Title: Strange the Dreamer
Author: Laini Taylor
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Publisher: Little, Brown
Publication Date: March 2017
Hardcover: 544 Pages
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.
Standalone or Series: Book 1 in a planned duology
How did I get this book: Review Copy from the publisher
Format (e- or p-): Hardcover
Once upon a time, there was an orphan boy. Gray, sickly, unwanted, young Lazlo Strange grows up a monk, then a librarian, and an altogether unlikely hero.
For as long as he can remember, Lazlo has cared for fairy tales and mysteries–all of them focused on a gold-gilded faraway city, where men and women warriors ride astride majestic beasts, and magic is possible. One day, this city nearest to Lazlo’s hearts… simply disappears. Its name is plucked from the minds of everyone and replaced with a word: Weep. Lazlo, who can intimately recall the moment the name vanished from his mind knows that this is evidence of magic, and makes it his life’s mission to find Weep and discover its secrets. He becomes a librarian, devoting his lifeblood to scouring its books for any knowledge of Weep, its people, its language, and the mythic seraphim and mezarthim that came from the sky.
One day, Lazlo’s dream inexplicably finds him when a band of Tizarkane soldiers ride into his city, seeking scholars and experts of different kinds of knowledge to join their party and ride with them to Weep. The leader of this band is a heroic man named Eril-Fane, but who is more known by the name Godslayer–for just fifteen years before, when the name Weep was plucked from the minds of the world, Eril-Fane did the impossible and liberated his people.
Lazlo Strange has dreamed his entire life for this chance to learn visit the lost city of Weep, to witness true magic, to solve Weep’s mystery.
Meanwhile, a young woman named Sarai and her family grow restless in their palace filled with ghosts, gardens, and memories. Every day is the same… but is about to change.
Strange the Dreamer is Laini Taylor’s newest series–a duology–set in a brand new world and distinct from her Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy. It is a tale of Gods and Monsters, of legends and myths, and long-standing enmity between the oppressed and their oppressors. It’s also the story of two young people, who yearn to break the cycle of hate and fear, though their lives and backgrounds are completely different. Strange the Dreamer is, as its title implies, a beautiful and unexpected tale about stories, dreams, and the fragile souls who dare to dream them. In other words:
I loved Strange the Dreamer. I also had a great many issues with the book by its cliffhanger ending.
It’s hard to encapsulate all of the splendor of the intertwined stories within Strange the Dreamer (certainly it’s hard to do so without spoilers), but allow me to enumerate some of my favorite things:
First and foremost, Lazlo Strange. The orphan who would become a monk, and then who discovers the glory of the library and the stories within is the vital life essence of this novel. Lazlo is sweet and bookish, odd and courageous. He is a dreamer who wins the hearts of the warriors he accompanies on their great mission, and our story’s unlikely hero. I loved Lazlo’s narration and innocence; his kindness and honor.
Our other protagonist, Sarai, is another luminescent part of Strange the Dreamer. Her narrative could not be more different than Lazlo’s, trapped as she and her siblings are in their citadel; I love the gradual way we learn that she and her kin are not like other humans, the nature of their gifts, and the terms of their imprisonment. Sarai’s fears of sleep and her sense of building dread, especially in the face of her single-minded sister Minya, is a powerful, palpable thing.
And then, there is the “problem” of Weep, and the land’s great and dark secret–which Lazlo and other shave been dispatched to solve. Strange the Dreamer‘s greatest strength is how everything is so intertwined, and yet nothing makes sense at first–kind of like a dream in itself. Over time, as more pieces are revealed, the picture becomes clearer. We learn about the assembled team headed for Weep and what they might hazard to do there together. We learn that Sarai and her kin are no mere children imprisoned in some faraway castle. We learn the truth of the Gods who descended upon the land and what they demanded in tribute.
These were the things that make Strange the Dreamer so wild, unprobable, and beautiful (to quote a certain thief from the book). These intertwined threads are what make Lazlo’s tale a triumph.
However… the book is not without certain sizable issues. For as much as I loved and was enchanted by the novel’s first two thirds, its final act is where the book stumbles. When the dreamer, Lazlo, meets the Muse of Nightmares, the result is a fantastically tragic doomed romance that is conducted with a painful abundance of melodrama. Instead of building the romance with the same care and attention that is given to the world and the overarching thematic angles of the novel, the third act is frenetic and almost comical in its focus on earth-shattering romance, with two characters falling in all-consuming passionate infatuation with one another at first contact. And because there is so much time devoted to the all-consuming passion between these two characters, the dramatic and world-changing reveals in the novel’s final act are rushed to an inevitably over-the-top ending, which includes a somewhat telegraphed reveal about one of the characters’ true nature, a literal explosion that rocks the world to its core, and, in the essence of great doomed star-crossed romance, untimely death.
There are other minor issues with Strange the Dreamer, but this is its most greivous offense: the rushed climax, and cliffhanger ending.
There are no answers to be had to any of Lazlo’s great and terrible questions at the heart of Weep–to get any kind of closure and meaning, readers will have to wait for The Muse of Nightmares… sometime in 2018.
Recommended, but reader beware.
Rating: 8 – Excellent. I would have given the first two-thirds a 9 and the last third a 4. Do with that what you will!
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