Blue Goddesses, Moths, and Beautiful Dreamscapes: Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

4.5 stars
Strange the Dreamer

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?


To be perfectly honest with you, I’m not entirely sure how to write this particular review. As silly as it sounds, I think I’m still in a bit of a dreamlike haze (much like Lazlo) in which I’m finding it difficult to isolate individual trains of thought.

Writing & Plot

One of the criticisms I had heard of Strange the Dreamer prior to reading it was the fact that in reality, very little actually happens in the story in the way of plot. Having now finished it, in a way, I somewhat agree with this point. And yet, while I was reading, I can safely say that I didn’t care in the slightest. Had I not been aware of it beforehand, I probably wouldn’t have even noticed. Why? Because of Taylor’s writing.

To put it in the most simple of terms: Laini Taylor is a beautiful writer. I’ve heard something along these lines from hundreds of other people, over and over again but it still wasn’t something I managed to pick up on when I read Daughter of Smoke and Bone last year. It’s likely I was too distracted by my disappointment in the story itself. But here, it’s a fact that is so very plain to see. As I’ve said in posts before, I’m not a fan of authors who use massive amounts of description. For me, it bogs down the story and is just plain boring. Taylor is not one of these authors. However, this doesn’t stop every word and phrase from being nothing short of enchanting. Her language choices, the things she pays attention to, the depictions of her characters – all are fantastic and somehow manage to lull you into this almost perfect state of contentment. If you’re going into this book looking for a full steam ahead kind of story, it’s not what you’ll find. Instead, Laini Taylor takes you on a leisurely stroll through her mind in which she introduces you to the beauty of her fantasy world, the secrets of the city of Weep, and the compelling ensemble of characters she’s created. There’s light, there’s darkness, and I absorbed every little detail with eager enthusiasm. This is very much a story about a place and people. Yet, it can definitely be said that the book changes in tone a great deal at some point during the second half. It’s here that it turns to focus on the romantic relationship between its two lead characters. While I believe I certainly could have been a fan of this relationship, like many authors these days it suffers from a lack of gradual development and too quick a use of that magic ‘L’ word.

Characters

Strange the Dreamer has quite a long list of characters, all developed to varying degrees. The two central characters are Lazlo, a librarian who wants nothing more than to understand the mysteries of Weep, and Sarai, the blue-skinned daughter of the goddess of despair with the ability to enter people’s dreams. Both Lazlo and Sarai are very likeable characters and this is due in large part to their almost childlike tendency toward trying to see the world as a better and more magical place than it is.  Both undergo a decent degree of development as the story goes on in terms of their ideas about their respective situations and their view of themselves, which is quite a lovely thing to see.  While Lazlo and Sarai are certainly engaging, particularly during the beautiful dream sequences they share together, many of the more interesting plotlines stem from the surrounding cast of characters. First, we have Eril-Fane, aka the Godslayer, who is twisted by guilt and regret over what he was forced to do to save his people many years ago. We also have Thyon, the alchemist, a man determined to continue to prove himself and unable to comprehend a simple act of compassion. Lastly, and perhaps the most interesting of all, is Minya. As the only godspawn old enough to remember the carnage, Minya is a terrifying and sometimes frustrating mix of guilt, hate and vengeance which suggests interesting things yet to come. Many of these characters’ stories felt greatly incomplete but it’s understandable considering this is only book one where the focus needed to be Lazlo, Sarai, and slowly peeling back the layers on Weep itself.

Climax & Ending

Unlike the rest of the novel, the climax of Strange the Dreamer is quite fast-paced and succeeds in setting up a dramatic set of circumstances for the sequel. It’s part predictable, part frustrating, and also a teensy bit of a betrayal. Part A is easy to be okay with as it’s a great and logical place for the story to go. Part B, well, it’s only the beginning for that. As for the betrayal, it’s definitely a shock to find that Taylor has spent such a chunk of time developing certain things only for them to progress to that kind of plot twist. However, it’s a comfort to know that she’ll easily manage to make something quite wonderful and exciting of it in the book to come as she continues to explore the idea of gods and monsters, and everything in between.

[Also, points for having one of the most stunning book covers I’ve ever seen. Every time I look at it, I just go wow!]

4.5 stars

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