Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
Digital Audiobook narrated by Steve West
Published by Hodder & Stoughton on March 28, 2017
Series: Strange the Dreamer #1
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Length: 536 pages or 18 hours, 20 minutes
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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?
This book broke me into a thousand tiny pieces.
I’ve never read Laini Taylor before, so I wasn’t prepared for her beautiful, gripping writing. In the bookish community, we talk so much about our love for characters and stories that we often don’t discuss the writing itself. They way Laini Taylor writes… she reminds me why I love words. It’s lyrical but not flowery. It’s slow and soft and sometimes sends shivers over your skin. It’s beautiful.
Then there’s Strange the Dreamer itself.
This book is magical. It’s fantasy, but it feels like mythology. While you read it, you get the sense of being privy to something greater. This is in part Laini’s writing, and in part the timeless feel of the story itself. Laslo Strange is just an orphan, unremarkable in every way. He’s Strange the Dreamer – obsessed with fairytales and the impossible. And Sarai is the Muse of Nightmares, slipping into the dreams of Weep every night. If it was just the two of them, it would be a fantasy love story. But there’s so much more.
Laini doesn’t just give you Laslo and Sarai’s love story. She gives you war and murder and magic and found families and real families and alchemy and rivals and just. So much. But the love story should not be discounted. This is the most beautiful love story I’ve read since The Night Circus. I was absolutely rooting for them, every step of the way. Their moments together in dreams were the most vivid, beautiful parts of the book. I adored this love story with every iota of my being.
The core of the story is the consequences of a deicide. The citadel of the gods hangs over the city of Weep and blocks out the sky. Unbeknownst to the citizens of Weep, five of the god spawn have survived. Six-year-old Minya was able to rescue two toddlers and two infants when the Godkiller came, and they have survived. Minya’s very being is composed of hatred for humanity, for the way they murdered her father and family. How they killed the babies and would have killed her too. And the people of Weep? After generations of abduction and rape, they hate and fear the beings in the citadel.
There are complexities upon complexities within this story, and the struggle is slow and the consequences dire. Selfish men cause disasters and cautious people die. As each question is answered, a larger, more pressing question is revealed. It’s very easy to fall into Strange the Dreamer and never want to wake up.
As for the characters, they are all very distinct and interesting. I’ll admit, it took me a while to warm up to Sarai. Many other readers have complained about the beginning and all the attention paid to Laslo. I suppose a lot of the introduction could have been split off and contained in a separate novella, but I loved it. Laslo was my favorite character, not just because he gets the most screen time… but because he contains multitudes of hope. He’s not quite naive, but he is kindness and passion incarnate. He’s an inspirational character, the kind who could inspire love easily and gives freely. I loved the goodness of him.
For as much as I loved Laslo, I hated Minya. She has, quite possibly, advanced to the top spot of my Most Hated Villains Ever. Her character is made even more potent by her smallness. Every time I thought she was about to become complicated, every time I believed she would give in, she remained adamant. I hated her for it.
This book inspired a lot on emotions in me. I cheered, I gasped, I leered, I cried. When I finished listening to it, I felt in turns exhilarated and exhausted. The only small note I would like to give is that Strange The Dreamer is an incredibly slow novel. I hardly noticed it, because I was so entranced, but in reflection I realize that an hour at a time, easily, was spent in a single conversation. In that way, this book becomes a commitment, but I absolutely recommend it.
The only other book I can really compare it to is The Night Circus. The feel of the words, the breadth of the word, and the love story… it’s all so good. I throughly recommend this to everyone, regardless of age.