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Thursday, July 20, 2017

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Book Stats:  

Reading level: Young Adult
Genre: High Fantasy
Hardcover: 532 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Release date: March 28, 2017

Series:  Strange the Dreamer, #1

Source: Library

Reviewed by: Kara

Order: Amazon | Book Depository

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 Times bestselling 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.
Welcome to Weep.

It's been some time that Laini Taylor has been working on this book, and I believe the publishing date got pushed back about 6 months from a previous announcement; so there's been plenty of anticipation!

Unlike her first series that starts with action and intrigue, this novel takes a much slower pace to establish the background, characters, and conflict. Because there are so many unknowns about the city of Weep and magic and barriers to Lazlo finding things out, the reader might find it confusing to follow at first. However, about 25% of the way through, the novel really picks up once Lazlo is in Weep and Sarai sees Lazlo through his dreams. Here the novel really grips you and carries you all the way to the finish, so if you're struggling, try and make it to this point in the book! I was surprised to find how much I liked it, actually, and surprises at the end just kept coming! (I did read where another review found this to be the opposite, that the beginning was fast and rich and the end was more of a slower slog...well, each reader their own!)

There are two things that are really great about this book: 1) Sarai and Lazlo's romance, which is so atypical and 2) the myth and magic of the lushly descriptive worldbuilding that really brings the world alive if not fully realized/revealed to the reader.

To understand a bit of the romance, I'll have to spoiler a bit. Sarai is one of the half-human gods' children living above the city of Weep and all of them have interesting abilities. Sarai is able to turn most of her (her spirit? her soul?) into moths and have them fly down to land on people in the city and influence their dreams. Lazlo is a newcomer to Weep, and when Sarai investigates him, he is able to see her, something no one else has ever been able to do before. They fall in love through the dream and the meeting of their minds, which is really beautiful and full of wonderfully rich imagery. As the reader experiences this with them, it is also the tale of two outsiders finding somewhere to belong and connect, and ultimately, shows possibilities of peace and hope for the future.

Laini Taylor has always been fantastic with description and making such creative, unusual fantasies and this one is no exception. At times, you're having to read so slow because you just don't want to miss the details and care in the setting creation. Weep, the creatures, descriptions of Lazlo himself...it's worth it to take your time to experience the history, the juxtaposition of opposing forces, and the emotion captured into words.

I also have to add, I loved how Lazlo is a librarian and has such passion for books and learning. (Shameless plug here for great librarians and readers/lovers of fantasy. Thanks, Laini!)

Here's one of my favorite quotes from the book:
"What's the point of being old if you can't beleaguer the young with your vast stores of wisdom?" - Master Hyrrokin
"And what's the point of being young if you can't ignore all advice?" - Lazlo
One last thing, you may not realize this is a series while reading it, but once you reach the end, it's rather obvious. So just know, we will probably be waiting over a year for book 2 (tentatively called The Muse of Nightmares though no other details have been released except that it exists as a duology) if you pick this one up, just in case you're a reader who likes to avoid book hangovers!

For two great interviews with the author on Strange the Dreamer and writing, see this one from USA Today and the other from Bustle.

Kara is a teen librarian living in the southeastern US with her husband (who listens to books), young daughter (who sleeps with books), and dog (who tastes the books). She loves all sorts of books, but mostly YA, and will never catch up to all of the wonderful things to read.

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