Cake and Godstars || Dreams of Gods and Monsters Review

Initial Thoughts:

*sobs* This was a love-hate. I love-hate myself for love-hating the last book of what I found as a terribly beautiful trilogy. And it was SO GOOD. Up until I got around 200 pages of story that got thrown in there just to make people SUFFER. So I’m crying inside here. I can’t help it, because I really wanted to love this book more. Ugh. Maybe I’ll be able to say better things once I’ve thought about it a bit.

I LOVE LIRAZ POV THO?


DREAMS OF GODS AND MONSTERS

by Laini Taylor
Little, Brown & Company, April 2014
YA fantasy, romance, supernatural
Rated: 3.5 / 5 cookies

Two worlds are poised on the brink of a vicious war. By way of a staggering deception, Karou has taken control of the chimaera’s rebellion and is intent on steering its course away from dead-end vengeance. The future rests on her.

When the brutal angel emperor brings his army to the human world, Karou and Akiva are finally reunited – not in love, but in a tentative alliance against their common enemy. It is a twisted version of their long-ago dream, and they begin to hope that it might forge a way forward for their people. And, perhaps, for themselves.

But with even bigger threats on the horizon, are Karou and Akiva strong enough to stand among the gods and monsters?

An epic war and an epic alliance

**Note: Here be spoilers of the previous two books.

Make no mistake, I think Laini Taylor is a godstar in her own right. I admire her writing, and I will recommend this trilogy over and over again, even with my frustrations in Dreams of Gods and Monsters. In DoGaM, we get the conclusion to a war between angels and demons and for the most part, a resolution to all the shipping that’s been happening since book one (I’m looking at YOU, Akiva and Karou!). Joram, the seraphim Emperor, is dead, as is Thiago, the chimaera Warlord. To continue the charade, Ziri poses as Thiago with the help of Karou and her close friends. Meanwhile, on the seraph’s side, Akiva leads his contingent of Misbegotten against a more formidable foe: his uncle, the deformed and cruel Jael. Without the idea of working together, both armies–Misbegotten and chimaera–are doomed to fail. But slowly and slowly, Akiva and Karou’s dreams of peace and cohabitation become a reality.

But not without a bit of struggle and a ton of butthurt feelings.

Always. XD

Like Taylor’s previous two books, there is a slow-burn story in the making, and while at this rate I would normally object the pacing–because I mean, come on, between the first book and the second, can we get to the action already?–I didn’t mind so much because Taylor is just such a lovely wordsmith. It doesn’t work as greatly in this book as it did in the previous two, but I appreciated it nonetheless, and I found that she fleshed out the other characters so well.

Liraz felt…guilty.

It was not her favorite feeling. Her favorite feeling was the absence of feeling; anything else led to turmoil…

She hadn’t felt their magic drill its sick ache through her for the entire time that they’d been encamped here. And that was why she was angry. Because they weren’t giving her a reason to be angry.

Feelings. Were. Stupid.

I loved Liraz’s development. And I absolutely loved that she gets a bit more POV in this book. Ever since Haz in the second book (OH GOD I STILL CRY INSIDE FOR THAT), Liraz has gone through a roller coaster ride in emotional turmoil. Yes, Akiva has, too, but Liraz took longer to persuade to make nice with the demons. But when it comes down to it, Liraz is a stalwart and loyal ally and I would never want to be on the receiving end of her anger.

Laughter and helpless grins, a swift breaking down of barriers. No one could hold out long against Haz. Her own gift, she thought with an inward shudder, was very different, and unwelcome in the future they were trying to build. All she was good at was killing.

She’s also badass. Like…seriously. So badass.

…Another moment, and they might have kissed.

But Ellai was a fickle patroness and had failed them–spectacularly–before. Karou didn’t believe in gods anymore, and when the door crashed open, there were only Liraz and the Wolf to blame for it.

“Well,” Liraz said, her voice as dry as the rest of her was not. “At least you still have your clothes on.”

And hilarious in her own dry humor. And yeah. Okay. I totally just threw in as many Liraz quotes I could find. Because I fangirl her.

“We haven’t been introduced. Not really.”

I also fangirl the fact that Liraz follows in the whole “demon-loving” route that her brother Akiva had undergone. In this case, there’s a recurring exchange between Ziri and Liraz that made me giggle like a schoolgirl because they are just. So. Damn. ADORABLE. Even near the end I was hoping things would work out.

“It might turn us both into Japanese men.” She squinted at him. “Would you still love me if I were a Japanese man?”

“Of course,” said Mik, without missing a beat.

Also, more Zuzana and Mik antics. They’re always a hoot and a half and a welcome cool breeze amidst all the warring and hating on each other.

So with all of this awesomeness, what went wrong?

To be honest, this story did not need to be 600 pages. Everything could have wrapped up nicely in 300, with the end of Jael and his Dominion, with the combination and alliance pulling through in victory. IT WAS FEASIBLE, YOU GUYS.

But nope. NOOOOPE. Deus ex machina happened, and an entirely new story got thrown in by the last 200-300 pages.

Several new characters got introduced, and yes, it helped build the world around them, and honestly, if I wasn’t already so invested in the characters in the previous books, I might have liked Eliza and Scarab. But as is, I found that I was skimming through most of Eliza’s chapters and rolling my eyes with the whole Stelian plotline. It could have been a completely different book, and a spinoff to the trilogy. The ending became super-anticlimactic to me, because most of the resolution was finished 100 pages or so before the damn epilogue. And I will say I didn’t read the epilogue. Not for a while. Because I knew if I read it, I would probably have chucked the book across the room or something, and I wouldn’t want to do that because I loved the first two books and the first 300 pages of DoGaM so much. So. Much.

3.5 out of 5 cookies! I would still recommend this book, for Liraz and Ziri and Zuzana and Mik. For Akiva, who’s still pretty awesome, even in his broody, angry form. And for Karou, who’s still got a lot of resurrecting ahead of her.


Have you read this book (and this trilogy)? What did you think?

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Hope within a Thurible || Days of Blood and Starlight Review

Initial Thoughts: 

Dead. I have died and Karou needs to exist to glean my soul into a thurible so she can resurrect me as a monster. This book hurts so much it’s a miracle that I’VE not learned the power of invisibility (because in the book, magic is caused by a sort of pain). And OH MY GOD, WHAT HAVE THEY ALL DONE.

Dead, I tell you. Dead.


DAYS OF BLOOD AND STARLIGHT

by Laini Taylor
Little, Brown Books, November 2012
YA fantasy, paranormal
Rated: 4.5 / 5 cookies

Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a world free of bloodshed and war.

This is not that world.

Art student and monster’s apprentice Karou finally has the answers she has always sought. She knows who she is—and what she is. But with this knowledge comes another truth she would give anything to undo: She loved the enemy and he betrayed her, and a world suffered for it.

In this stunning sequel to the highly acclaimed Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Karou must decide how far she’ll go to avenge her people. Filled with heartbreak and beauty, secrets and impossible choices, Days of Blood & Starlight finds Karou and Akiva on opposing sides as an age-old war stirs back to life.

While Karou and her allies build a monstrous army in a land of dust and starlight, Akiva wages a different sort of battle: a battle for redemption. For hope.

But can any hope be salvaged from the ashes of their broken dream?

Let me talk to you first about how Daughter of Smoke and Bone broke me just a bit.

A while back, I’d read Daughter of Smoke and Bone and was practically heartbroken by the end, because not only was the setup to the next book so positively cliffhangery, there was just so much sadness in the wake of so much happiness and DAMMIT LAINI TAYLOR WHY WOULD YOU WRENCH MY HEARTSTRINGS SO?!

That was three years ago. I’ve since been so utterly inspired by Laini Taylor that not only have I baked my way through Prague, I went and lived the dream. I went to Prague, and solely because I wanted to live in Karou’s shoes, even for a little while. Smoke and Bone was such an integral part of my desire to travel to fictional and non-fictional worlds, and once more, Days of Blood and Starlight delivered on that level.

The kasbah was a castle built of earth, one of the hundreds that studded these southern reaches of Morocco, where they had baked in the sun for centuries. Once, they had been home to warrior clans and all their retinue. They were primeval fortresses, proud and red and tall, with crenellations like the hooked teeth of vipers, and arcane Berber patterns etched on the high, smooth walls.

I was transported to Morocco, to its heat and desert sands, to Marrakesh and Ouarzazate and Ait Benhaddou. For a brief moment, I lived in an Eretzian sandcastle filled with monsters, and I followed angels to the heart of its seraphim empire in Astrae.

And by all the godstars, I’ll be damned if I don’t go to Morocco as one of my vacation destinations.

Warning: Now here’s the part where you might want to turn away if you don’t like spoilers. Because as this is the second installment of a trilogy, expect me to be talking about things happening in the first book.

Blood and Starlight continues the story of Daughter of Smoke and Bone and opens back in Prague, where most of the supernatural events occurred, making the public aware that angels exist. Talk of the blue-haired Karou continues, and in the eve of it, Zuzana wonders what’s happened to her best friend. While the media and the public eventually die down in search of the flying blue-haired girl (and onto supernatural teeth-thieves), it is not so in Eretz.

Eretz is rife with war, and it gets worse now that Thiago is back and exacting vengeance upon the chimaera’s slavers: the seraphim. On the other side stands Akiva, the Beast’s Bane, and his seraphim brothers and sisters, fighting a war that never seems to end.

If the first book was merciless in its depiction of the casualties of endless warfare, this second book takes it to a brutally higher level. Days of Blood and Starlight is DARK. And BLEAK. And TERRIBLY VIOLENT.

“Dead souls dream only of death. Small dreams for small men. It is life that expands to fill worlds. Life is your master, or death is. Look at you. You are a lord of ashes, a lord of char. You are filthy with your victory…You are lord of a country of ghosts, and that is all that you will ever be.”

I don’t think there’s a more perfect quote to describe Eretz in this story as the quote above. The world is bleak, and there’s a lot of blood spilled on both sides, painting a world where neither seraphim nor chimaera are innocent of their actions. And to top it off, Karou and Akiva are on the opposite sides of the spectrum, their parting of ways in Smoke and Bone one filled with hatred and sorrow. Honestly, I found myself putting this book down very often, because of the star-crossed lovers trope, because it’s clear that Laini was going to use everything in her power to keep these two separate in a bleak story of war where characters are hanging onto the tiniest sliver of hope.

You’re not going to find any Akiva-Karou quotes in this review, because I die inside over and over again reading those passages. DAMMIT JUST GET BACK TOGETHER ALREADY, YOU GUYS.

So let me keep going. There are characters in Blood and Starlight that get a bit more limelight. Besides Karou and Akiva, there are several little POVs that reflect the thoughts of various characters in the book. Liraz, Ziri, as well as Zuzana and Mik are given POV scenes, which adds to the story. Occasionally I found this a bit distracting, because here I am, reading and captivated by a scene, and suddenly, instead of Karou or Akiva’s POV in the next chapter, I got a fistful of other characters. I got used to it by the end, and by that point, I was actually relieved to find some of the breakage in Karou and Akiva POVs. There’s only so much heartbreak I could take after all.

“Is life worth keeping on with, whatever happens?”

“Yes,” he said, wary, thinking of the thurible, and Karou. “As long as you’re alive, there’s always a chance things will get better.”

“Or worse,” said Liraz.

“Yes,” he conceded. “Usually worse.”

Hazael cut in. “My sister, Sunshine, and my brother, Light. You two should rally the ranks. You’ll have us all killing ourselves by morning.”

And can I just talk about how much I love Akiva’s Misbegotten siblings? It was hard to gauge Liraz and Hazael in Smoke and Bone, because their first appearance was out of anger and hatred for chimaera. Liraz and Hazael came down to kill Karou–as had Akiva, really–only to be thwarted by their Misbegotten brother. It was a blow to Liraz and Hazael, because Akiva was the closest half-brother they had, hence there’s a lot of tension in the beginning of Blood and Starlight. Past that, though, the twin seraphim are closer in thought to Akiva than Akiva expected, and honestly, I found this the best relationship of siblings ever.

“Neek-neek, afraid? I don’t believe it.” There was a ferocity in the tiny Zuzana that had started Virko calling her neek-neek, after a growlsome breed of shrew-scorpion known for facing down predators ten times its size.

And, of course, there’s no talking about the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy without Zuzana. Zuzana is seriously THE BEST ever. She’s a human with a healthy curiosity and a loyalty to Karou that defies worlds. At this point, she’s already hooked up with Mik, a violinist, and the two of them–mostly Zuzana–spend a great deal of their time in Prague in search of Karou’s whereabouts. The beginning chapters have some hilarious emails from Zuzana asking if Karou is dead, and I swear, without her and Mik bringing a bit of humor and wonder and excitement into this book, there wouldn’t be much of a silver lining anywhere else. (Well, maybe Hazael. Hazael was a peach, too.)

There was a note…in archaic Seraphic, in a feminine hand, and stamped with a wax seal depicting a scarab beetle: Thank you, but we must respectfully decline your overture, being more enjoyably occupied at present.

A lot of Blood and Starlight–which seems to be the case for most second books of trilogies–was leading up to an even greater conflict that would not only involve chimaera versus seraphim, but also humans and monsters, and angels against angels. I was a bit of a mess by the end of the book, because a TON of shit happens, and Karou and Akiva are forced together in light of a common enemy. Which means they’re at close proximity, BUT DAMMIT LAINI WHY ARE THEY STILL NOT SNOGGING EACH OTHER?!

Uh, okay. I got a bit heated there. Don’t mind me.

By the end of Blood and Starlight, I’m wondering many things. I want to know about Stelia, about Akiva’s explosively potent magic, and most of all, I definitely want to know how two different armies will try to coexist.

Also…I’m going to have to scrounge up some Moroccan-inspired foods at some point.

4.5 out of 5 cookies! Ugh, if my ship sails and sinks by the end of the third book, I might very well be inconsolable.


Have you read this book? What did you think?

Praha: Living in Daughter of Smoke and Bone

daughterofsmokeI will say right now that my decision to spend a few days in Prague last July was largely brought on by the beautiful writings of one author. I’m talking about Laini Taylor, and by her writing, I’m talking about Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I’d previously reviewed the book last year, and I was so smitten by the setting (which encompassed a wide array of places, actually) that I found myself imagining that I was sitting near where Karou had been sitting in her Poison Kitchen, or walking across Charles Bridge just trying to get to class. It’s one thing to imagine and live vicariously through your favorite fictional characters, quite another to actually have the opportunity to live it, even for a short time.

And oh boy, when Opportunity came knocking, I opened the door so wide he had no choice but to step into my threshold to enjoy a pot of tea and freshly-baked kolaches, while I went ahead and packed my bags.

Admittedly, I was with a tour group, so it was much harder to get away and linger in Prague by my lonesome. I did have a full day to myself, which I took advantage of by traipsing the possible places Karou could have gone.

They paid good money for Kaz’s “ghost tours,” which consisted of being herded through the tangled lanes of Prague in the dark, pausing at sites of supposed murders so “ghosts” could leap out of doorways and make them shriek. – Pg. 3

There weren’t any ghosts jumping out of doorways and alleys, but traipsing the old Jewish Quarter at night certainly had no end in creepiness. The guide for my “ghost tour” was dressed up like Death, though, and he had a great deal of stories about the area. A particular favorite was one about a sleeping golem hidden upon the rooftops of the Jewish Quarter. The legend goes on to say that the golem will rise up again in Prague’s hour of need to protect the city. I love this concept, really I do.

The streets of Prague were a fantasia scarcely touched by the twenty-first century–or the twentieth or nineteenth, for that matter. It was a city of alchemists and dreamers, its medieval cobbles once trod by golems, mystics, invading armies…and Gothic steeples stood ready to impale fallen angels. – Pg. 24

praha4

There’s imagery, and then there’s imagery. The Prague that Taylor described was during the winter-time, so I imagine it’s much less crowded, since people are inside trying to keep warm or, you know, there are definitely less tourists at this time period to begin with. Still, snow or no snow, the city is beautiful.

Down by the Devil’s Stream, Poison Kitchen was a place rarely stumbled upon by chance; you had to know it was there, and duck under an unmarked stone arch into a walled graveyard, beyond which glowed the lamp-lit windowpanes of the cafe…

“…but the monks’ quarters remain, and have been converted to the strangest cafe you’ll find anywhere, crowded with classical statues all sporting the owner’s collection of WWI gas masks.” – Pg. 25

Hate to burst your bubble, but Poison Kitchen doesn’t exist. Yeah, this was a mild disappointment when I looked it up. However, I kind of did run into a baroque cafe facing the Charles Bridge. You wouldn’t know there was a cafe inside since the signs mostly point to the museum right next to it. To get here, I had to climb down a set of stairs, go past the fascinating open museum, and then head sharply right into a lovely cafe. The place could probably fit twenty or so people at the most. It was cozy and small and–fortunately for me–rather empty when I sat down to order my coffee and cake.

Okay, so there is no gas mask collection in the baroque cafe, but I’d gone to a nuclear bunker tour the day before and found the picture fitting to add in here, lol.

Fairy-tale city. From the air, red rooftops hug a kink in a dark river, and by night the forested hills appear as spans of black nothing against the dazzle of the lit castle, the spiking Gothic towers, the domes great and small. – Pg. 160

praha8

Regrettably I do not have any night pictures of Prague’s skyline. I also don’t have an aerial shot of Prague, so this was the closest I could get to as far as Akiva’s view of Prague is concerned. Squint hard enough and maybe you’ll see the fiery-eyed angel perched on top of one of the towers. Sigh, if only, right?

Soon enough she came to the Charles Bridge.

Icon of Prague, the medieval bridge crossed the Vltava between Old Town and the Little Quarter. Gothic bridge towers rose on both sides, and the whole span — pedestrian-only — was lined by monumental statues of saints…Vendors and performers were arriving with handcarts to stake out the most coveted real estate in the city, and in the very middle, before the photo-perfect backdrop of Prague Castle on the hill, was the giant puppeteer. – Pg. 174

Besides Poison Kitchen, I think the Charles Bridge was one of the most memorable scenes in Daughter of Smoke and Bone. A lot happens here in Karou’s story, including Zuzana’s puppet show and the fantastic aerial showdown between Karou and Akiva (OMG can I say how much I ADORED that scene, btw?!). There were no giant puppeteers or marionettes being displayed at the center of the bridge when I was there, but there was a puppeteer dancing his marionette, to the delight of a small crowd and their children. (No, I didn’t take a picture of this, ’cause I was too busy recording it on video, lol!).

Needless to say that I enjoyed myself stepping into a character’s shoes. I didn’t meet an angel, I didn’t find the portal to Brimstone’s shop, and I certainly don’t have a head of bright blue hair, but I walked Karou’s shoes as best I could, and that in itself was magical.

Now, if I was to pick another place from Karou’s travelogue, I’d head to Morocco next. The scene happening in Marrakesh was my second favorite, after all!