My entire adventure into YA fantasy started because of Bookstagram. Strange the Dreamer was put on that reading list very early and I’m glad I finally had a chance to read it. A solid follow-up to the DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE series -which I apparently never blogged about – let’s take a look at what I loved (and didn’t love) about Laini Taylor’s magical book
Bookish Quick Facts:
- Title: Strange the Dreamer
- Series: Strange the Dreamer, #1
- Author: Laini Taylor
- Publisher & Release: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers – March 2017
- Length: 544 pages
- Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐for those who like lush fantasy worlds where the romance may or may not make sense
Here’s the synopsis from Amazon:
From National Book Award finalist Laini Taylor comes an epic fantasy about a mythic lost city and its dark past.
The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around–and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared his dream chose poorly. Since he was just 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 form 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? And who is the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams?
In this sweeping and breathtaking novel .. the shadow of the past is as real as the ghosts who haunt the citadel of murdered gods. Fall into a mythical world of dread and wonder, moths and nightmares, love and carnage.
The answers await in Weep.
Alright I don’t want this to turn into a 5 page long essay so I will hit the mainstays –
The Worldbuilding: One thing I’ll say for Laini Taylor is that she is a master of lush world building. The settings are so vividly described, the buildings and architecture, weather, terrain, food, mood of the citizens, everything you could want from the micro world building is present.
On a larger macro level, there is also lots of history and custom given. Many stories and folklore and popular legends are given through Lazlo’s storytelling, which really adds another dimension to the world
One of the main mysteries – where the Gods came from and what they are doing -will likely be discussed in Muse of Nightmares.
The Characters: speaking of the Muse of Nightmares – let’s do characters next. I really applaud Taylor for starting the book out the way she did –
How can you turn away from a book after learning that a blue girl falls out of the sky? Sarai and the other godspawn had a complicated and interesting dynamic. Their imprisonment and survival chipped the humanity away from some, while it seemed to flourish in others. I liked Sarai and felt for Minya, they were all just surviving in the world of their parents. And wearing their underwear.
Lazlo is one of my favorite YA MC’s ever, except he is around 20 or so. While completely appropriate, I think this book falls into that NA age category.
I love this quote almost as much as I love Lazlo. He was an orphan who was swallowed by the Great library. He is funny and has a wonderfully vivid imagination, is deeply caring, and might be “just a librarian” but definitely has a sense of adventure. He always sought out the good that he could do regardless of whether or not it would benefit him in turn.
A lot of the side characters had important rules as well. No one was there just to be a plot device. Master Hyrrokkin was one of my favorites, just because his old man banter was not what you would expect from an ancient librarian. It was also funny when his Warrior friends were giving Lazlo mistranslations and having him say silly things
The magic: tying into the world building, Taylor also created a lush magic system. Each of the god’s children had an ability, some of which were kind of cool. All the abilities were useful for survival. Sarai’s involved moths and Nightmares, and if that doesn’t make you interested in the book I don’t know what will.
What I didn’t love: I enjoyed the book immensely up until the point where the action was ready to boil over, and Laini grinds it to a full halt. A *screeeech*ing halt. Then takes something like 10 chapters to expand on a true insta love – OMG HE *SAW* ME – gag. I hate insta-love. It was a cute sequence but I don’t think jumping at the first (second)? boy she’s ever interacted with constitutes a romance that I care about. It just seemed like an excuse for Laini to add more magic into an already magical world, where that page time could have been spent trying to help keep the peace, keeping the action going, or literally anything else. Seeing each other and being fascinated doesn’t constitute a romance, even if Lazlo did have a wonderful mind to spend time in. One other thing is that I actually spotted ‘The Twist’ this time, as soon as it was said. No spoilers but it’s pretty rare that I actually get the hint so I thought it was worth mentioning
Random: I also liked that there were some harder themes tackled, such as survival
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 – Sarai
And hard truths like justice
You think good people can’t hate? .. You think good people don’t kill? […} Good people do all the things bad people do, Lazlo. It’s just that when they do them, they call it justice – Sarai
Don’t forget found family!
“You two idiots,” said Azareen, and Lazlo felt a curious twinge of pride to be called an idiot by her, with what might have been the tiniest edge of fondness
One final parting quote, even though half of the book is quotable-
“Dream up something wild and improbable. Something beautiful and full of monsters.”
“Beautiful and full of monsters?”
“All the best stories are.”
Overall – stupid “romance” in an otherwise wonderful world. The plot unravelled mysteries as it went and created (minus the block of “romance chapters”) a fantastic reading experience. The banter had me laughing out loud, the writing is beautiful, and the magic felt real within the world. Check it out!