The problem isn't that Dreams of Gods & Monsters is somehow a bad book, it's just that it is (a) too ambitious and (b) lacked an incisive editor t...moreThe problem isn't that Dreams of Gods & Monsters is somehow a bad book, it's just that it is (a) too ambitious and (b) lacked an incisive editor to trim away the unnecessary.
This entire trilogy lacks the plot to justify its length. There is very little that actually happens. I think Taylor's sometimes over-enthusiastic prose can be held responsible for some of it, but the fact of the matter is that there are a lot of words and very little plot. I can somewhat understand why -- rather than drive the narrative through action, these books try to drive to the narrative through character development, emotional revelations, and philosophical meanderings on the nature of war, peace, and happiness. The problem being that the characters are problem what these books most lack, the emotional revelations are incessantly hinted at, and that philosophical meanderings in a novel tend to be very off-putting (this is why I loathe 1984). The best narrative commentaries are ones that illustrate their point rather than tell. In Dreams of Gods & Monsters, I get the impression that Taylor is reaching for some kind of commentary, but despite many characters waxing poetic on love and happiness and war and desperation, I never really felt or saw much of anything. I admire the ambition, but I don't think it was particularly effective.
Truly, what I found most compelling about these books (and what kept me reading them) was the world building and the large-scale conflict between the chimaera and the seraphim. Unfortunately, this book sidelines that conflict in lieu of introducing a new conflict that seems like a springboard for a new series. This is annoying for a couple of reasons -- it prolongs the book roughly 100 pages past the point where it should've ended and it makes the trilogy seem incomplete. Furthermore, this new conflict requires the introduction of a new character who, to be fair, is somewhat more interesting than the old guard but still breaks up the tension of the narrative in a bad way: rather than reading about the problems on Eretz, we are sucked back to earth to deal with a new protagonist fumbling about and wondering about questions we already know the answers to. In a faster-paced novel this would be okay -- it would provide a necessary break in the tension. In a book already broken up by multiple POVs and paced slowly with huge swathes of words devoted to characters just feeling things it makes the pace of the book excruciating.
As for the world building, well, there are things that I quite liked -- the structure of the conflict between the chimaera and seraphim, the idea of the pain tithe -- but I remain more than a little flummoxed by the existence of wishes. How were they created? And if they were created by Brimstone, why didn't he weaponize the ability? It just seemed like a strange oversight on the author's part.
I'm not going to touch much on the characters, mostly because I don't have anything all that complimentary to say about them, but also because I don't know how much of that is my own bias speaking, i.e. if you don't find Zuzana funny (which I did not) you are probably going to find her insufferable. If you don't think Akiva is tragic (once again, I did not) you'll probably find him whiny. I will say that the antagonists had a tendency toward utter absurdity in their awfulness. I think Thiago was really the only truly threatening villain; while Jael was easy to hate, I never thought he would end up being much of a challenge to our protagonists, Morgan Toth was hilariously bad as a character and Razgut is, well, Razgut. There is a strange narrative about ugliness = evilness and beauty = goodness that isn't quite so simple, but is close enough that it didn't feel good to me.
I did like Liraz quite a bit, though her constant navel-gazing about not knowing love was both a bit on the nose and slightly difficult to believe from such an action-oriented character. I found Scarab compelling and I'm wondering if maybe the author is considering writing a new trilogy from her perspective -- the setup is certainly there. If so, I can only hope the romance hinted at with Eliza becomes a real thing.
I feel like I've been unduly negative about this book. Here's the thing: the moments of triumph in Dreams of Gods & Monsters are amazing. While the book itself is deeply flawed, at times everything aligns perfectly and the book is pure delight. Unfortunately these moments are few and far between, and while Taylor's prose is quite gorgeous, it needs to be reigned in and used more sparingly and to greater effect. I'm not sorry I read this trilogy, but I do think that this book is a particularly weak note to end it all on.(less)
I feel a little bad because I find Zuzana and Mik really obnoxious intrusions on an otherwise fairly interesting story. This book was better in the pl...moreI feel a little bad because I find Zuzana and Mik really obnoxious intrusions on an otherwise fairly interesting story. This book was better in the plot department, but the characters are still lacking. The book was good enough, but sometimes it dragged, and it does that annoying thing were the character knows something but, despite the fact that we are reading from their POV, it isn't revealed until pages later for dramatic effect. The writing is still beautiful, though I do get tired of Taylor waking poetic about Karou's beauty in lieu of an actual personality. Also the Karou/Akiva thing got even more obnoxious; the misunderstanding thing is really obnoxious, especially when the stakes are so high.(less)
When I read YA I usually do it unthinkingly, by which I mean I read YA like I would read any other book for which I am the target audience. The Gallag...moreWhen I read YA I usually do it unthinkingly, by which I mean I read YA like I would read any other book for which I am the target audience. The Gallagher Girls series is one of those things, though, where I am constantly made aware of the fact that I am absolutely not the target audience. From a bookselling perspective, I'd definitely recommend these to a young reader making the transition from MG to teen; the series may get darker later on, but as of book three the series is pretty sanitized, easy-to-read, and quick. So: I recognize the particular use and place of books like these. I just feel like, even with that fact acknowledged, Don't Judge a Girl by Her Cover is just bad.
I get it. It's book three in a six-book series, and not every plot line can be resolved. That said, it's impossibly frustrating to read an entire novel and get nothing resolved. This doesn't feel like a complete book, and honestly, the information and action that occurs in here could pretty easily be condensed into half a book. I get each novel is supposed to cover a semester at a time, but when the author fails to make the semester interesting then maybe it's time to consider a different format?
Like, a lot of my objections are personal taste: where other people might find Zach cool and intriguing I find him and insufferable prig. The adults are unlikable and strangely incompetent for super-spies. Cammie's friends are impressively two-dimensional. The writing itself isn't bad, but it's boring. Rather than finding different ways to write scenes, Carter is overly reliant on almost this memetic shorthand: "Cammie knows 14 languages but doesn't know what to say," &c. &c. Once that line is cute, but it gets dropped obnoxiously often. The action is unclear and difficult to follow, which may have more to do with my engagement with the text than the author's craft. That said, these books have been surprisingly slow reads despite being 250 or so pages and also about spies.
I guess the problem is there's very little spying. Hardly anything happens, and whenever the characters act for themselves it almost always ends terribly. The school structure of the books doesn't help; I don't care about their classes, I don't care about their teachers, and I really, really, really do not care about boys. Like, the whole "omfg what do boys think??" thing gets super annoying. I hated it in Wheel of Time and I hate it here.
Like I said, though, I am obviously not the target, and I'm glad that these books make other people so happy! I was really expecting to at least enjoy this series since I like the author's other work so much, but no dice I guess.(less)