Such Beautiful Strangeness, or my review of Strange the Dreamer

Strange the Dreamer

Strange the Dreamer (Strange the Dreamer #1)

By: Laini Taylor 

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Publication Date: March 28th, 2017

Format: Hardcover


A new epic fantasy by National Book Award finalist and New York Times bestselling author Laini Taylor of the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy.

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?

In this sweeping and breathtaking new novel by National Book Award finalist Laini Taylor, author of the New York Timesbestselling Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy, the shadow of the past is as real as the ghosts who haunt the citadel of murdered gods. Fall into a mythical world of dread and wonder, moths and nightmares, love and carnage.

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I’m not really sure how to start this review. You know those books that you pick up, and they’re so gorgeous, and then you read the first little bit and you realize that a piece of your soul will die if you read this book, but you read the rest anyways because it’ll be worth it?

Yeah. That.

It’s a bit difficult to describe why this book is so powerful and intense. The best way I can think to summarize it is that Laini Taylor is a master of wistful, quirky, otherworldly beauty, and Strange the Dreamer is full of that. From the first page, about the beautiful blue girl who fell from the sky, you’re entirely hooked. And the story of Lazlo Strange, orphan and librarian, just pulls you further down the rabbit hole.

The plot feels a bit hesitant, especially for the first section, until we actually get to Weep. Although granted, that slow buildup is necessary for full understanding of the rest of the book. Once Lazlo gets to Weep, and especially once he meets Sarai, things speed up considerably, and I felt utterly swept away into the story.

The story is a difficult, complex one–of conquest, and horrors, and horrors done in kind. But it’s also a story about the power of stories, and about love, and redemption through love. Laini Taylor does this kind of romance beautifully. Sarai and Lazlo have a pure, star-crossed, selfless kind of love, and it makes me a bit teary-eyed. But it has a surprisingly firm foundation, in that they’re both orphaned, both resourceful teens who survive in an unkind world, and who despite that have powerful, beautiful hopes and dreams. I especially loved how all of their interactions were in dreams, it was a magical touch.

Granted, many of the side characters are just as compelling. Enil-Fane, the Godslayer, and his wife Azareen are still dealing with intense emotional fallout from their past experiences. Thyon Nero had such a complicated relationship with Lazlo that I was convinced he’d be an important part of the book. Minya is also a compelling character, in her single-minded sense of revenge. There are very few characters who appear for more than a few pages who feel single-dimensional, so props to Laini for that.

Strange feels similar to the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series. The dark gods, the battle and reconciliation, the love that transcends battle and even death…you can easily say that there are similar themes at work. I’m tempted to speculate that the two series are somehow related (the whole ‘six seraphim’ thing, for instance), although it’d be difficult to draw a concrete connection. Still, Strange the Dreamer is definitely its own work. I honestly think it’s already a more complex thing than the Smoke and Bone series, although maybe this is just because it’s not the author’s debut work.

However, I will issue a warning: Strange the Dreamer (if you didn’t already guess from the prologue) will tear your heart into shreds and make you cry bitter tears. Just…be warned. Then go out and read it anyways, because it’s a beautiful pain.

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Disclaimer: The synopsis and cover picture were pulled from the book’s Goodreads page. Neither belong to us.

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