WOW. Yep, that basically sums up my reaction every time I read a book written by the magical Laini Taylor. I’ve told my friends before that I typically pay little attention to specific writing styles of authors – I’m much more invested in plots and characters – and rarely pay too much attention to the actual craft. BUT. If there is one author I always stop reading in the middle of chapter for, just to think to myself, “wow these words are beautiful,” it’s definitely Laini Taylor.
I read Strange the Dreamer a little over a year ago, back in October of 2018. So, I waited quite a while to pick up the sequel – the finale to the duology. However, I was able to jump right back into the magical series and into the city of Weep. (Warning: spoilers for STD). Picking right up from the cliff-hanger of the first book, Muse of Nightmares follows Sarai and Lazlo yet again, along with more POVs from the side characters and they try and figure out to do now that the citadel and City of Weep are in contact, Sarai is a ghost, Minya wants revenge, and All kinds of chaos ensues.
Just like with the first book, I am utterly in awe of the way Taylor is able to write about trauma, despair, hope, and love. Often metaphorical and often literal – either way she writes about these topics is nuanced, painful, emotional, and raw. When I read Strange the Dreamer I was struck by the character of Minya – a young woman whose body has been stuck as the age she was when she experienced “the carnage,” the event of great trauma which she physically and mentally is incapable of overcoming and moving on from. In this book we get more about Minya, and we see her journey to work through her trauma (but I won’t tell you what happens) and personally, I find Minya’s story throughout the series to be the most powerful and wish we had more of her in both books.
Besides Minya, we also get the introduction of a new character, whose story, like the others is full of trauma and despair – but also filled with great love and loyalty. We also spend a bit more time with side characters Azareen, Eril-Fane, and Thyon. In all honesty, I think Taylor has written absolutely beautiful side characters and arcs for them – and in comparison I find Lazlo and Sarai to be less interesting. Which is why although they are the focus I won’t spend too much time on them. Their arcs were fine? That’s all I have to say about them.
Basically, I really can’t articulate at all why this duology was so good. But seriously, ignore my illiteracy and pick these books up. Fair warning that it could be triggering so look at the warnings/themes (sexual assault mainly). But I’ve read very few fantasy novels that deal with these themes: sexual assault, trauma, reconciliation, for example, so respectfully and powerfully. Taylor addresses accountability, along with the choices people are driven too out of pain, desperation, and love. UGH. I just can’t even explain it all. Its just soooo good. I mean, be prepared to cry. Like, a lot. But these books are just beautiful, in every sense of the word, and I think Muse of Nightmares did a really good job of both advancing the story and concluding it satisfyingly.