Sometimes you read a book that makes you stop and think for a moment. At times you read books that scare you or make you dream. And there are times when you read a book that does all of those things combined. Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor, is one of those books. But is it really as good as the raving reviews claim it is? Well, let’s find out.
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.
Heroes vs. Godspawn
Strange the Dreamer is not an ordinary book in the sense that it involves a bunch of action. In fact, most of the plot unfolds quite slowly. It is also unclear who the ‘good’ guys and who the ‘bad’ guys are. I found that really well done. After all, as a reader we are often shown that a specific character is evil, and we take that for granted. Taylor tells her story from two different perspectives on both sides of the coin. This way, the reader is conflicted about who to root for. The stakes are all over the place and that provides a rather refreshing read.
One thing that is really good about this novel is the convincing world-building. The novel takes you to places beyond your wildest imagination and actually makes them feel genuine. It feels as though that world full of magic and gods and ghosts is just around the corner.
I enjoyed the fact that all of these characters are very well-developed as well. It’s not just the main characters who have been fleshed out, but the supporting characters all have clear motivations for why they do certain things. This is something I miss in a lot of Young Adult novels. Taylor does not dumb down her audience. The characters are all complicated and have flaws and qualities, which make them relatable. No matter if Godspawn or human.
The twist at the end also had me hold my breath, but I will not spoil that for you of course.
One thing that stands out in Strange the Dreamer is the prose. It’s on the verge of purple prose, but Taylor manages to keep it balanced well enough to make you get lost in the poetic writing. I have to admit, initially it took some time for me to get used to this writing style. However, once I read more, I finally got into it and it made it easier to read. You can tell every word is considered carefully, and every sentence could be part of a song or poem. This is one of the reasons this book stands out from other Fantasy YA novels.
This is an intelligent novel that lives up to its name, as it is almost dreamlike. If you do not like High Fantasy novels, then this might not be for you, but if Fantasy is your forte, this is definitely a good addition to your reading pile.