1.) Strange the Dreamer ★★★★★
“I would have chosen you, if they had let me choose.”
Strange the Dreamer was my favorite book of 2017, and Muse of Nightmares is probably going to be my favorite book of 2018. These two books just bring so much love into my heart, and so much hope into my soul. I have no word combinations to ever begin to describe how much this book meant to me, or to do a review worthy of it, but I am going to try.
“Sarai had lived and breathed nightmares since she was six years old. For four thousand nights she had explored the dreamscapes of Weep, witnessing horrors and creating them. She was the Muse of Nightmares.”
Whenever I try to give a synopsis for Strange the Dreamer I always say it’s about a librarian who is in love with a lost city, and a girl who only wants to know what love is. Muse of Nightmares is a story all about love, and the different kinds of love that we will experience, and some that we will never experience, in our lifetime. The love between found families everywhere, between siblings both blood and not, between parents both distant and close, between lovers both new and old. And how all this love makes us choose actions that are both good and bad and all the things in-between. Love is truly the most complex force in the entire world, but when someone loves selflessly it can change everything. Sometimes we are unaware of how much power we have inside us, especially when that power is kindled from unconditional love.
“For fifteen years, the people of Weep had lived with the certainty that the monsters were dead, and Eril-Fane had lived with the burden of it…”
And this book picks right up after the harrowing events in Strange the Dreamer. So many of these characters, both blue and not, are dealing with a monumental amount of sorrow and grief. Lazlo, the librarian who has finally found the city that has taken over his heart and mind for his entire life, is going through the greatest amount of changes.
If Strange the Dreamer is about finding the lost city of Weep, Muse of Nightmares is about why no one can remember the city in the first place. We get so much background on so many different worlds, and we get to see them all thread together to create a universe truly unlike anything else. But beautiful and terrible things happen in the name of good and bad, and we get to see pivotal choices be made, that resulted in what happened to Weep.
“Skathis: god of beasts, king of horrors, daughter-stealer, city-crusher, monster of monsters, madman.”
Yet, Muse of Nightmares also introduces you to two new characters: Kora and Nova. They are sisters that were born long before the last Godspawn, but the two stories quickly entangle with each other. And their sisterhood, even though heartbreaking, is so damn beautiful. Laini Taylor really expands on not only this story, but this world and universe too! And you’ll quickly see how this can all be connected to the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy. And even though this was the final book in this duology, I believe Laini has so much more in store for us.
I’ve been reading stories for over two decades and, in my opinion, Laini Taylor is the best storyteller I’ve ever read. Her words have such a magical impact on me, and I honestly think she has to be a little supernatural to weave words the way she does. (I’m secretly hoping she is fae!) You can just feel so much emotion while reading her passages, like she truly pours every ounce of herself into the words she uses, and I truly think there isn’t another human on earth who can do what she does. The word “beautiful” doesn’t even do her prose justice, so I’ll just say that it’s completely magical, so very immersive, and totally enthralling. She is easily my favorite author of all time.
“The gods had been dead for fifteen years, after all, but their hate had lingered, and ruled in their stead.”
I can’t even believe I’m typing this paragraph, but this book also heavily deals with children in cages, which is something that I truly, with my entire being, wish was only in fiction. Sadly, it’s not. Some of the scenes in this book were a little harder than most, just because of what is going on in 2018, so please be warned going in. Also, trigger and content warnings for war themes, death, torture, graphic blood depictions, slavery, human trafficking, a lot of talk of implied past rape, rape, extreme parental abuse, child abuse, thoughts of suicide, suicide, PTSD, grief, trauma, and sexual content.
Trauma and grief, and how each person deals with those two things very differently, plays a huge role in this book. Yet, this story is a love letter to how we don’t have to be the mistakes of our ancestors. We can change, we can do things differently, and that it’s never too late. And vengeance will always be a driving factor, but you’ll soon realize that nothing, not even redemption, will lessen the feeling of loss. The only thing that can heal is love, but that’s a lesson that is so very hard to learn at times.
“Once upon a time, a sister made a vow she didn’t know how to break, and it broke her instead. Once upon a time, a girl did the impossible, but she did it just a little too late.”
Overall, I’m not sure another story will ever touch me like this duology has. My review doesn’t even do it justice, honestly. This is a once in a lifetime story that I will cherish for the rest of my life. This isn’t just a shining star in literature, but a glowing constellation over the world. If you haven’t picked up Strange the Dreamer, please do so, because I love this series with every bone in my body, with my heart, with my soul, with every fiber of my very being. And remember, it is never too late to start over, and it’s never too late to do good.
The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.
(Forever thankful for Arys, for trading me an ARC of what I’m sure will be my favorite book of 2018! You will never know how much this means to me, but I promise I’ll cherish this ARC forever. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart and soul, thank you!💖)