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After the success of Strange the Dreamer, today comes out Muse of Nightmares, the last much-anticipated chapter of Laini Tylor‘s fantasy duology that, thanks to Fazi Editore, we were able to read in advance. Our expectations were indeed high because Strange the Dreamer, except some small perplexities about the ending, had revealed itself to be a really pleasant and engaging reading, becoming with no doubts one of those fantasy novels that shows the great potential of the genre – here our review. We were therefore very happy with how Muse of Nightmares has hooked us from the first pages.

As always, we will not reveal much of the plot to not spoil the reading experience of those who still have to discover this beauty, but we will tell you the reasons why we loved this book and why we strongly recommend it. First of all, we appreciated how the second chapter, consistent with Strange the Dreamer, has maintained and strengthened the centrality of the dreamlike motif. The core theme is in fact enriched by greater psychoanalytic implications that firmly link the development of events to the awareness and elaboration of the past and mysterious traumas of the characters. Moreover, the plot has been able to water down sentimentality, proposing an emotionally more balanced narrative order.

The dreamlike dimension as a discovery of self and dream

The story of Lazlo Strange, the dreamer and young librarian who from the beginning shows interest in everything that transcends his ordinary existence, had passionate us because he had been able to show with a vivid and involving style how dreams are fundamental in pushing us to explore the most hidden parts of us, helping us to discover what we really are. The Muse of Nightmares strengthens this very idea.

“Impossible?” Lazlo gave a soft laugh and shake of his head. “There must be things that are impossible. But I don’t believe we’ve gotten there yet. Look at us. We’ve barely begun. Sarai, we’re magic.” He said this with all the wonder of a lifelong dreamer who’s found out he’s half god. “You don’t know yet what you’re capable of, but I’m willing to bet it’s extraordinary.”

The dreamlike dimension as a prison and a nightmare

Indirectly this duology speaks about two aspects of the dreamlike dimension. On the one hand it shows how dreams feed grand images of ourselves, those aspirations that at times we cannot translate into concrete facts of life, but which remain fundamental to continue to imagine and cultivate infinity within us. On the other hand, the story shows how, often, when we cannot hear them, those same dreams can be overwhelming, while making us loosing ourselves: the only way we have not to succumb is to learn to recognise their value and welcome them.

“There comes a certain point with a hope or a dream, when you either give it up or give up everything else. And if you choose the dream, if you keep on going, then you can never quit, because it’s all you are.”

For some of the characters in the story unrealised dreams become obsessions and turn into nightmares, exposing themselves and those around them to the deepest fears and darkest sides of human nature.

An internalised mission

Strange The Dreamer can be considered as the story of the search for balance between these two semantic values ​​of the dreamlike dimension – the dream and the nightmare. This balance becomes real in an organised mission in order to save a city and its people. Within this venture, victims and perpetrators come to take note of those limiting emotional mechanisms that had blocked them in a conflicting opposition. They discover that there is no real antagonist, but only a series of irrational beliefs to be overcome through awareness and elaboration.

Muse of Nightmares can be read as the exploration of this process. The real battlefield will not be where the armies collide but the mysterious and ethereal one where the unconscious of individuals dwells. In fact, we discover that the antagonistic forces, which are opposed to the resolution of the conflict, are not simply bad people but small fragments of personality trapped in the past by a trauma, thus destined to continually repeat dysfunctional and deleterious emotional mechanisms made of pain and fear.

“Sarai knew better than anyone: It’s easy to make people cry. Grief, humiliation, anger—there are countless avenues to tears. It’s easy to make them scream, too. There are so many things to fear. But how do you stop someone from crying? How do you lead them out of fear?”

Reading Muse of Nightmares

Trying to defeat fear from the inside is just what the heroes of this duology will have to face. We see them devising exciting strategies and tactics through which, resolving the deep traumas of characters with a negative appearance, they will be able to discover a lot about themselves. From the great work of Freud and subsequent studies we know that dreams are precious and mysterious treasure troves where it is possible to see an underlying content that manifests itself through symbolic elements showing us the way to better understand ourselves and others.

Muse of Nightmare in this sense, in addition to being a fantasy novel that describes with an exciting and captivating style an adventure made of love and hate, of revenge and redemption, of destruction and salvation, also reveals an accessible and engaging journey inside the mysteries of our mind and the importance of exploring them. It makes us hope and believe in the possibility that one day a friend can tell us what someone said about Lazlo:

“He was Strange the dreamer, after all. He wasn’t your ordinary dreamer, prey to all the vagaries of the unconscious. He moved through his mind with the assuredness of an explorer and the grace of a poet.”