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Muse of Nightmares

Review

Muse of Nightmares

In Laini Taylor’s STRANGE THE DREAMER, the city of Weep shook as a man became a god, as a woman fell from an angel in the sky. But that was only the beginning. In the aftermath of these events, Lazlo --- newly blue --- cares only about saving Sarai as a ghost, a fact that Minya exploits, holding the strings of Sarai’s soul. Minya offers Lazlo a choice --- hand her Weep, and save Sarai, or lose Sarai to save the city that trembles beneath them. As much as he loves Sarai, Lazlo loves Weep too. Faced with an impossible choice, Lazlo desperately searches for a third option. Meanwhile, the upheaval in the sky has changed more than Lazlo and Sarai. Eril-Fane, Azareen, Calixte and Thyon all grapple with the fallout on the ground, while Ruby, Sparrow and Feral see the spectacle unfold in the sky. Questioning their choices, character and futures in the face of this newly unfolded disaster, they must grow from the people they are into the people that they need to become. Beyond Weep, distant lands stir. Though Weep already has its own problems, it will see a few more before the end of MUSE OF NIGHTMARES.

"Laini Taylor’s sequel...proves itself a worthy successor to STRANGE THE DREAMER, and places the duology on the bookshelf of some of the greatest fantasy stories of all time."

Laini Taylor faces a daunting task: finishing the massive tapestry she began in STRANGE THE DREAMER. Luckily, she completes the endeavor the same way that she started it --- with gorgeous writing, complex characters and an engaging plot. Again, Taylor seizes the opportunity to embellish the story with her language. Like a beautifully bound book, the way that the story is presented plays as much a part in the overall effect on the audience as the actual content. One element in particular that the sequel highlights is the way Taylor seasons the pages with simple truths that have an almost childlike innocence. After the events of the first book, the reader expects a more weathered narrative, but the tender moments Taylor includes demonstrate the innocence of her characters, despite their circumstances.

All of Taylor’s characters --- heroes and villains --- are out of their natural element when the story begins. This weakness exposes their true character: their desires, fears and hopes, layers of themselves that they might keep hidden if they weren’t in a weak position. Taylor writes simple scenes that lay bare the core of each character, leaving them impossible not to relate to. Aiming to showcase the defeat of villains in non-violent ways, Taylor’s development of heroes and villains alike is necessary to gain the reader’s support of a victory achieved not by force, but by reason and change of heart.

Furthermore, expanding on characters from the first book, particularly Thyon, Taylor demonstrates her ability to manage a large cast, yet give the reader an intimate knowledge of each character. While the focus of this book pulls away from Lazlo and Sarai, it does so in a way that feels natural, as they become part of a larger story and a larger world.

Taylor’s goal of depicting an untraditional victory also plays into the plot of MUSE OF NIGHTMARES. Perhaps a first for a major fantasy series, Taylor’s sequel ends with no final battle, no war for the decisive victory, no drawn-out warfare. Refreshing and simple, a recipe for fantasy with alternative ingredients, Taylor includes all of the emotion, just without the violence --- though she does find clever ways of working in action scenes.

In terms of world-building, Taylor surprises the audience by expanding the universe, but she does so with dexterity and ease. Though this at times draws away from the main struggle STRANGE THE DREAMER sets up, it does create an interesting backstory and establishes Weep in the context of the larger world.

MUSE OF NIGHTMARES is the natural conclusion of STRANGE THE DREAMER, the playing out of kindness and imagination --- themes of the first novel, and actions in the second. For older teens who love fantasy, storytelling and epic adventure, Laini Taylor’s sequel --- bold, emotional and compelling --- proves itself a worthy successor to STRANGE THE DREAMER, and places the duology on the bookshelf of some of the greatest fantasy stories of all time.

Reviewed by Rachel R., Teen Board Member on October 16, 2018

Muse of Nightmares
by Laini Taylor