Length: 514 pages
Release date: 2 October 2018
Sarai has lived and breathed nightmares since she was six years old.
She believed she knew every horror and was beyond surprise.
She was wrong.
In the wake of tragedy, neither Lazlo nor Sarai are who they were before. One a god, the other a ghost, they struggle to grasp the new boundaries of their selves as dark-minded Minya holds them hostage, intent on vengeance against Weep.
Lazlo faces an unthinkable choice—save the woman he loves, or everyone else?—while Sarai feels more helpless than ever. But is she? Sometimes, only the direst need can teach us our own depths, and Sarai, the Muse of Nightmares, has not yet discovered what she’s capable of.
As humans and godspawn reel in the aftermath of the citadel’s near fall, a new foe shatters their fragile hopes, and the mysteries of the Mesarthim are resurrected: Where did the gods come from, and why? What was done with thousands of children born in the citadel nursery? And most important of all, as forgotten doors are opened and new worlds revealed: Must heroes always slay monsters, or is it possible to save them instead?
There comes a certain point with a hope or a dream, when you either give it up or give up everything else. And if you choose the dream, if you keep on going, then you can never quit, because it’s all you are.
Even now, part of me worries that I’m taking the sheer scope of this story for granted. I got through its 500 pages in two days during my hectic first week of uni. I can probably count on one hand the number of 2019 releases that could have made me do that. In Muse of Nightmares, Laini Taylor has crafted an imaginative, one of a kind, intensely readable book that challenges every tradition of what heroes and villains should be like.
Expanding a story is easy–just ask George R.R. Martin–but steadily progressing it towards a satisfying conclusion at the same time? That takes mad skill. It’s no small feat that Taylor juggles an ensemble cast’s worth of moving pieces AND wraps up her tale in a complete duology. Nor is it a small feat that she does it all in lovely, tragic writing. The story turns out bittersweet–certain characters deserved much, MUCH better–but full of hope.
For the most part, I love the development of all the secondary characters, from everyone’s favourite (ex-)bully Thyon Nero, who’s definitely getting his act together in this sequel, to Sparrow the Orchard Witch. The further development of the magic system introduced in Strange the Dreamer delivers as well, with Muse of Nightmares taking up its predecessor’s mantle of bringing weird and wonderful superpowers to life. We finally learn how exactly the godspawn’s abilities work, and we get to see them go further than ever before. And none of it feels contrived.
If there’s a tiny thing bothering me, it’s Sarai’s arc. This book is called Muse of Nightmares. I was expecting, from both title and synopsis, to see a Sarai-centric plot that saw her do great things. On some level, it is and she does, but she honestly doesn’t play as much of a role as I’d anticipated. I wanted to see more from her after her impressive debut in the first book. I thought this was going to be her story, but really it belongs to Minya and Nova, who steal the show. I have nothing negative to say about either of them. Their character arcs were handled amazingly.
In fact, I have to say that my favourite parts are Nova’s chapters. They draw you into a fascinating, seemingly alien world until bit by bit the connections with Lazlo’s story come into focus. Try to spot the hints. The revelation doesn’t disappoint.
Last but not least, no review of Muse of Nightmares would be complete without talking about Lazlo Strange himself. What I’ve always appreciated about Lazlo is that, rare in fantasy heroes, he doesn’t solve problems with weapons or spells or deception. He doesn’t solve problems by fighting at all. Laini Taylor gives us instead the genuine young man with a heart of gold who’s so good that he’s impossible to hate. He could probably set Hannibal Lecter on a redemption path.
Must heroes always slay monsters, or is it possible to save them instead? Look to Lazlo, and you already have your answer.
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