“Once upon a time, an angel and a devil pressed their hands to their hearts and started the apocalypse.”
You know, I think maybe I am done trying to read series in real time. As much as it’s exhilerating to be collectively excited about the release of a next installment with a bunch of strangers around the world, there’s such a weird disconnect when you read multiple parts of one story a year or so apart. It can be super hard to immerse yourself in the story and its characters again, and when I’m confronted with a text that has a gap of a year or two inserted in the middle of it, I find I often can’t overcome that distance to fully enjoy the book. I have enough anxiety attacks about how I’ll never read all the books I want to read in my lifetime, so I often can’t justify rereading sometimes thousands of pages just so I can fully understand/appreciate the next chapter in the series. That is crazy talk. Some authors are able to subtly sneak in back story so you don’t feel too lost, and some are just so good at writing continuations that you don’t care if you feel a little foggy on the past details, (hello, Maggie Stiefvater!).
Which is a long, meandering way of saying that I felt a little bit lost for much of Laini Taylor’s Dreams of Gods and Monsters, and I think I probably would have liked it more if I had read the entire trilogy in one fell swoop rather than over the course of several years. So what is it about, anyways? Let’s see.
The Dominion, a host of seriously fascist Seraphim, has crossed through the portal between Eretz and Earth and set up camp in Rome to try to negotiate weapons so they can more effectively carry out their genocide of the Chimaera. Karou and Akiva are desperately trying to get his army of Misbegotten (bastard Seraphim bred to be soldiers) and her army of resurrected revenants to become allies so they can tear down Jael and his Dominion once and for all. Some human lady on earth is trying to sort through her life consuming nightmares of the apocalypse while also sorting through a mass grave of decaying Chimaera bodies that Karou (somewhat idiotically) just left to rot at their former Kasbah hideout. Plus death, dismemberment, and making out, etc.
OK, so overall: I dug this book. I enjoyed it when I was reading it, and I felt compelled to continue picking it up/content to sit and read it for long stretches of time. Did it blow me away like the first book? Alas, no, though that could be in part because it had been well over a year since I read the second book in the trilogy, Days of Blood and Starlight.
For one thing, the pacing felt a bit…weird. As in, for a 624 page book, not a whooooole hell of a lot happened. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t boring. However, at one point I paused and said to myself “I have read over one hundred pages and basically nothing has happened beyond everyone gab gab gab gabbing.” However, it did eventually pick up, so that reading the book felt a bit like pushing a big huge boulder up a hill, over summit, and watching it as it slowly picks up speed as it rolls down the other side. Things began to occur more and more quickly, until the conclusion came at almost a disorientingly fast pace.
Part of the reason I found the conclusion so disorienting, perhaps, is because of the introduction of the human character, Eliza, who opens a whole new can of plot worms that I’m not entirely sure were necessary. It seemed a bit…odd to introduce a brand new character and explore an entirely different race of Seraphim in the final chapter of the trilogy. Yes, there were connections between these new characters back to the first two books, but there just as easily could not have been. They just didn’t feel entirely necessary, and their part in the stories felt kind of weird and hastily mashed in there.
There were also times when I reeeaaallllyyyyy struggled with the language. I get that it’s a desperate situation, but repeatedly reading about Karou’s or Akiva’s hope getting extinguished in some really dramatic way really grated on my nerves. Because that’s the thing—it is a desperate situation they’re in, straddling the brink of two apocalypses in two different worlds, and so the story doesn’t need dramatic language to convey the desperation of the situation. It’s overkill, and it takes the writing away from the tone and style that made the first book so memorable and refreshing.
However, all that said: I DID LIKE THIS BOOK. I really did. I even gave it four stars on Goodreads. For all the melodrama and feeling kind of bewildered much of the time, I did get pretty damn into it. And yes, I realize that I am making it sound like I became a bit senile when I read this book, but that’s not true. I’m senile pretty much all the time. I’m going to be a pretty awesome ninety year old.
I loved every single part that involved Zuzana and Mik—any time they were part of a scene, the writing veered away from melodrama and back into the realm of the snark, which is exactly where I like it. I loved the final conclusion between Akiva and Karou. I loved all the comeuppance that was righteously served to the villains. I loved the moral grayness of the entire situation – there is a repeated return to the idea of whether good ends merit evil means, and whether an evil deed in the past means that you deserve pain in the present. There is enough magic and vividly painted visuals of alien dreamscapes to give the occasoinal goosebump, and all the various stories are concluded more or less satisfactorily. I may have wanted to see a bit more actual apocalyptic fighting and less negotiating, but hey. That’s just me.
For music, I chose “Fire, Flood & Plague” by High on Fire. I wanted something heavy and apocalypsey to go along with the SERIOUSLY EPIC battle between the Dominion and the allied Misbegotten/Chimaera. Because holy god damn shit, did that part give me actual goose bumps. (Seriously, let me just back this train up a bit and say the White Wolf climbing into the sky on the bodies of falling angels to keep chopping them into bits…holy shit.)
Where I got the book: The library
NEW! To keep the conversation going, we’ve added a blog hop to this review. That means that you can link up your own reviews to Dreams of Gods and Monsters, Days of Blood and Starlight, and Daughter of Smoke and Bone using the linky tool below.