Sonderbooks Stand-out

Sonderbooks Book Review of

Muse of Nightmares

by Laini Taylor

read by Steve West

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Muse of Nightmares

by Laini Taylor
read by Steve West

Review posted March 28, 2019.
Hachette Audio, 2018. 16 hours on 13 CDs.
Starred Review
Review written December 10, 2018, from a library audiobook
2018 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#3 Teen Speculative Fiction

Wow. This book is wonderful. I confess, I listened to this book even though it’s technically eligible for the Newbery Medal. Our committee had agreed not to listen to audiobooks of eligible books so as not to be swayed in either direction. But the book this follows, Strange the Dreamer, was the book that gave me a crush on narrator Steve West (what a gorgeous voice!), and it’s very long – way too long to indulge in reading the book – and that first book struck me as much more appropriate for young adults than for children.

That continues to be my opinion. Yes, there are some teens in this book – but they are dealing with life as adults, deciding careers and where to live and yes, having sex. There are no parents telling them what to do.

This second book is even sexier than the first. I would hesitate to give it to a 14-year-old. In fact, it would almost be a shame to give this to anyone who hasn’t already had sex themselves – might give them the wrong idea. Our two protagonists have some special powers. Sarai is a ghost with a body – but she can do things like make her body light up when Lazlo kisses her. And they can go to fantasy locations in dreams – and it’s all very amazing. And I wouldn’t want to give anyone a misleading impression about what normal sex is like!

Even setting aside that part, this book is amazing. We’re set up at the end of the first book with what seems to be an impossible situation. Minya is keeping Sarai “alive” as a ghost. But Minya also wants to destroy the people of the city of Weep. Lazlo is caught in the middle. If he doesn’t let Minya get her vengeance, then she’s going to let Sarai completely die.

Can Laini Taylor pull off a satisfying and believable ending from that set-up? It turns out that yes, she can.

To pull off that satisfying ending involves telling another story and giving us a bigger picture of worlds parallel to the one where our story is set. It’s all intricate and well-worked-out and I am again marveling at Laini Taylor’s imagination.

It’s also long. Yes, there’s some repetition. Yes, there are some places where we get more descriptions of people’s emotions than we necessarily need. But again, listening to Steve West’s narration on my commute, I didn’t mind the experience being prolonged.

In the first book we found out about generations of abuse that happened to the people of the city of Weep. In the second book, we find out what was behind that abuse – and see realistic beginnings of healing from it.

And the whole story is intricate and imaginative and beautifully told.