Dreams of Gods and Monsters. Although I adore both Daughter of Smoke and Bone and the Strange the Dreamer series, this novel was just lacking. Still, there is something beautiful about Taylor’s writing style and I am still incredibly excited to see what she will write next.

Dreams of Gods and Monster can be purchased as a Paperback, eBook and Audio Book on Amazon.co.uk

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