Review: Strange the Dreamer
"Strange the Dreamer"Just the title of the book conjures a certain feeling, a hint of something grand and whimsical at the same time.
When I first read the title last May, holding a little excerpt of the book that had been handed to me at Laini Taylor’s book panel by her publisher's press team, it felt like part of a quote, that perhaps it was strange that the person who was dreaming would do, find, create something. And to some degree, that very much turned out to be true, but mostly it’s a story about orphan Lazlo Strange (Strange being the equivalent of Snow, Rivers, etc given to the bastard children in the world of GOT) who, whether it’s nature or nurture, is a little different than the people he’s met in his life so far.
Here’s the publisher’s summary: (In order to keep things as spoiler-free as possible I will do my best to only address things shared in the blurb.)
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.
Let me start by saying that I fell in love with the lushness of this book. Laini Taylor is a master worldbuilder, and a dreamer herself, conjuring beautiful mythology, cultures, architecture, terrain, and even dreams within the world she has dreamed up. It’s so easy to be there, in the book, seeing what the characters are seeing.
This was not a fast read for me. The book is 532 pages, and truly, there is no moment when I wondered if there couldn’t have been a stricter hand in the editing- everything either served to help build this brand new world to the point that it felt real, or it built up the stories of the main characters to such a degree that they were fully three-dimensional, full of want and motivation. Which meant there was no speed-reading or skimming happening here.
I have a handful of little page flags tucked throughout the book, but too many of the quotes hint at things not described in the summary so I can’t share all of them here, but what I can share is that in this book, even more than in the Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy, Taylor’s deep-rooted love for books and storytellers is evident. This book feels a like a kindred spirit for those of us who are happiest when looking at the world as stories to be told, and ourselves as the potentials heroines and heros. It brings out a kind of longing, a sense that our lives would be richer if we could tell our own stories, and do so with truthful clarity and enough whimsy to make us feel even more alive.
By the end of the book I was invested. I have strong opinions about what I hope will happen to these characters I’ve come to know so well, and damned if I didn’t both want to give Taylor a low-clap standing ovation and also scream in tortured frustration by the time I got to the final page. This is an author who has perfected how to end a book in a series. I’m ready to climb over people and come out swinging in order to get my hands on the next book the moment that it comes out.
Did you read the book? If you have thoughts or favorite quotes feel free to share them below. I might have to share some of my favorite quotes as well!