Muse of Nightmares is another lovely display of Taylor’s craftsmanship. It continues a story that is pretty and romantic and moving, a story that began in Strange the Dreamer, the other half of this duology. Unfortunately, it didn’t pack quite the same punch as its predecessor. Don’t get me wrong; it’s still a lovely novel. But the first novel was stunningly tangible, and this follow-up felt more like a phantom of that loveliness instead. Which is a comparison that is appropriate on multiple levels, as you’ll see if you choose to read this. And you definitely should read this, if you’ve read Strange the Dreamer. While I might not think it was quite as strong as the first installment, it still provided a satisfying ending encased in Taylor’s exquisite prose.
“It was better than any story he’d ever read. It was like being inside a story and writing it all around you, and not alone but with someone who just happened to be as magical and beautiful as a fairy tale made real.”
Why did this novel fall a bit short for me? Well first of all, it was oddly predictable for such a unique story. There were a handful of twists that were glaringly obvious before they were actually revealed. I don’t know if I found this to be true because the foreshadowing was too heavy-handed, or because I’ve read Taylor’s other popular series, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and thus was pretty sure on which direction she would take. Regardless, I could sense that those twists were supposed to be mind-blowing when revealed but I couldn’t help feeling impatient to just get through them, since I had predicted them chapters beforehand. There were also some twists that didn’t maintain the power they could have had because they weren’t permanent. I’m a sucker for a happy ending, but if there was any message sent out by the first half of this duology it was that actions always have consequences, and they’re often far reaching. In this book, even when the worst happened I felt positive that said awful thing would be reversed, which completely removed the tension I should have felt during these scenes.
“Many a choice is made in this way: by pretending it makes itself. And many a fate is decided by those who cannot decide.”
I was also a bit turned off by the romance, which is incredibly disappointing because I found it so heartbreakingly beautiful in the first book. When the central romance first blossoms in Strange the Dreamer, the depth of emotion and the tightly woven connection between the lovers won me over immediately. It became one of the few romances that really stayed with me, working its way into the definition of romance that lives at my core. But in Muse of Nightmares, the romance seemed much more firmly tied to lust than love. The sex scenes, while not actually reaching full culmination on the page, struck me as weirdly descriptive. There was a scene in Strange the Dreamer described a kiss so beautifully that it took my breath away. In Muse of Nightmares, I read way more about the contrast of nipples against blue skin than I ever wanted to know. Seriously, nipples were worked into the story way too often. I’m not at all a prude, but the change in tone between the two books when it comes to romance just threw me, and left me unable to care as much as I did in Strange the Dreamer, and it makes me so sad. It was still beautiful, but it lacked the depth that made it so captivating originally.
“She gave the words back to him, murmuring, and kept them, too. You could do that: Give them back and keep them. “I love you” is generous that way.”
It might seem odd that I would spend five hundred words complaining about a book to which I awarded 4 stars. If I had so many problems with it, why did I give it such a high rating? Even considering the issues I had, this was still an absolutely beautiful book. Taylor developed a setting and a magic system and a conflict that were all completely unique in my opinion. I stand by my description of Strange the Dreamer: this duology is lush in a way I have very rarely experienced. With this book in particular, Taylor also managed to take a story that was solidly fantasy in my opinion and work science fiction elements into the novel in a way that is incredibly original. Also, remember when I said that I’m a sucker for a happy ending? That was delivered in spades, and I felt so content and satisfied when I finished the last page. All of my questions were answered, plot lines were neatly tied up, but Taylor still left herself room to explore this world outside of the story she told in these two books.
“Just because the power is mine, it doesn’t follow that all the choices are.”
Strange the Dreamer and Muse of Nightmares are both absolutely worth reading. Taylor paints such stunning pictures with her words, and I very much enjoyed my time spent with these novels.
“Wishes don’t just come true. They’re only the target you paint around what you want. You still have to hit the bull’s-eye yourself.”
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