Laini Taylor concludes the story of STRANGE THE DREAMER in MUSE OF NIGHTMARES!
WARNING: Spoilers for Strange The Dreamer below!
Laini Taylor is back with the highly anticipated sequel to her 2017 Printz honor winner Strange The Dreamer! The novel follows an orphan and library assistant named Lazlo Strange who finds himself on the adventure to a faraway city, where he’ll join a team trying to erase the last remnants of the monstrous old gods. What he doesn’t know is that the tower they’re trying to destroy is still home to five teen “godspawn” including Sarai, who haunts the dreams of the populace. When Sarai enters Lazlo’s dreams and he sees her there, an unlikely connection forms between the two and they begin to realize that the issue between the ancient city and the gods in much more complex than they ever imagined.
Muse of Nightmares picks up right where Strange The Dreamer left off: Lazlo and the godspawn in their godsmetal tower, where they’ve all just realized that Lazlo is a long lost godspawn himself. It’s a shock, but they’re all more devastated by the fact that Sarai is dead and Minya, the most vicious of the bunch, is the only one who can keep her spirit from disappearing forever. If Lazlo doesn’t lead Minya down to Weep to let her ghost army decimate the city, Sarai’s ghost will evanesce for good. Needless to say, things are getting complicated.
Sarai won’t give up her own life to save the people of Weep, including her father, the godslayer Eril-Fane. Lazlo can’t let her go. Can they navigate the impossible situation before them? Even if they think they have the answers, they soon learn that they don’t know half the secrets of the citadel, its former residents, or the dangers that await them.
Laini Taylor books are always a master class in worldbuilding, and Muse of Nightmares is certainly no exception. Just when you think you’ve settled into one of her worlds and all its rules, she throws another piece in dazzling imagination in and everything changes. In Muse, I think she did a better job blending the worldbuilding in with character moments to avoid plot lulls and keep readers on edge.
The sequel also includes some big twists and connections that I certainly won’t spoil. Admittedly, they didn’t totally work for me. Once I realized where things were going I was charmed at first, but the more I read about it, the more I wish the plot stayed streamlined. This novel focuses in part around a new character and while it was necessary to drive the plot, it felt more like a disruption than a point of interest. I wanted more time with the characters I’d already invested in. I didn’t need outside influences. It made me restless, at times. In all fairness, most reviewers seem to love the additions, so perhaps it’s just me.
However, I was still thrilled with the development of the existing characters. It was great to get several scenes of Lazlo and Sarai together, finding moments for happiness and flirtation even as their situation remains precarious. We see them working to bridge the gap between godspawn and residents of Weep and along the way, we learn quite a bit more about secondary characters as well. Some stalwart opinions of mine from the first novel changed as we saw the true depth of some characters, leading to some really beautiful moments.
Fans of Strange The Dreamer and Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone series will be plenty pleased with Muse of Nightmares, which holds up and presents a satisfying ending full of whimsy and opportunity, despite some flaws.
RATING: 3.75 OUT OF 5 STARS
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?