Thursday, April 17, 2014

Celebrating Dreams of Gods and Monsters... by reviewing its predecessor

Noo, I'm not cosplaying as Natalie Portman in Black Swan, whatever made you think that? 

Laini Taylor's "Dreams of Gods and Monsters" launches today in the UK, thus officially concluding her bestselling "Daughter of Smoke and Bone" trilogy. Remember that? The uber-awesome book that had everyone falling over themselves. Can you believe we're finally saying goodbye to Karou?

No? Are you surprised we're even talking about it, because "Days of Blood and Starlight" got so little play?

If you're like me, you're prolly on the fence. I loved "Daughter of Smoke and Bone," despite an underwhelming third act that pretty much threw the entire plot dynamic off, but I got intimidated by the lackluster reviews of the sequel, so much so I didn't pick it up until months after its release, and didn't really review.

Well! I did read it, and guess what? I liked it despite my lowered expectations. Maybe I liked it a little more than the first book. So, in preparation for "Dreams of Gods and Monsters" (and in celebration of uber-long titles!) I bring you today my belated review of the middle book, along with my attempts to make a cover-seemy image (since I don't actually have time to get a blue wig.)

"Days of Blood and Starlight" picks off a little while after the end of the first book, with teeth disappearing everywhere, Akiva being emo, and Karou working her ass off trying to build the Chimera rebellion after... what happened in the previous book.

Can you tell there'll be spoilers? Because there will be spoilers.

While the Chimera try to pick themselves up, though, the Seraph Empire is about to suffer its own little shock, with Akiva and his siblings being dragged smack dab in the middle of a court intrigue. 

Got all that? Okay, let's get cracking on this review.

I loved the characters, maybe a little more than I did in the first book. Karou and Akiva are much changed by their experiences, their dynamic thrown off by anger, bitterness, and guilt. They're also part of a much larger cast, and much larger games - which could or could not piss you off, depending on your mileage. It's true that, for the biggest part of the plot, Karou and Akiva are not so much proactive as they are reactive - they're always part of a bigger plan, pawns in the hands of much more ambitious players - but given the way the previous book ended, and how things are set up in this one, I actually think it's a natural part of the plot.

And yes, "Days of Blood and Starlight" most certainly lives up to its name. There is enough violence and gore and emotional manipulation to make me set this down, several times, and go for a long walk, because really, it's unpleasant as all! Again, though - part of the package.

I think my enjoyment of the books in this series is strongly affected by my worldview. Back when I started the series, I was still fairly naive and simplistic in my outlooks on books and relationships and... everything. I had certain notions that love conquers all and that most conflict can be rationed away. I didn't realize the extent to which we, as humans, are irrational, and how our experiences affect our relationships. 

Similarly, Karou starts off the series as a very sheltered (yes, sheltered) girl - a very mature girl, a girl who has had a beyond-weird upbringing - but a sheltered one nonetheless. She's fairly naive and has only recently began to grasp the extent of nastiness that the world has to offer. 

It's not until she gets through the shock that is the ending of "Daughter of Smoke and Bone" that she realizes the world is not at all as she expected it to be, and she naturally goes through a crisis of self. And yes, it can be exasperating and tedious for a reader, but this is Karou's journey, and I think it was a realistic one.

And personally, I can't wait to see what is in store for her next.

I leave you with that, and a few more images of my attempts at being fangirly below. 

Note: Book cover images via BookLikes. Other images copyrighted by me.

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