Dreams of Yesteryear: A Dual Review of “Vengeful” by V.E. Schwab and “Muse of Nightmares” by Laini Taylor

When I went to edit this post, I realized I never wrote an introduction or conclusion. Since both mini-reviews contain their own introduction and conclusion, I’m just not going to bother with one for the whole post. Let’s just jump into this.

Vengeful by V.E. Schwab


Official Summary: Sydney once had Serena—beloved sister, betrayed enemy, powerful ally. But now she is alone, except for her thrice-dead dog, Dol, and then there’s Victor, who thinks Sydney doesn’t know about his most recent act of vengeance.

Victor himself is under the radar these days—being buried and re-animated can strike concern even if one has superhuman powers. But despite his own worries, his anger remains. And Eli Ever still has yet to pay for the evil he has done.

My Thoughts: “Ren,” you’re probably thinking. “Why are you just now reviewing a book that came out in September?”

Well, dear reader, I’ve wanted to talk about this book for a while, but didn’t have enough to say to make a full review. I also didn’t have a book I wanted to include with it on a dual mini-review post. Until now, that is. Now it is finally time for me to discuss what makes this book so great.

If Vicious was dark, then Vengeful is downright evil. Filled to the brim with morally bankrupt characters, this novel is a delicious feast of ambition and villainy. Schwab’s writing has improved greatly since Vicious came out, as has her ability to handle a large cast of characters. Vengeful is an exploration in survival and what it means to thrive. It plays with the concept of found family. So many plans and schemes overlap and intertwine and so many alliances are built and destroyed. Vengeful is a vast improvement on an already fantastic story. I can’t even imagine how mind-blowing the next book of the Villains series will be.

Victor, Sydney, and Mitch have fantastic character development in this book. We learn more about them and their desires than before. Their family unit is heartwarmingly bizarre. Eli’s backstory is finally explored, offering new insight into his character. It’s fascinating to see the subtle way his dynamic with Victor changes after seeing it from his perspective.

New characters are introduced in this novel, most notably Marcella Morgan Riggins and June. Marcella is a former mob wife and current HBIC. Her ambition and ferocity lead her on a path toward total domination of Merit. With the ability to destroy with just a touch, Marcella is a formidable opponent indeed. June is a shapeshifter, able to morph herself into anyone she’s touched. Not only can she look like them, but she absorbs part of who they are. Due to this, her life and background is a mystery. The only certainty is that she longs for connection, searching for friendship wherever she can find it.

The plot is largely character-driven, as it’s their schemes and goals that drive the story. Victor is searching for a cure; Eli is planning an escape; Sydney is trying to revive her sister; Marcella is hell-bent on domination; June longs for a place to belong. Everyone’s desires and plans lead them hurtling toward each other in Merit. It’s difficult to know who to root for, when everyone is so delightfully devilish.

Through each character’s plan and arc, Schwab explores themes of surviving vs. thriving and what makes a family. She espouses the moral conundrum of doing a bad thing for a good cause and vice versa. This is a story without a “good guy,” even though characters like Eli and Stell view themselves as such. Schwab uses these characters to explore the ugly side of humanity, but also the most tender and honest side. It’s deeply disturbing to admire and see yourself in these characters because you know they’re villains. It makes you wonder if maybe there’s a little bit of a villain in you too.

While Shades of Magic is my favorite V.E. Schwab series, it isn’t without its critics. In fact, it seems to be her most polarizing body of work. Villains, on the other hand, is almost universally beloved. Even though I recommend both series, I especially recommend Villains. This is a series even Schwab’s critics champion. Whether you’d be giving Schwab a first, second, or even fifth chance, I highly recommend you give this series a try. Trust me, this is one winner the Goodreads voters got emphatically right.

My Rating: 5/5

Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor


Official Summary: In the wake of tragedy, neither Lazlo nor Sarai are who they were before. One a god, the other a ghost, they struggle to grasp the new boundaries of their selves as dark-minded Minya holds them hostage, intent on vengeance against Weep.

Lazlo faces an unthinkable choice—save the woman he loves, or everyone else?—while Sarai feels more helpless than ever. But is she? Sometimes, only the direst need can teach us our own depths, and Sarai, the Muse of Nightmares, has not yet discovered what she’s capable of.

As humans and godspawn reel in the aftermath of the citadel’s near fall, a new foe shatters their fragile hopes, and the mysteries of the Mesarthim are resurrected: Where did the gods come from, and why? What was done with thousands of children born in the citadel nursery? And most important of all, as forgotten doors are opened and new worlds revealed: Must heroes always slay monsters, or is it possible to save them instead?

My Thoughts: Laini Taylor has only been a part of my life for two years, but it feels like she’s always been ther. I put off reading the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy for years because it sounded too dumb and predictable. However, after a few friends and BookTubers whose opinions I trust raved about the series, I knew I had to give it a chance. I fell in love from the first page. Taylor’s writing is flowing and lyrical and her worlds are unique and creative. As such, I was desperate to get my hands on Strange the Dreamer. I really liked it, but it didn’t speak to my very soul the way DOSAB did. So, while I anticipated Muse of Nightmares, it wasn’t with the same enthusiasm as I’d had for Strange the Dreamer.

Once Muse of Nightmares came out and people started to rave about it, I knew I needed to get my hands on it. The second I finished Queen of Air and Darkness by Cassandra Clare, I picked up Muse of Nightmares.

And, my god, I loved it. This book single-handedly reminded me why I love Laini Taylor’s books so much. This book, especially, holds a special place in my heart. The way the conflicts are handled and the antagonists are dealt with is so beautiful. Moreover, the character development is wonderful, the writing gorgeous, and the world-building phenomenal. I absolutely cannot praise this book enough. I am so sorry this series is only a duology, thought I sense seeds for a crossover story with Daughter of Smoke and Bone.

I’m genuinely having trouble putting into words how well-done the character development in this book is. Lazlo is trying to figure out his new place in the world. Sarai is adjusting to her new life and learning more about what she can do with her powers. In the process, she learns more about herself and the mark she wants to leave on the world. Her relationship with Lazlo is also developed better than in Strange the Dreamer, where it felt like instalove. Muse of Nightmares shows why these characters love each other as they do.

Minya and Nova are the two antagonists in this novel. They also serve as foils of each other. Both would burn down the world to protect their siblings (though the godspawn are not all related, they did grow up together as a family). We see the events that led them to be the way they are and, through Sarai, learn how to help them grow and escape their trauma.

Eril-Fane slowly releases his hard exterior over the course of the novel, his deep regret softened by his second chance at fatherhood. His relationship with Azareen is further explored, beautiful in its tragedy and whisper of hope. The Tizerkane also grows, grappling with their long-held hatred of the godspawn and feelings of friendship for Lazlo.

Sparrow, Ruby, and Feral don’t grow too much, but still change in important ways. Sparrow explores the depth of her powers, becoming a symbol of life and mercy. Ruby shows her vulnerable side, while also discovering freedom with a kind of childlike wonder. Feral questions what it is he truly wants, and longs to be seen as more than he is. The three also, for the first time, stand up to Minya.

The character who’s growth impressed me the most is Thyon. In the first book, he is spoiled and entitled. He believes he is above everyone else, and often takes advantage of Lazlo’s kindness. However, he’s also a dedicated alchemist. Deep down, you know he cares more about his science and craft than wealth and high society. In Muse of Nightmares, he finds humility. He learns the value of hard work and to appreciate those around him. He grows to be genuine friends with the very soldiers he once scorned.

There’s even a suggestion that he and Ruza will eventually form a romance, as both men like and are attracted to each other. Their banter borders on flirtation more than once. I hope we see them again, as I’d like to see this relationship blossom.

Taylor’s world-building has always been impeccable, and this book is no exception. From Weep and the world of Zeru to the worlds beyond, Taylor paints a clear portrait of each setting and how it functions. It’s especially intricate because it’s an extension of the world-building done in Dreams of Gods and Monsters, the concluding DOSAB novel. Hundreds of parallel worlds exist on top of each other, including Zeru, Eretz, Earth, and the world of the Mesarthim.

Speaking of the Mesarthim, this book delves into their history. It reveals where they came from and why they terrorized Weep for centuries. The parts of the story that take place in their world at first seem forced into this finale, but as the pieces come together you realize the truth was well-foreshadowed all along. Serves me right for doubting Laini Taylor, I suppose.

Each character’s actions help drive the plot forward. They are the story. For the first few chapters, it feels like nothing is happening because the characters are still left spiraling from the events that concluded Strange the Dreamer. It quickly picks up, however, and the insights into each character are thrilling. Without their pasts, these characters would have no future. Each character directly influences every other, an intimate tangle of introspection and deeds.

The writing is as beautiful and dreamy as ever, lyrical and flowing. Taylor has a gift for metaphor that her contemporaries have yet to touch. There’s something so alive and inherent about the way she writes. It’s a part of her world and it’s a part of you. It makes her stories feel like a manifestation of your very soul.

There’s not much else I can say without merely crying about how much I love this book. It’s moving and brutal, an absolutely life-changing experience. This book stands alone in the empathetic way it overcomes its central conflicts. I adore the ending, a touching promise of hope. Though Taylor hasn’t officially announced anything, I can see the makings of a story with characters from all her series in this conglomerate of worlds. And I just know it’s going to be the stuff of dreams.

My Rating: 5/5

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