When you fall in love with a story, it’s always a delight to know there’s a sequel. Muse of Nightmares is the sequel to Strange the Dreamer, a beautifully written fantasy that I gushed about in my review posted a few weeks ago.
There’s also a worry when it comes to sequels. If the first book was intended to be a standalone, then sequels never feel quite like they belong. The story conflicts tend to feel out of place or engineered. This isn’t so with Muse of Nightmares. If anything, my guess is that both books were originally intended to be a single volume, but the story was simply too big and had to be broken into two parts.
And it totally works.
Mind you, because this is a sequel I can’t help but divulge a few details from the end of the first book which gives clues to how it ends. Should you be the type that hates having the ends of books revealed – don’t read this review.
At the end of Strange the Dreamer, we left the charmingly awkward Lazlo as he makes a life-changing discovery. He is godspawn and has the rare magical gift that allows him to control mesarthium, the indestructible blue metal that makes up the citadel. His love, Sarai, has changed as well. Due to the events at the end of Strange the Dreamer, she is now a ghost held in the world by her sister Minya, a hateful, spiteful woman stuck in the body of a 6-year-old child.
Minya would destroy the world to save herself and the other blue-skinned godspawn and she’s holding Sarai as leverage to force obedience. Should anyone wish to move against her, she’ll release Sarai’s ghost and let her disappear forever.
Lazlo is torn. If he saves Sarai, he allows his world and friends to be destroyed. If he let’s her go, he can prevent untold carnage. It’s an unwinnable situation.
But, there are other forces at work and other questions that need to be answered. The world of the Mesarthim is a mystery at best. These mysteries are slowly exposed as the past and present collide to create not only new problems, but present a new solution.
All the critical elements come together, love and hate, revenge and redemption, salvation and destruction, to create a fulfilling story with a satisfying ending.
I cannot say this enough, but Laini Taylor’s writing is glorious. Her use of poetic lyrical language is a delight and utterly delicious. More than that, she’s created a complete world with depth and history that’s unlike anything that exists on earth or seen in other fantasy universes. That, in itself, is incredible.
As a writer, I can see the sheer amount of work that’s gone into the development of this world and the characters, cultures, and history that makes it unique. Each element has been given loving attention so that it doesn’t only exist, it comes alive off of the page.
One of the challenges of any sequel that ends the story is tying up all the loose ends of ideas presented in the first book. Strange the Dreamer presents lots of ideas that we are given tantalizing glimpses of, but aren’t fleshed out enough to be well understood. In Muse of Nightmares we dive into those ideas and finally see the truth of Sarai’s past and why she and her siblings were abandoned. Like I said, it’s satisfying to finally see the truth of what had only been hinted at for so long.
So, yes. I love this two book series. Everything about it makes my fantasy loving heart sing.
While this is a wonderful fantasy, it requires attention to detail and an appreciation for lyrical writing. With this in mind, I don’t recommend this for younger readers and believe it’s best meant for high school age and up (and those they let play). Compared the the first book, there’s less intimacy but more violence and graphic description.
That said, for those of you who like traditional fantasy with a twist, this one should definitely scratch that itch.
I give Muse of Nightmares 5/5 stars for bringing a wonderful ending to a fantastic story.
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