I received Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor through the CBR Book Exchange (thanks again!). I absolutely loved this book. It is fanciful and beautifully written.
Lazlo Strange is an orphan with dreams of a bigger life than he has. He escapes the drudgery of his early years by pretending to be a mythical warrior from a magical land. One day, the name of this land is lost, and Lazlo knows that there must be magic involved. He eventually finds his way to the library of the main city and becomes a junior librarian. He spends all his free hours researching the lost land that he dreams of. One day, when strange warriors come to the city and confirm all of his hopes and theories, Lazlo earns his chance to find adventure on their quest to save the lost city (now called ‘Weep’) from a supernatural threat. In confronting the problems of Weep Lazlo encounters the half-human, half-god Sarai. He and Sarai are drawn to each other but have seemingly insurmountable obstacles separating them.
The prose is lush and evocative of the state between dream and waking. The plot is complex, the characters complex and the ending a gut-punch.
Muse of Nightmares picks up immediately after the last scene of Strange the Dreamer. The chaotic events that brought that book to a close are furthered here, and the story widens scope to include events that preceded Strange by two centuries. The story is both enriched by this background while also suffering from too busy a plot. Though the title would indicate that the book’s focus is Sarai, who had the power to enter and influence other people’s dreams, she seems like an afterthought for the bulk of the story. When she is called in to action it is more as an expositional device than anything else. The author spends nearly an entire book developing the sexual tension between Lazlo and Sarai and then seems to have hit a word-count limit rather abruptly. The ending is very Disney-Channel-esque: every character has found their perfect resolution which in no way inconveniences any one else. I much preferred the first of the two books.