Series: Strange the Dreamer, #1
on March 28th 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction
Buy on Amazon
I finished reading Strange the Dreamer last weekend and have been trying to think of some way to eloquently explain just how much I adored this book. There’s something so special about this story that words fail me every time I try to write this review. Everything I write sounds inadequate when it comes to conveying just how much this story completely captivated me. All I can really say, and it doesn’t feel like nearly enough, is that Strange the Dreamer is one of the most beautiful and unique stories that I’ve ever read.
It grabbed my attention from those first harrowing moments where, seemingly out of nowhere, a girl with blue-tinted skin plummets to her death. Who is this mysterious blue-skinned girl, where has she fallen from, and why did she fall? If that’s not an immediate attention getter, I don’t know what is! The mystery of finding out what happened to this girl immediately had me flying through the pages.
Rather than delving directly into her story though, we instead begin following the journey of another character, Lazlo Strange. Lazlo is an orphan who was raised by monks and later becomes a junior librarian. This is the perfect job for young Lazlo, because you see, Lazlo is a big dreamer and for a dreamer who likely cannot afford to actually go anywhere and make his dreams come true, the next best thing is to immerse himself in books and escape to his dreams that way. Lazlo’s dreams primarily center on one thing, a lost, mythical city. Lazlo has been nearly obsessed with finding this city for most of his life. According to legend, something happened there 200 years ago and, when Lazlo was a young boy, the name of the city was somehow stolen from the minds of everyone who had known it, Lazlo included. He actually remembers feeling the name of the city disappear from his memory, and all that is left behind is the name Weep in its place. Lazlo devoted himself to figuring out what happened to Weep and spends every free moment in the library researching everything he can about his now unnamed city. His coworkers and many others in his town think he’s foolish to waste his time following what is now mostly a myth, but Lazlo can’t stop. He’s determined that one day he will set out on his own and try to find Weep.
Lazlo’s chance to find Weep comes along a lot sooner than expected when a gentleman rides into town, declaring himself from Weep and looking to recruit the services of qualified men and women to help him rebuild his city. Even though Lazlo has no practical skills that could help rebuild a city, he manages to convey just how much a trip to the mythical Weep would mean to him and demonstrates his passion for the city so thoroughly that the gentleman agrees to let Lazlo journey with him to Weep as well.
The rest of the story richly unfolds as we learn about what really happened to Weep, who the blue-skinned girl is and how she fits into the rest of the story, and most importantly, we learn who Lazlo Strange really is because he is so much more than an orphaned junior librarian and his connection to Weep is much more than just a passionate curiosity.
That honestly just barely scratches the surface of what happens in Strange the Dreamer, but hopefully it’s enough to show how easy it is to get drawn into Lazlo Strange’s world without giving away any major spoilers. I honestly think the less you know going in, the more magical it is as the story unfolds. Just know that there’s a little bit of everything: action, adventure, a romance, Gods, a God slayer, ghosts, and there are even God spawn (offspring of Gods and humans).
Again, I don’t want to give too much away because I think it’s better that way, but here are a few highlights of this book for me:
Lazlo Strange. I loved everything about this character. The fact that he comes from such humble beginnings gives him that underdog quality that I always sympathize with, and then don’t even get me started on his love for the library. A boy after my own heart… What I liked most about Lazlo though was his kind heart and his passion. He’s just such a precious character and, even though I’m not all that much of a romance fan, it warmed my heart when he unexpectedly found someone that he felt that ultimate connection with after having been so alone for so long.
God spawn. I can’t say too much about these characters, but I will just say that they are fascinating and complex. Like Lazlo, they come across as underdogs because of the situation they’re trapped in, but then at the same time, they engage in some problematic behaviors of their own. In many ways they are victims of a past they had no control over, but they aren’t without their own flaws either. They also each have unique magical gifts that were fascinating to see in use.
The World Building. Just…wow. This is one of those places where I have a hard time coming up with the words to describe my love for what Laini Taylor has created here. The world of Weep and especially the environment the God spawn live in are so rich, lush, vivid, unique…I really need more words here! It’s just world building at its best, in part because we’re dealing with not just the physical worlds that these characters are actually in, but also dreamscapes. One of the God spawn possesses the ability to enter the dreams of anyone she wants to and actually alter them as it suits her. She often uses her gift to induce fear and horror, but when she enters Lazlo the Dreamer’s dreams, she is blown away by the beauty he creates in his mind while he sleeps. His dreams are so beautiful that she can’t bear to change them. She wishes she could stay in them forever and it was easy to see why. As I was reading, the magical quality of those dreams reminded me of childhood stories like Alice in Wonderland or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Taylor’s writing/storytelling. This was my first experience reading Laini Taylor’s writing so I wasn’t sure what to expect going in. What I loved about her writing was that it’s both lyrical and poetic, yet it still flows so smoothly and so naturally. As rich and complex as the storyline of Strange the Dreamer is, it still reads like a simple bedtime story. It just has that “Once upon a time in a faraway land….” quality about it that really takes Strange the Dreamer from your average fantasy story up to the next level.
Cliffhanger ending. Wow, what an ending! Everything leading up to the ending took me by surprise and then the actual cliffhanger just left me sitting there with my mouth hanging open desperately wanting to get my hands on the next book. I normally hate cliffhangers because I hate having to wait so long to see what happens, but just like with the rest of this story, even the cliffhanger is a unique one, like nothing I’ve ever seen before. My reaction was pretty much “NOOOOOOO….but you know, if it had to be a cliffhanger, that was a pretty cool one.”
There was literally nothing I disliked about this book. I know there’s really no such thing as perfect, but this book is about as close to perfection to me as it gets.
There is no doubt in my mind at this point that Strange the Dreamer will be one of my favorite reads of 2017. I’ve rated it 5 stars but I feel like 5 stars just isn’t even enough because it’s so special. It makes me want to go back and lower the ratings of some other books I’ve rated 5 stars because there’s truly no comparison in quality. If you’re looking for a truly unique read, I highly recommend this gorgeous book.
RATING: 5 STARS
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.