Friday 25 April 2014

#CBR6 Book 37: "Dreams of Gods and Monsters" by Laini Taylor

Page count: 624 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars

This is the third and concluding volume in a trilogy. I'm not sure I can actually review it without spoiling some of the previous books, so if you haven't read them, skip this for now. Do check out the previous two books, though, as they are YA fantasy at its best. Book 1, Daughter of Smoke and Bone is reviewed here, and book 2, Days of Blood and Starlight is here. I can also heartily recommend the companion novella Night of Cake and Puppets for those who have read the first two books, but possibly not discovered this delightful interlude giving us the first date of Zuzanna and her Violin Boy.

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

The last book, which was surprisingly dark and grim all the way through, considering how whimsical, mysterious and quite light the first book was. It certainly ended in a pretty dark and foreboding place, and the beginning of book three doesn't exactly promise puppies, kittens, sweetness and rainbows. Karou and Akiva have proposed an alliance between the remaining chimaera and the Misbegotten seraphs against Jael and his Dominion, and now they need to get both sides, enemies for millennia, to agree and accept. The fate of humanity and probably both their races is at stake. How can such an alliance be achieved, without bloodshed on either side? Even if they do succeed in forging a tentative detente, they are badly outnumbered against Jael's forces.

On Earth, the world is in uproar upon the arrival of angels. How is Eliza, a young grad student, plagued by horrible nightmares, connected with the visitors? Is it all an elaborate hoax? Who are the angels and what do they want? Why does their spokesman have such a strangely disfigured shadow?

Karou and Akiva are not aware that there are other challenges facing them as well. There is a mysterious and deadly young seraph queen hunting for Akiva, and the sky itself is starting to bruise. Will they ever live to see the fulfilment of their long ago dream, and is there any hope that with the fragile stalemate they are attempting to forge, they might also find a way to forgive each other?

I had massive expectations for this book, not helped in the slightest by Jen K's Cannonball review of the book. It was originally due for publication in 2013, but I'm glad the publishers gave Laini Taylor more time to complete the book, as concluding her trilogy was a monumental task. I'm so glad and relieved to say that it surpassed even my hopes. The book starts in a dark place, with the characters facing nearly impossible odds. Taylor alternates the story between Earth, our beloved protagonists in Eretz and other places in Eretz where its clear that seriously bad things are afoot. What in the world is powerful enough to bruise the sky? The sense of doom is so overpowering. I kept reading while nearly holding my breath, putting the book down every so often and reading something else, because if I didn't keep reading, bad things couldn't happen to the characters I loved. Of course, I wasn't able to stay away for long, reading on desperate to see what would happen next, and what incredible twists and turns Taylor would take the story in next.

There are new characters introduced here, and while it can seem frustrating to read about them at first, all the pieces fall into place in the end, in a beautiful jigsaw puzzle. The readers are finally allowed to discover how the portals between worlds occurred in the first place, and it makes the whole trilogy if possible even more tragic and poignant. I'm in awe of Taylor's writing, how she manages to keep the reader on edge, balancing the light and the dark, the funny with the sad, interspersing the heavy sense of doom with glimpses of hope and promises of redemption. There are no simple answers here. The characters feel real, with feelings, motivations and emotions. I cared deeply for them, and can't wait to go back and re-read the trilogy as a whole, seeing Taylor's ambitious fantasy vision played out in full.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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