Book Review: Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Summary:

std-cover

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 or 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?

Welcome to Weep.

Goodreads

Thoughts:

This was such an odd book and I loved it but I’m struggling to find ways to describe it. It’s a bit epic fantasy in a way because there is an entire history of this city that has to do with a battle against these gods who had abused their powers…but it’s really at its heart a very personal journey of two people, their struggles, and how they come to know and care for one another.

We have duel protagonists in this story. First there is Lazlo Strange. He’s someone who often gets the short end of the stick, having opportunities snatched away from him by others. Nonetheless he perseveres and decides to put his foot forward, making himself useful in any way he can so that he can join an expedition to the city of Weep, which is his obsession. I really have a soft spot for characters like Lazlo. He doesn’t have it easy and often has to deal with the reality of life not being fair. And yet he carries on and carves out a space for himself anyway. He’s also one of those characters that you want to wrap up in bubble wrap to protect because they have such a lovely and pure heart, even after they’ve had to deal with some bad things in their life.

The other main protagonist is Sarai, one of a handful of young people to have survived the wholesale slaughter of their people. They’re strange and have powers and live apart from the rest of the world watched over by servants who are ghosts. Their world and way of life feels more than a little surreal. Even though they’ve been raised in relative isolation, Sarai has a keen sense of right and wrong. She fears her own power , afraid that it makes her a monster.

While this story feels similar to a fairy tale or a myth in its tone and vibe, it’s also extremely original. It’s not that often that I come across something where I think ‘woah, that’s new’. Even though the world building is, for the most part, heavily concentrated on Weep and its history, it feels like a much more expansive world. And yet, parts of it feel rather constricted. I think this is due to the two POV’s in the book. Everything from Sarai feels so claustrophobic because she’s stuck in a prison of sorts. Meanwhile, with Lazlo you do get the impression that there is a great big sprawling world out there, and that he would love to explore a lot of it. It thought the history of Weep was interesting. It’s presented as a bit of a mystery and being able to see certain events from different perspectives was pretty cool.

There are some side characters which are pretty important to the story and also had amazing histories and story arcs–there are no characters who are not fully fleshed out–but they weren’t what kept me reading. For me this story was all about Lazlo and Sarai and their strange and beautiful connection with one another. I loved the time they spent with one another, such as it was, getting to know each other while also trying to puzzle out what was happening.

Overall, this was a very original fantasy story with fantastic prose and mythic world-building. I thoroughly enjoyed this one and look forward to reading the second book. 4/5 stars.

 

21 thoughts on “Book Review: Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

    • waytoofantasy says:

      Just based on this one book, I’d say that she does have a great imagination. There are some things here that I’ve not encountered before in fantasy. It’s a good one, hope you get a chance to read it!

  1. marydrover says:

    I DO want to wrap Lazlo up in bubble wrap and protect him from everything! He just makes me cry so much, I love him to little pieces.

  2. foreverlostinlit says:

    I’m so glad you enjoyed this book! I love Lazlo so much as a character–your bubble wrap comment is so true! Laini Taylor really has a beautiful way of telling a story. I hope you enjoy Muse of Nightmares just as much, I loved it as well. 🙂

  3. Sally says:

    I fell in love with this book, my favourite of the year and definitely one of my all time favourites. Laini Taylor is such a talented writer. I wish I could find more amazing original fantasy like this, it was so refreshing. It reminded me why I love reading (and SFF) so much especially after reading many good but predictable and cliche fantasy books (looking at you Priory of the Orange Tree). Definitely read the next book, it’s also excellent though I did enjoy it slightly less than Strange the Dreamer.

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