Serena’s Review: “Gods and Monsters”

Book: “Gods and Monsters” by Shelby Mahurin

Publishing Info: HarperTeen, July 2021

Where Did I Get this Book: from the library!

Book Description: Evil always seeks a foothold. We must not give it one.

After a heartbreaking loss, Lou, Reid, Beau, and Coco are bent on vengeance more than ever before—and none more so than Lou.

But this is no longer the Lou they thought they knew. No longer the Lou that captured a chasseur’s heart. A darkness has settled over her, and this time it will take more than love to drive it out.

Previously Reviewed: “Serpent & Dove” and “Blood & Honey”

Review: I know, I know. Didn’t I essentially swear off this series at the end of my review of “Blood & Honey?” And yes, I was incredibly disappointed by that second entry, not only as its own (poorly done) work but for the extreme drop in quality from the first book which I mostly enjoyed. But…I have so much trouble escaping my completionist compulsions. That last entry is just kind of…hanging there. So here I am. And while the trilogy is in no way going down as a “must read” any time soon (there’s still no forgiving that second entry), at least I can now say that ended it on a better note than that.

Everyone was in a dark place after the great loss suffered at the end of the last book. But none more so than Lou. A girl whose brightness had once caught the attention of a grim, stubborn young chasseur is now consumed with a darkness that wants nothing more than vengeance. To Reid and their friends, Lou is barely recognizable, and they worry they won’t be able to pull her back to herself before she’s lost forever, swept up in a wave of revenge that will topple systems and countries.

So, I obviously had problems with the second book. I thought the characters were barely recognizable, and I hated, hated, the ridiculous drama that became the romance. With that, I wasn’t sure what I was going to get with this third book. Lou, in particular, was set out on a very specific trajectory that had some extreme potential for crashing and burning into a fiery pit of tropes. Instead, while I think the book never climbs back to the high of the first, I was pleased to see a good exploration of important themes like grief in the face of the duties still required and the different pains and joys of found families versus those we’re born to.

The fast-paced action of the story probably helped distract me from some of my continued complaints about characterization. As the story gallops towards its final confrontations and conclusions, there is action scene on top of action scene. As we’ve seen many times before in this series, our characters again and again trip over “best laid plans” problems, with obstacles thrown in their way repeatedly. This contrivance, however, serves as more than just page filler and gets into the theme I mentioned above regarding having to keep moving forward even in the face of grief. The world doesn’t stop when losses occur; the world doesn’t care that our characters are hurting. Instead, life continues even while necessary processing and healing must happen alongside practical decisions and actions.

The relationships between the characters were also nice to see emphasized once again. I especially liked the friendship between Lou and Coco and how vital they were to one another, this small family they had made for themselves, each disconnected from their birth families in different ways. I also liked a lot of the scenes we had between Lou and Reid. Now that the series was over the hump, it was clear the author could return these two characters to the much more pleasing process of coming together (instead of the difficult-to-believe theatrics of the middle book that worked at tearing them apart).

My ultimate conclusion is that these books would have been much better served as the duology they were initially meant to be. Looking at all three, now that they have been published, it’s easy enough to see what the duology might have looked at. A lot of unnecessary angst, plot contrivance, and filler could have been trimmed, leaving behind the solid exploration of important themes, the witty banter, and a lovely romance. I’m mostly sad that we didn’t get that story. But I’m happy enough that it ended in a satisfying way. For those who have enjoyed the series so far, I’m sure they’ll be pleased with this entry. For those who were burned on the second book, I won’t say that this book justifies a return to the series, but it also won’t be a monumental regret if you choose to complete the trilogy.

Rating 7: Mostly a relief that it improved from the second book and managed to tie things together well enough.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Gods & Monsters” is on these Goodreads lists: Dragons/Serpents and 2021 YA with Male POV.

Find “Gods & Monsters” at your library using WorldCat!

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