Review: Strange the Dreamer

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
Published by Hodder & Stoughton on 28 March 2017
Pages: 544
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
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The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around – and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance to lose his dream forever.

What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?

The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries – including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real? 

Ughh, this was perfection and I don’t know why I waited so long to read this. I loved Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy like I have loved few books, and I am so pleased that Strange the Dreamer actually lived up to my expectations. It was gorgeous and odd and lyrical. In short, perfection. Although, also kind of weird.

I didn’t even know what to expect going in, I just saw ‘Laini Taylor’ and bought it. While I think it’s better to go into this book blind, for those who don’t know and are interested, the book opens on Lazlo Strange, a young librarian who was orphaned as a baby. He grew up obsessing over the Unseen City, whose true name was stolen from everybody’s mind and replaced with the word Weep. Lazlo knows he once knew Weep’s true name, but cannot remember it and devotes his life to uncovering the secrets of the city. When the Godslayer comes to select a delegation to visit Weep, Lazlo convinces him to let him join. I won’t elaborate anymore, just know that the journey he goes on is magical and filled with wonderful characters.

The characters are filled with shades of grey – the villains are sympathetic and the heroes are flawed. Even my least favourite characters still had redeemable qualities, and the smallest characters had intriguing back stories.

She asked in a hesitant whisper, “Do you still think I’m a… a singularly unhorrible demon?” “No,” he said, smiling. “I think you’re a fairy tale. I think you’re magical, and brave, and exquisite. And…” His voice grew bashful. Only in a dream could he be so bold and speak such words. “I hope you’ll let me be in your story.”

Taylor’s world-building has improved so much since Daughter of Smoke and Bone. While Dreams of Gods and Monsters had some fantastic world-building, this book just blew me away. It’s a well-conceived tale of gods and goddesses, and was tinged with elements of the beloved fairy tales of my youth. Lazlo strongly reminds me of Harry Potter (perhaps a lazy comparison), in that he is an orphaned young man who kind of has this great journey thrust upon him (admittedly, they also kind of seek it out). Sarai – oh my God, Sarai.  She is such a complicated and wonderful character.

The ending broke my heart into little pieces, and I was surprised I could get so invested in the story. I need The Muse of Nightmares, like right now. It was definitely a shock twist (and not a shitty, done for the sake of shock value twist like Allegiant), and I cannot wait to see where Taylor takes the story from here.

As always, Taylor’s prose is lyrical and wonderful, although it did feel a little forced in parts. The dialogue was on point, and the banter between Lazlo and Sarai felt so realistic. Taylor is one of the most talented writers publishing today, and this book is an absolute treat.


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