Audiobook Review: Dreams of Gods & Monsters

15 04 2014

Dreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini Taylor (Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Bk. 3)

Read by Khristine Hvam

Hachette Audio

Length: 18 Hrs 11 Min

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Grade: C

Laini Taylor’s Dreams of Gods and Monsters was one of my most anticipated releases of spring 2014. I loved the first books in the series, particularly in audio. Taylor’s prose was like poetry come to life, dripping magic with every word, brought into life like music through the voice of Khristine Hvam. Even the angst filled forbidden love between Karou and Akiva, the star crossed angel and his lovely monster, managed to keep me entranced. Her world full of angles and demons, of battles spanning time, fate and worlds was unique in a genre filled with stilted cliches. I was anxiously awaiting the final ballad of the trilogy, the last burst of magic that would bring this story to it’s ultimate world changing climax.

Sigh…

I did not love Dreams of Gods and Monsters. Oh, the beauty and magic were still there, and Taylor’s writing still enthralls me, but the final chapter of this trilogy was 12 hours of angst interwove between 6 hours of story. There was stuff I did like. I really liked the new character of Eliza, a doctoral candidate who worked as the assistant for the scientist studying the genetic makeup of a discovered mass grave of Chimera, whose dark past hid secrets to her dreams of monsters and angels. Even though her story arch took some odd turns along the way, Taylor’s prowess at developing strong characters is on full display her. My major problem, beyond the long eloquent ruminations of fated love, was the way the plot was concluded. The Angel invasion into earth was anticlimactic at best. I applaud Taylor for trying to bring an nontraditional closure to this storyline, yet, it’s execution paled in comparison the nature of the set up. The large battle between the Seraphim and the joint rebel Angel and Chimera was totally Dues Ex Machina, even worse it was an off camera Dues Ex Machina in service of an unnecessary twist. All this blunted the tale, allowing the angst to become the driving force of the tale, instead of an influencing factor. Taylor explores some fascinating new physics concepts, adding more Lovecraftian spins and examining the nature between magic and science. It was a wonderful, beautifully formulated thought experiment, and if added in more detail to the earlier novels, or explored on its own in another book, I may have really digged it, but by the time these concepts were fully examined, I was so frustrated with the book and ready for it to end. All criticisms aside, Dreams of Gods and Monsters didn’t diminish my view on Taylor as a writer. It just didn’t offer what I was looking for in a conclusion. I am sure, those who love the tragic love tale between Karou and Akiva, will be thrilled by this ending. I was not one of those people.

As always, I have nothing but high praise for Khristine Hvam. More than once her reading of this novel gave me chills. I highly doubt I would have made it through the 18 hour production if it was read by a lesser narrator. Her performance is music, and beauty and humor in all the right places. I almost enjoyed the long soliloquies on love and fate… well, almost almost… well, not really, but at least there was a bit of sugar to help those bitter pills go down.

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3 responses

15 04 2014
Oddiophile

I feel much better after reading your review, Bob. I was feeling like the only one who was disappointed in the final book but you encapsulated almost everything I felt about the conclusion to this trilogy.

15 04 2014
theguildedearlobe

I was actually hesitant to post it, because every review I read seemed to love it. I just didn’t want to rain on anyone’s parade, and I know I’m not the target audience. But, I think it’s just as important to talk about things that didn’t work for you as those you absolutely love.

4 05 2014
wordyhughes

The resolution also didn’t work for me on many levels. I felt like the many new additions to the plot (Eliza and the Stelians) drew the focus away from the main conflict I was invested in: the chimaera/angel war. I was frustrated that most of the chimaera/angel war was resolved off-screen and treated as “By the way… this happened…” And I was also frustrated that Eliza and the Stelians were so incredibly powerful. Deus ex machina?

I also felt like we didn’t get much in terms of knowing what became of secondary characters, like Rath the Dashnag, or the deer girl refugees, or Amzallag and his family. Especially when we spend time in their POV, I feel like I’m owed some level of resolution there.

And a nod to Brimstone at the end would have been nice. Since so much of his work made peace possible. But I suppose I’m just going to have to be disappointed by this book’s resolution as a whole.

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