Muse of Nightmares (Strange the Dreamer #2)
By: Laini Taylor
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: October 2nd 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?
Love and hate, revenge and redemption, destruction and salvation all clash in this astonishing and heart-stopping sequel to the New York Times bestseller, Strange the Dreamer.
I’m still slowly getting back into sequels–I actually read my first book sequel the other day and I’m very proud of myself. But thinking about this, I realized I hadn’t shared my thoughts about one of the few sequels I actually managed to devour last year. Strange the Dreamer was so strange, so beautiful and so heartbreaking that I couldn’t really imagine how a sequel was going to go, only that I wanted one. Fortunately Laini gave me exactly what I needed even when I didn’t know I needed it.
Muse of Nightmares picks up where Strange left off–war narrowly averted, everyone suddenly uncomfortably aware of the existence of living godspawn (and a few surprise ones), and SPOILER: One of the main characters now DEAD… But Laini weaves a wonderful story that’s not only a continuation of everything begun in Strange, but also adds more complexity and nuance to the world.
The core of this book is the continuation of the love story between Sarai and Strange. It’s so beautiful and wonderful and perfect, and what this book does so well is show how they continue to interact, and love, and help each other despite changing circumstances. Their love is the cornerstone of this book, and in so many ways what propels them forwards. And, as the title suggests, Sarai is the star of the show. It’s her talents, old and new, and her determination to be a dream psychologist that is really what saves the day. She first goes and helps Minya let go of her ancient grudges, and then actively works to heal the rifts that the old gods left, in many ways.
I was mystified before I read it as to how this book connects to themes of empire and conquest, as a few people let slip, but I have to say that Laini also does an excellent job of weaving this story, much like she did with the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series. Similarly, a decaying empire has wide-ranging consequences, not just for the people underneath it but for those far away. And yes, there are connections to the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series, which made me shriek out loud when I found them.
But this book is just…magical. It’s about kinship, and love, and the ties that bind us, and healing, and redemption for past horrors, and the idea that ‘an eye for an eye’ will only ever perpetuate atrocity, and not fix them. It’s about the idea that everyone deserves grace. And yes, there are definitely parts where you’ll gasp and parts where you’ll cry, but it’s a book that will heal all of the tears the last book made in your heart (which is as it should be).
I also loved how at the end, instead of a definite ending, it felt as if this two-book series is just the start of a grand adventure–as if there are bigger, better tales out there, and this is just the origin story. It’s the same kind of feeling you get at the end of her first series, and I love it, as much as I crave a return to this world (or worlds) of strange magic and deep horror and incandescent beauty.
Disclaimer: The synopsis and cover picture were pulled from the book’s Goodreads page. Neither belong to us.