Dreams of Gods & Monsters is the third and final installment of Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy. I read this trilogy as it came out, which was painful, as I had to wait for her to write #2 and then #3. The story is exciting enough that it was hard to wait, and by the time the new one came out, I'd half-forgotten what had happened in the previous book. So good news for those of you who haven't discovered the trilogy yet: you can binge-read it all at once!
The trilogy is in the tradition of the angel-demon story. I didn't realize "angel-demon story" was a thing, but I talked to a guy in a bookstore and hey presto, turns out it's a thing. I've never read another angel-demon story so I can't say how this compares, I just know I loved it. We follow the story of Karou, a blue-haired artist in Prague (see: Czech Republic, see: Earth), and Akiva, an angel from another planet. There's an intra-universe war going on, and the two are on opposite sides of the conflict, setting us up for a pretty traditional Romeo-and-Juliet plotline. Because there are so many reveals and twists just in the first book, I don't want to get into details, but you could think of it as a fantasy/sci-fi mix. The angels in this world are, like the angels of Dr. Who, not exactly divine. They're an alien species, as are the demons.
|Fan art: A chimaera saving an angel|
Laini Taylor is not your average genre writer. She was a National Book Award finalist for this story collection, and her writing generally could be described as poetic. She knows how to use language, and is as interested in elegant, evocative word choice as in plot structure. That said, I have to confess there are shades of Twilight here. Akiva can occasionally become a little Edward Cullen-ish, though thankfully Karou is never anything like Bella. Still, the story gets bogged down a bit in breathless descriptions of Akiva's fabulous angel beauty, and in the explosive passion between the starcrossed pair. I thought the whole thing worked much better when the two were separated. The second book, Days of Blood & Starlight, is probably the strongest of the three for this reason. The third book, which I'm doing a terrible job of reviewing (I'm really reviewing the trilogy) is the weakest of the three, but it is still a strong book. Many trilogies utterly fall apart by the final book (I'm lookin' at you, Allegiant), but the problems of Dreams of Gods and Monsters are not major pitfalls. Taylor goes in some unexpected but not implausible directions, and as I got to the last 20 pages I confess I got a little sniffly. I found the conclusion very satisfying.
Now, this series has attracted a rabid fanbase, and is slated to become a movie. Yet I am the only person I know (except my daughter) who has read it. When I tell people about it, nobody's even heard of it. I find that odd. How can a series be so beloved and yet so obscure? It's been around for a couple years now, so I don't think novelty is the issue. Perhaps things will change when the film comes out.
Personally, I can't wait for the movie. I just hope they cast someone other than Shailene Woodley as Karou.
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