STRANGE THE DREAMER
Written by Laini Taylor
Published by Little Brown, March 28 2017
My star rating: 5 stars
Lazlo was a war orphan, coming to a group of monks looking sickly and was not expected to make it through infancy. Slowly he grew healthier, but he was a ‘strange’ baby that didn’t make a single noise – and that’s how he earned his name. As he grew, his only real job was bringing meals so a senile old monk. He was mean, angry, and scary, but Lazlo took the job because the monk told stories; of which Lazlo’s favourite stories surrounded the Unseen City. The stories told of a distant land with glittering domes, tame white stags, beautiful women, fierce warriors, magic, and a staggering landscape. Traders grew rich and the world grew curious. Many traveled to this city – but none ever returned. And so Lazlo spent his days dreaming of this city and the wonders it held. He once knew the name of the city, but as he was playing in the orchard with swords made of branches, the name of the city fell from his mind, only to be replaced with the name Weep. A few years later, he was asked to deliver a package to the Great Library of Zosma and he never returned to the Monks. He delivered the package then toured the library and was found days later still reading and surrounded by books. They quickly realized how much he loved books and gave him the opportunity to take a job as a junior librarian. He lost himself in his work and the knowledge he now had at his fingertips, but he never stopped dreaming of the Unseen City. Just as Lazlo had convinced himself that he would never see the city for himself, a group of warriors, one of which was called Godslayer, arrived from a far away land, to present an opportunity – the chance to travel to Weep and help solve a problem. The answers to Lazlo’s questions awaited for him, but so did more mysteries. What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of God? What happened in Weep 200 years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? And who is this blue skinned Goddess appearing in his dreams that seems so real? And more importantly, how could be dream of her before he knew she even existed?
I hope that I explained the synopsis of this book clearly enough because, let me be honest, when I read the synopsis on Goodreads I was more than confused. I actually tried to start this book three times and kept putting it down because I couldn’t get over my confusion. But this book was my #1 most anticipated for the year so I pushed through, read the first three chapters, then I was absolutely hooked!
This was my first Laini Taylor book. I have the first book to the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy on my shelves, but I kept passing it up because of some conflicting reviews about her writing style. It seems to be a writing style that you either love or can’t get past; thankfully I am on the side of loving it!! Her writing style is nothing short of beautiful. Her words makes you want to take a long hot bath in them! Everything was just beautifully described, flawless and effortless. I’m not the type of person to stop and take the time to write down sentences that make an impact on me, but I have an entire page of quotes written down that made me stop in my tracks. Here’s an example:
All his life, time had been passing in the only way he knew time to pass; unrushed and unrushable, as sands running through an hourglass grain by grain. And if the hourglass had been real, then in the bottom and neck – the past and the present – the sands of Lazlo’s life would be as grey as his robes, as grey as his eyes, but the top – the future – would hold a brilliant storm of colour; azure and cinnamon, blinding white and yellow gold and the shell pink of svytagor blood. So he hoped, so he dreamed; that, in the course of time, grain by grain, the grey would give way to the dream and the sands of his life would run bright.
She has such a unique way to describe scenes, situations, characters and emotions that makes you so invested. I felt like I understood every aspect of these characters and their situations and I just kept wanting more. She found a way to take the simplest of sentences and paint a masterpiece with it. There are some books that you can read very quickly and still comprehend the words but, as she would weave her words in such unexpected ways, you would have to slow down to take it all in. Even though I slowed down to really pay attention to the writing I still flew through this.
The characters were very well written. The book was mainly from the perspective of Lazlo, but also from the perspective of Sarai, the blue Goddess who shows herself in his dreams. I would love to explain the character of Sarai, but who she is, what she is, and her story line needs to remain a mystery that you yourself unfolds. They do intertwine somehow and both characters were very compelling. It was so easy to lose myself in Lazlo’s dreams, and Sarai’s emotional turmoil, but when it came to side characters I felt that it was lacking, especially Godslayer. His role throughout this book was fairly important to both main characters but I felt like his personality and emotions were barely even touched. You understood his connection with both characters, who he was, and his emotional investment, but I just feel like he was a missed opportunity. There were a few other side characters that seemed important in quite a few chapters and then all of a sudden they would drop out of the book entirely.
I thought the pace of this book was really great. It kept a steady pace and I didn’t really experience a drag in the story. As I said above – this is a somewhat confusing read. It’s all about Lazlo’s dreams, his journey to Weep, what he finds there, and how he’s helping to fix the problem. But any time that I was confused I wasn’t frustrated. She successfully wrote the mysteries in a way that pushed me to read further and faster to know what was going on. It was kind of like dismantling a rose, petal by petal, and finding a broken diamond on the inside. I found this to be a good mix between being plot AND character driven, being a little heavier on the plot. From the synopsis I read on Goodreads I expected this to be a story of literal dreams and gods fighting warriors. And it was. But it was SO much more than that. It was about hopes, dreams, desires, connections, family, right from wrong, and staying true to who you are.
But my absolute favourite part of this book was the combination of reality vs folklore. The story of the Gods/Goddesses was so interesting! How they came to be, what their abilities were, the events in their past that brought them to their current state, and what they are doing now. It makes me so sad that we will have to wait so long to continue the story and see what happens.
This book was a beautiful poignant read and was well worth the wait. I feel like my review isn’t really giving you a lot of information or detail, but I honestly believe that it’s best going into this book blindly and peeling back the layers on your own. Look for this one on shelves in less than three weeks!
Here’s another quote that I’m sure all you book lovers will appreciate:
“What’s a horizon?” Lazlo asked, straight faced. “Is it like the end of an aisle of books?”
Until next time, happy reading!