Review: Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor

3 April, 2014 Reviews 12 comments

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini TaylorDreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor
Series: Daughter of Smoke and Bone #3
Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers on 8th April 2014
Pages: 528
Genres: Apocalyptic, Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, Young Adult
Format: eBook
Source: NetGalley
Amazon Good BooksBook Depository

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.

But 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.

***There may or may not be spoilers here. It all depends upon whether or not you’ve read the last two books, and if you want absolutely nothing about the end revealed or not. I keep things vague, and do not give away any details, but mentioning the conclusion at all could potentially ruin things for you.*** 

Once upon a time, there was a girl. She lived in a city of wonder, behind an inauspicious door, in a refuge for beasts. She ached from something missing, but cherished her strange life just the same.

This girl eventually found love in a killer, who left her adrift yet also helped her find herself. She was given joy and had it stolen. She abandoned comforts to raise an army, to atone for her sins. She sacrificed what she could and wished for the impossible. Her heart ached and her mind hated. She dreamt of worlds as she destroyed them.

Once upon a time, there was a boy. He lived in a world divided, behind a uniform face, in an army of thoughtless obedience. He had once imagined a different way, but his happiness had been torn from him, and all that was left had been void.

This boy found love rekindled in a dreamer, who offered redemption in her smile and acceptance in her touch. He gave joy and stole it away. He abandoned order to seek a new path, to atone for his crimes. He sacrificed what he could and wished for the impossible. His heart fractured and his mind rebelled. He dreamt of worlds as he tried desperately to heal them.

This girl and this boy suffered, as did all of those around them whom they loved. Yet through it all they hoped, and through it all so we did too, as we followed this brave girl and this fearless boy through their trials.

And so here we are at last. After pages of heartache and joy, delight and whimsy, sorcery and mayhem, Karou and Akiva’s journey has come to an end.

It is a sad thing, to say farewell to characters and worlds that we have come to treasure, to love. But endings are inevitable, and the best that we can do is hope and pray that these creators of tiny universes lower the curtain upon a epilogue that pleases both hearts and minds, that provides the satisfaction of great endings while also promising the mystery of new beginnings that we may not ever bear witness to but will nonetheless remember.

Endings are creatures all their own, tricksters and monsters that are asked to do the impossible. They divide. They polarize. They stir controversy and spark dissention. With so many lives, so many stories to bring to an irrevocable, irreversible conclusion, an author has a great many responsibilities to juggle as they face the sheer impossibility of fulfilling every expectation and wild hope of the adoring fan.

I say this as a means of warning. Was I satisfied with this final installment in Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy? I was. Will everyone be? Absolutely not. I will make it clear, here and now, that this review is not a particularly unbiased or critical one in the end. My rating is first and foremost an emotional call, and overrules every one of the issues that I have with this book.

No, Dreams of Gods and Monsters is not perfect. Ultimately, it feels rather messy in its structure, both as its own work and as part of a series, and I attribute this primarily to the fact that I think that Taylor simply tried to do too much with too little. With Days of Blood and Starlight, she drastically expanded the scope of her already expansive story, leaving a wealth of narrative possibilities and intriguing plotlines to explore. And, in the end, one more book was simply not enough to adequately address all of these ideas.

If she had focused only on preexisting tales, it may have been another matter entirely. However, Taylor uses this last installment to push the breadth and depth of her worldbuilding and plotting even further, so much so that this last book feels almost equally the start of some new series as it does the ending to one already established.

It’s all very interesting, but it comes so late in the telling that, in many ways, the final few chapters feel rushed and far too open-ended to work well. Taylor, in effect, has spent the entirety of the previous two books emphasizing one major conflict in dire need of resolution, before revealing at the very last minute that there are even bigger things to worry about. And because she leaves us no time to explore these new horizons before everything comes to a close, it’s all very jarring.

In relation to this is the introduction of a few new characters, who ultimately have a very important part to play but feel rather intrusive until the end, when their final (and, given this being the last book, almost pointless to the reader) place within the grand narrative is revealed. Of them all, the most notable is Eliza, who provides an earthbound (and very human) perspective to Jael’s invasion while the rest of the cast remains in Eretz. Her function and purpose becomes increasingly clear as things progress, and her point of view gives Taylor a chance to explore some remarkably heavy themes, including belief, faith, fanaticism, and the very nature of religion itself.

And while it’s all very intriguing, and very much an organic part of the story as left off by the previous book, these interludes always manage to feel unwelcome. In a series’ last act, readers want to spend as much time as they can with those characters that they have known the longest. They want to know what happens to those that they have stuck with since the beginning, to go on one final journey with them before they must forever say goodbye, and so adding these strangers so late into the story seems a violation of the world that we have come to share with these people, no matter how vital these newcomers’ purpose may be.

Devoting so many pages to new developments means that there isn’t much time left over for the wrapping up of those already present, and so several of the larger storylines left so tantalizingly open at the conclusion of Days of Blood and Starlight come to a close rather anticlimactically, through what appear to be easy fixes and sudden turnarounds. As a result, much of the pain and horror that left us all bereaved in the last installment ends here with a whisper rather than a bang around three-quarters of the way through, leaving the final handful of chapters to grapple with a surprisingly (perhaps even unbelievably) happy ending alongside the aforementioned introduction of an entirely new plot that we will, of course, never see come to pass. Potential is wasted, and events that seemed so very important in the past lead to nothing.

And so, when I really consider it, Dreams of Gods and Monsters is not a particularly well-made finale or story in its own right. It’s awkward, cluttered, forced, blunt, and simply at odds with both itself and its predecessors.



…despite everything that works against this book, there is magic. There is magic because, no matter how problematic it may be from a theoretical, critical perspective, the emotion behind the words consistently rings true. Because all I really wanted from this last trip to Eretz was a diamond-dusted fairytale ending for all of our heroes, no matter how unrealistic such an outcome may seem, and that is precisely what I got. Because for every development or turn in the tale that seemed wrong in its execution, the final outcome had enough emotion behind it to make me laugh, or cry, or do a bit of both.

And that, I think, is what is ultimately important here. Who cares if the journey is rough, so long as the destination is worthwhile? Who cares if the plot was in many ways too inconclusive and too focused on new ideas? Who cares if the happily-ever-after seemed unrealistic after all of the bloodshed that we have toiled through? Who cares if many a potentially fascinating narrative thread seemed to go to waste?

Well, on some level, I do. Many others will care, and will likely be left unhappy. But, for all of that, Dreams of Gods and Monsters still captures perfectly all that has made this series special: gorgeous prose, a delicious sense of humor, a championing of love and life alongside all that is bittersweet and melancholy, and a sense of wonder and charm that makes you reluctant to leave its pages. It’s all here in abundance, flaws be damned.

So, though I picked this poor novel apart, I applaud Taylor for ending it all as she did. It works. It works well. She made some interesting (some may say poor, some may not) decisions, yes, but she was kind enough to bid adieu in a manner that is both expected and unexpected, bright and dark, perfect and problematic. It is very much a final goodbye, but also a small glimpse of a future that we may never be a part of. Whether or not she decides to add to this trilogy of hers (and, oh, there is plenty of potential and plausibility for her doing so) and give us that chance, I can tell you with certainty that what we have been given here and now is – for me, anyway – enough.


To Conclude… 

Dreams of Gods and Monsters is, objectively, a bit of a mess, but it is far too earnest to be unsatisfying. Many of you will disagree, I am sure. That is, of course, to be expected, and I do not fault you a bit. But there is a magic, a love, a wonder to the story that makes it work despite its issues, and for that I am grateful and happy.

So, farewell, blue-haired girl of teeth. Farewell, angel of honeyed eyes and regret. Farewell, pixie of sharp wit and puppetry. Farewell, violin boy, lucky orphan, bitter soldier. Farewell, smoke and bone, blood and starlight, gods and monsters. It was quite a journey.

And it was really, truly beautiful.

Paul Beimers

Paul Beimers

Reviewer at Cuddlebuggery
A reviewer, blogger and trope enthusiast who isn't nearly as consistent with his reading as he should be.

12 Responses to “Review: Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor”

  1. Andye

    Wow! This review captures my feelings for this book SO MUCH!! This was seriously one of the most perfect posts I’ve ever read. I feel like you just took all my feelings and gave them all the pretty words. Yes. This. Exactly.

    I will tell you, Laini said that she had a spin-off series in mind when she wrote the book, which is pretty obvious. So I hope that actually ends up happening. 😀
    Andye recently posted…My House is Kind of a LibraryMy Profile

    • Paul Beimers

      Your kinds words mean a lot. I have the feeling that this novel is going to prove a rather polarizing ending for fans, and so I am waiting for the inevitable backlash that will likely appear once it is given its wide release.

      I certainly would not mind a spin-off series, though I would rather she expand this trilogy and add directly to it rather than devote new stories to other characters. There is simply so much left unfinished! Still, I am all for any continuation of this franchise, regardless of what form it may take.

  2. Lauren @ Love is not a triangle

    (This might contain SPOILERS, sorry!) Oh dear. I’m one of the poor people who saw the mess this was and lost the magic in the process. This ending crushed me under the weight of disappointment, and you outlined it all perfectly. The extra story lines introduced that were suddenly Very Important in the last 15%, the fact that even with a 600+ page book, this story was too much for its page count, the anticlimactic resolution to most of the problems from the first two books. I just couldn’t work my way out from under the pile of debris. I was especially devastated for our original star crossed lovers whom I felt were completely jipped in the end. They were cast aside in favor of two characters and a new nation that I truly didn’t care about at all. Even the epilogue didn’t appease me. My emotions went the other way of yours, unfortunately. I’m happy that this worked for you though and I hope it does for most people. But I was so sure this was for me. Unfortunately, a week later, I’m still licking my wounds.
    Lauren @ Love is not a triangle recently posted…A short breakMy Profile

    • Paul Beimers

      I absolutely understand. Really, I am rather surprised that I still enjoyed this finale as much as I did despite the issues that I found within it. If it were any other book, I would like as not have given a lower rating, but Taylor will forever be an exception to whatever rules I may have in place as a reviewer.

      I imagine that there will be plenty of others who will feel the same way as you, and I hate to see fellow fans unsatisfied and disappointed. I feel as though I got lucky here, as by every right I shouldn’t be as happy with this conclusion as I am. Somehow it all worked for me, emotionally if not intellectually, but I can undoubtedly empathize with anyone who ultimately does not feel the same.

  3. Paola Carolina

    Great review Paul! I agree that the story was all over the place but I really didn’t care. I tend to get lost in Laini Taylor’s beautiful sentences so the insanity that transpired in the last 20% of the book didn’t bother me. I’m biased when it comes to this series but I loved every second of this last book.

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