One of my most-anticipated reads of 2021, Gods & Monsters by Shelby Mahurin, is finally here! And you'd better believe I devoured it quicker than Lou with a fresh tray of Pan's sticky buns!
Genre: YA Fairytale Retelling
Category: Epic Read
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Rating: 4/5 stars
Gods & Monsters is a solid mix of the first two installments. We get the humor and romance of Serpent & Dove, as well as the darkness, emotion, and variety of magical creatures of Blood & Honey.
As we've come to expect from Mahurin, the characters are one of the best parts: their complexities make them feel very real, and you can't help but love each for one reason or another. We get plenty of Lou's snark and Coco being done with everyone's crap. Beau's comedic relief and quiet genius are a comfort in the midst of the drama. I laughed, cried, and tabbed so many scenes to revisit.
My only complaint is that this installment, despite being the conclusion, felt anti-climactic at times. Much of the book seems like filler until toward the end. I'm not saying it isn't emotional or exciting (there's plenty of conflict and some genius plot twists), but I was expecting more action.
That said, the ending is satisfying and the epilogue is absolutely lovely. If you enjoyed the first two books and their tropes, you're sure to love this epic conclusion to Mahurin's debut series.
Now, if you've read the book or are a masochist, let's dive deeper into the story!
END OF SPOILER-FREE ZONE
(PROCEED WITH CAUTION)
Memories and identity are two themes we've encountered in the series before, and Gods & Monsters continues this pattern. While most of Blood & Honey dealt with Reid's identity crisis upon discovering he's a witch, it ended on a cliffhanger when Nicholina decided to play bodysnatcher while Lou was consumed with grief and therefore vulnerable.
I enjoyed seeing this play out, especially when Lou flips the script on Nicholina and we get to see her tragic backstory. My only disappointment is I expected "Nicholouna" to cause more problems for the rest of the group—for there to be more consequences or struggle on their part.
Once Lou is able to take control of her body, I was so happy and couldn't wait for Lou and Reid to have time together and watch them grow as a couple. Unfortunately, Mahurin had other plans: Reid casts a spell that allows Lou a level of safety for a while . . . at the expense of his memory of Lou and the others.
While I'm disappointed in how repetitive it is for Reid's character to backpedal, and to not see the two finally have a moment of happiness, I was able to appreciate this plot twist because:
It added frustration and a level of hopelessness; one of the main themes of the book is “Hope isn’t the sickness. It’s the cure.” This made the ending feel hard-earned.
It expounded upon the themes of memory and identity.
It was nice to see Reid fall in love with Lou all over again, this time completely aware of the messy parts.
Of how much it took for Reid to cast such a spell, his deep love of Lou, and trusting not only her but himself and his magic. It says a lot about his overall character growth.
I'll find you again, I'd told her.
She'd taken the promise to heart. She hadn't given up on me. Not when I'd insulted her, threatened her, envisioned a thousand different ways to kill her. I'd think of a thousand others to atone. I'd never leave her again.
Mahurin introduces a slew of new characters in this installment, and the group gets a few additions. I was pleased with the characters and the way Mahurin wrote them; she has a way of making even the supporting cast feel so real. Some of my favorites were:
Nicholina - we get a lot of Nicholina in Gods & Monsters, as she's taken up residence in Lou's body. Her backstory broke my heart, and I really felt for her throughout the book. Her insanity and childlike mannerisms make her a fun and intriguing character. She reminded me of Brona/Lily in Penny Dreadful.
Isla - okay, calling her a favorite might be a stretch since I don't like her. But has there ever been a haughtier bitch?! She had only a handful of pages, but damn this woman knows how to get under your skin and make you see red!
Célie - with Lou and Reid's brains scrambled and the odds of them getting back together slim, what better way to sow conflict than to have Reid's old flame appear, small fortune in hand, demanding to be part of the group? What could go wrong? Nothing, thankfully! Célie's growth is so much fun to watch, and I really respected her by the end. I was so relieved that instead of pitting her and Lou against one another, Mahurin brought them together as friends. Célie's compassion for Lou while taking down Morgane is beautiful and touching.
“Do not mistake me for porcelain. Do not mistake me for weak.” - Célie
Despite their bonding, I was still left disappointed in the final battle. It felt anti-climactic as far as Morgane was concerned. I wish there'd been more of a confrontation between her and Claud; I'd have loved an epic fight scene between the two. I did, however, enjoy seeing Lou and Reid fight together, as battle couples are one of my favorite tropes.
"There are too many."
Lou gestured to the cage's door with a brittle laugh. "Good thing we have a choke point."
"I'm fine. Go help the others."
“I am.” Pressing a hard kiss to his lips, I shoved him back toward the patisserie. "I'm helping them by helping you, you great selfless prick. If you give that Balisarda away again, I'll make you swallow it. Consider chivalry dead."
He huffed another laugh as we rejoined the fray.
Finally, THAT EPILOGUE THOUGH!
One of my favorite things about Gods & Monsters was the return of my baby boi Ansel! I sobbed like a bitch when he was murdered in Blood & Honey, and I was so thrilled to discover he was tagging along from the other side, looking after his friends. He is the most loyal cinnamon roll! Thank the gods (and monsters) Mahurin allowed him to be the hero he always wanted before he found peace.
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