The paperback edition of Muse was provided by the publisher in exchange for review. All other books bought by myself.
Ever since joining the online book loving community several years ago, there is one name I have seen receive endless praise and love. That name is Laini Taylor.
Many moons ago (ok it was only two years ago) a beautiful blue book arrived in a FairyLoot box which has since taken the book world by storm. And how could it not? Strange the Dreamer was the first book in Laini’s latest duology, just as beautiful and enthralling as you would imagine. Just over two years later and six months after Muse of Nightmares came into the world in hardback form, we have now been gifted by the book gods with a paperback edition too. Both are equally lovely and now I must have both editions on my shelves!
Be warned that while this is a (mostly) spoiler free review for Muse, I will be discussing a couple of events from Strange so just be careful if you have not read that yet! Also just a litle heads up, this post is l o o o n g so maybe grab yourself a nice drink and a snack to accompany you.
“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? “
Muse of Nightmares picked up right where Strange the Dreamer left off, which meant that you were sucked into the story straight away. Admittedly, it has been a long time and many other books have passed since I read Strange, and while I did love that book there were times where I had to really think about what had led to certain points raised in Muse in order to fully understand and appreciate them. However, this definitely did not hinder my experience with Muse at all as Laini does a wonderful job of recapping past events with you barely noticing and not at all in an info dumpy sort of way.
The book opens with all of the Godspawn, and now Lazlo, in the Citadel with Minya having just captured Sarai’s ghost so that she does not evanesce. “Wow that’s great!” you may think, but eh not so much when Minya is intent on seeking retribution and revenge on the Godslayer Eril-Fane and the people of Weep for their terrible and fatal actions towards the children of the Gods years before. In order to exact her revenge, and much to the small family’s dismay, Minya explains that the only way she will keep hold of Sarai’s spirit is if Lazlo does exactly what she wants. As such a caring and careful person, Lazo ultimately has to decide between saving the girl he loves or saving the people below the Citadel.
We spend a good while understanding this new dynamic of the group; for so many years the children only had one another and were used to the roles they played. The introduction of Lazlo and Sarai’s death brings obvious upheaval. It is hard not to dislike Minya at first – why would you want to let go of who you have come to think of as family in order to kill mostly innocent people? But as the story progresses, we begin to understand Minya more thanks to Sarai’s gift.
The majority of Strange is set within Weep and the Citadel floating just above it, while Laini introduces us to more settings throughout Muse and several more points of view, though all remain written in the third person. Personally I really enjoyed getting to read from other characters perspectives and it just added to the overall feeling of richness that flowed throughout this book. While in the beginning the changes of time and location were not so much confusing but a little jarring compared to the wonder of Weep, as the story progressed and the timelines wove together it all made perfect sense.
Speaking of characters, I just want to wrap Lazlo and Sarai up and keep them safe forever. Ok? Lazlo has to be one of my favourite ever protagonists. We constantly see more and more complex layers of him unfurl as he goes through the trials and tribulations of Muse while exploring his powers, but at the centre of it all he still remains the dreamer from the Library of Zosma which I think is so integral to his character. Similarly with Sarai, I really enjoyed the different dimensions of her character as she came to terms with her death, feelings, relationships with the other characters and her power too. The scenes featuring the two of them were absolutely dreamy, no pun intended, and filled me with so much happiness and warmth that I couldn’t help but smile as I read on.
Feral, Ruby and Sparrow were fleshed out enough that they didn’t just feel like supporting characters; I particularly enjoyed the exploration of Ruby and Feral’s relationship and the sort of ‘normalcy’ that this brought into the story. Minya is a character who I never really came to love, but more appreciate. As a child, experiencing something as horrific as she did and managing to carry on and nurture the children she managed to save must have been an unthinkable task, and Laini does a beautiful job of describing the mental and almost physical weight on the child’s shoulders.
In terms of the plot Muse featured strong themes of love, loss and strong familial bonds. It was interesting to read about Eril Fane and Azareen’s relationship and how they came to be; this perspective wove in another delectable layer to the story. We were also introduced to Kora and Nova whom I absolutely loved. Their story, along with the reveal of what truly happened that day in the nursery (the Ellens, oh my gosh?!), was utterly heartbreaking but also helped a lot of things make sense and made for an intriguing story development. Ultimately this duology explores how one mad man’s actions, Skathis, could wreak so much havoc for all the years to come.
Reading Muse was like being on an emotional roller coaster that one minute is taking you high up into the sky full of joy and wonder, before coming crashing back down to the ground, filling you with sorrow and fear. I feel like my review could never fully do this book justice but I hope that my (not so succinct) post has gone some way to showing you just how much I loved this book.
I will not be surprised in the slightest if at some point in the future it is revealed that this was not just a story and that Laini is in fact the Goddess of Storytelling – her writing is just that good. The world building in this story is absolutely second to none. Each scene and character was described so intricately that the effect was almost tangible, making the book almost visually stimulating too.
Full of mesmerising and lyrical prose, Muse of Nightmares was a truly beautiful book that had me unable to stop turning the pages. I think I’ll be hard pressed to find another book like this for a while, so I think a re-read may definitely be on the cards soon. A very well deserved 5/5 stars!
This post is part of the Hodder book tour, celebrating the release of the paperback edition of Muse of Nightmares. Make sure to check out the rest of the posts and blogs below!
I Should Read That / The Bibliophile Chronicles / Niffler Reads / I Am Book Mad / Strupag / Books Life Other Oddities / The Bibliophile Girl UK / Two Book Thieves / Library Looter / The Bookish Gurl Blog / Luchia Houghton
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