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Dreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini Taylor

Dreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini Taylor
Book Name: Dreams of Gods & Monsters
Author: Laini Taylor
Publisher(s): Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (US) Hodder & Stoughton (UK)
Formatt: Hardcover / Paperback / Audiobook / eBook
Genre(s): YA Urban Fantasy
Release Date: April 8, 2014 (US) April 17, 2014 (UK)

“Once upon a time, an angel and a devil pressed their hands to their hearts and started the apocalypse.”

And so begins Dreams of Gods & Monsters, Laini Taylor’s conclusion to the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy. The depth of this elaborately created world was realized only at the end and left me with wonder – of the goosebump variety. It did not have your typical YA happily-ever-after ending but one that is bittersweet and yet hopeful.

Where to start… I guess Earth would be the most familiar place – Prague, to be more specific. There we meet Karou, an art student who also has an unusual side job of collecting teeth, and wishes. She and her friends, Zuzana and Mik, are pulled into a world where angels and chimaera do battle, world-devouring monsters are held at bay by a thread, and resurrection magic allows for gleaned souls to be placed into newly-created chimaera bodies.

Karou is actually a blue-haired human raised unaware of her past life as a chimaera…who had fallen in love with a Misbegotten angel (Akiva). Together, they dreamt of a world where the two sides are not at each other’s throats. A bleak but fervent wish on a wishbone is followed by a life cut short when their relationship is found out. Then a devastating betrayal with more loved ones’ deaths widens the already huge gulf separating Karou and Akiva. Fate, it seems, has it out for these two.

In Dreams of Gods & Monsters, we are brought to the cusp of an inevitable war. What is not so certain is the alliance between Misbegotten seraphim and chimaera in facing a seraphim emperor who is as far from angelic as one can imagine. The ruling Dominion angels have revealed themselves to the human world in the form of a warning: “The Beasts…are coming for you.” And so, the world finds itself “stirred by a hot poker, and sparks of crazy were flying.”

Surprisingly at this stage, new characters are still being introduced. The book shifts from one unfolding story (Karou and Akiva) to another happening at the same time in the person of Eliza Jones, another repressed soul of forgotten memories. With new characters coming into play, layers and layers of history to reveal that explains the current mess, there is a lot of detail to grasp.

What I really loved, in the midst of all the intricate worldbuilding, was the universal themes of friendship, forgiveness, happiness, and self-sacrifice that require less explanation to understand and resounds with everyone—angel, chimaera, and humans alike. Everyone should have a friend like Zuzana, who is whimsical but fierce and steadfast to the end. Watching Akiva’s sister, Liraz—where bitter defiance bubbled at the surface—become merciful and forgiving after being touched by unlooked for kindness and love is beautiful to see.

Happiness is harder to come by and is found not to be “a mystical place to be reached or won…but something to carry doggedly with you through everything.” That is part of the hope that Karou and Akiva hold onto as they fulfill their responsibilities in the shaping of their new world, ignited by a wish.

Self-sacrifice—and there is a lot of it—is reflected best in the chimaera, Ziri, the other remaining member of Karou’s tribe who willingly gave up his identity in the hopes of bringing about a better world for his people. Silently suffering the hatred his enemy invokes and watching the one he loves pine for another, it is a relief to find that Ziri receives his reward in the end.

My main quibble with this final book was the very slow beginning, almost 200 pages slow. During tense moments or right in the thick of the action, we are made to pause and wait, while it is impressed upon us – at great length – just how momentous and dire the situation was. Thankfully, the other 400+ pages make up for the lengthy build-up as dimensions and history unfold to paint an astonishingly intricate and fantastical world.

The first two books in this trilogy were excellent. This one requires some patience at the beginning but will leave you deeply moved and wanting to return to this world again.


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