It’s always a gamble to pick a book up during school breaks. There’s no time for me to pleasure read at school, however I can’t always read fast enough to finish the book at home. But, I feel there’s nothing worse than a story left unfinished. So, when I picked up Muse of Nightmares for the train back to school, I was determined to read the nearly 500 page sequel to Strange the Dreamer in six hours. Obviously, that was not possible, so I was left to sneaking in five or ten pages whenever I had the chance. Perhaps it was this reading style, but more likely it was Taylor’s masterful, slow-build writing that made Muse of Nightmares on of the best fantasy novels I read this year.
“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.”
Taylor possesses an incredible gift of dropping breadcrumbs and seemingly unrelated connections throughout the duology, holding the reader by their hand and revealing the final piece of the storyline at just the right moment. While some of her clues were more clearly connected than others, I found the overall arc of the story a mystery until after I had turned the last page.
But, this is also to say that if you’re looking for an action-packed fantasy novel, Muse of Nightmares is not the book for you. The majority of the story is character-focused, so while there is a grand finale/fight/crazy explosion, Taylor focuses on a the buildup more than the payoff, saving the action for the last 100 pages.
While Muse of Nightmares is undeniably character-centric, it is very interesting to me to see exactly what characters Taylor chose to focus on. Her female characters are extraordinarily diverse, vivid, and multi-faceted, but her male characters are just…. there. Besides some spare moments of heroism, the boys just help out with some female character development, mostly as sex objects if nothing else. Could this be karma for centuries of literary women being treated the same way? Who knows. But, if that’s so, I won’t say I mind too much.
In the end, Muse of Nightmares tied in nearly every loose end from the beginning of the series (while still managing to reference a few endings from Taylor’s other works). Yet, there was still enough ambiguity left behind for maybe just one more story. With that in mind, I can only hope that Taylor might do more with this series. But, even if she doesn’t, you can be sure to catch me lining up at my nearest indie bookstore for her next work.