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?
N.B: The only spoilers that this review contains are related to the romance, not the main plot.
If you’ve read any of Laini Taylor’s other novels, you will know what a master storyteller she is. Her vivid imagery is simply delicious and the beauty of her prose is summed up by how Lazlo Strange describes the Unseen language, “like calligraphy, if calligraphy were written in honey.”
In Strange the Dreamer, Taylor has created yet another unique and mesmerising fantasy world that I didn’t really want to leave. It is a rich and colourful world filled with mythical creatures, ornate buildings and fascinating customs. Some reviewers have commented that the story is too slow for them, but I really like the pacing of the novel. Taylor takes time to focus on world-building so the reader can drink in all the magical details, with mystery and intrigue slowly building to a dramatic finale.
The characters are complex and many-layered. Some hide their insecurities behind a mask, some have done terrible things for understandable reasons and all of them have a history that explains how they became as they are. Taylor constantly challenges the reader’s perception of right and wrong and blurs the lines between things that appear to be opposites, like good and evil, hero and villain. We start to wonder whose side we should be on and which characters we should be rooting for.
I really identified with both the main characters, Lazlo and Sarai. Lazlo is probably someone that most book lovers can relate to. He is a daydreamer with a passion for knowledge and a love of libraries. He is an idealist with a vivid imagination, big dreams and a thirst for adventure, but he was born into the wrong social position and is downtrodden and overlooked by almost everyone. Yet, they shouldn’t underestimate him.
Sarai is Lazlo’s opposite in some ways, as while he has been longing for adventure and fantasy, she has lived a surreal and dramatic life and longs for the ordinary. She has spent most of her life in hiding and knows that people would be afraid of her if they knew who she is or what she can do. They are similar in that they both want to be understood and they can each see the true nature of the other, instead of judging like everyone else.
While I am not usually that interested in romance subplots, I adored the relationship between Lazlo and Sarai. They are ‘star-crossed lovers’, but not of the one-dimensional insta-love variety. Instead of becoming infatuated by Lazlo’s appearance, Sarai falls in love with his mind and recognises that there is more to him than meets the eye. Normally I find myself scanning over romantic parts in books, but I was hooked. Taylor doesn’t need to include racy sex scenes, she has a wonderful way of making the simplest of gestures-like hand-holding- into something intimate and sensuous.
Strange the Dreamer explores the nature of human emotions such as love, hate, fear and envy through the themes of war, power play and forbidden romance. At its heart, it’s about knowing yourself, following your dreams and daring to believe in what everyone else dismisses as impossible. It’s about seeing the beauty in the unorthodox; in the people that are called ‘strange’ or labelled as ‘monsters’. It’s about the difficult choice between fighting for what you believe in and staying loyal to those you love.
I would recommend Strange the Dreamer to almost every bookworm, but especially to those that love fantasy novels filled with whimsical language. If you prefer action-packed books with little description, then this may not be for you. The book also covers some adult topics and includes violence (rape, the murder of infants) which may be a trigger for some.
But if you enjoyed the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series, you will almost certainly love this. As you can tell, I have fallen head over heels in love with this book. I can’t wait to read the sequel, Muse of Nightmares, and immerse myself in this captivating world once again.
“You’re a storyteller. Dream up something wild and improbable,” she pleaded. “Something beautiful and full of monsters.”
“Beautiful and full of monsters?”
“All the best stories are.”
“And that’s how you go on. You lay laughter over the dark parts. The more dark parts, the more you have to laugh. With defiance, with abandon, with hysteria, any way you can.”
“He had loved the library, and had felt, as a boy, as though it had a kind of sentience, and perhaps loved him back. But even if it was just walls and a roof with papers inside, it had bewitched him, and drawn him in, and given him everything he needed to become himself.”
Before you go…
Have you read Strange the Dreamer? What did you think?