ARC Review: Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor


28449207Title: Strange the Dreamer

Author : Laini Taylor

Publisher : Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Release date : March 28th, 2017

Rating : 5.3/5

☯ Synopsis (from Goodreads) :

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.

⚜ Review :

I cannot begin to express my admiration towards this work of art, simply because there are no words to properly convey the absolute awe I felt during my reading. The story is so so so unique, like, how did someone even come up with this idea?! Strange the Dreamer is an ode to dreamers, and readers, and underdogs, to those who follow their dreams despite the odds, to those who dream differently than what they already have, and to so many more that I can’t possibly name them all.

Strange is the first book I’ve read of Laini Taylor, but from the reviews I read of her Daughter of Smoke and Bone series, I already knew her writing was beautiful. But I didn’t know at what extent. Strange is uncommon and strange and dense and rich, and it’s definitely not for anyone. There are some hard scenes, very hard and horrifying, things you discover about what happened to Weep that will make you weep in turn. It was actually so difficult to read about those, but also so vital to the comprehension, that I had to stop reading and imagine what it could entail.

“You’re a storyteller. Dream up something wild and improbable,” she pleaded. “Something beautiful and full of monsters.”

“Beautiful and full of monsters?”

“All the best stories are.”

(ARC, p. 115)

Beautiful and full of monsters; a dreamer belittled and put aside because of his improbable dreams, who is given the opportunity to follow them, to a mysterious and mythical city once ruled by terrible beings, who have done horrendous deeds. But even my own summary pales in comparison to what the story is really about, because it’s so much more than just Lazlo and Weep. These two are the ones who hooked me to the story. The mystery was intriguing and so intense, I just had to know what happened to Weep, and what its real name is. I was as invested in its riddle than Lazlo was.

And this just attests to the magnificence of the world Taylor created. Not only the world, but also the inhabitants: people with two hearts, pumping not only blood but also spirit. How awesome is that?? They live in a world exquisitely built by its author, from the hierarchy, to the mythology, to the geography. But despite all those details, I still feel there’s an immense potential to all the things we could still learn from Lazlo’s world. Laini Taylor is a master at unfolding her world with her writing and her timing.

I know some people think the beginning was slow. I admit that it was, but I’m one of the people who were captivated from the very beginning. And although it’s nearly two hundred pages into the story when Lazlo reaches Weep, I say they are two hundred necessary pages. It’s essential to understand Lazlo and the importance of his dreams, and to know the rest of the world apart from Weep, and although the beginning is slow, it is engrossing and it prepares you for the rest of the plot.

And how the words flow on her pages, ohhh… The way Taylor uses words is lyrical, evocative, lovely… The imagery is stunningly vivid, some passages are so dreamy you wish you could cocoon yourself in them. Some scenes feel so surreal, but so beautifully relevant at the same time. The sentences are so perfect, in fact, that sometimes they seem too perfect, but it fits perfectly with the dreamy and magical aspects of the story. When I said, above, that it is an ode, I meant it: Taylor’s words caress us just like a poem would. I was struck from the beginning by the elegance of her flow.

That was the year Zosma sank to its knees and bled great gouts of men into a war about nothing.

(ARC, p. 5)

Lazlo and Sarai were great characters as well, though I wouldn’t say they are YA-typical. I absolutely loved Lazlo and his absolute love of Weep. Being in his head while discovering things was a joy. But Lazlo, independently of Weep, is not the typical hero you would imagine. He’s unimpressive in almost all aspects, he isn’t swoony, isn’t flamboyantly brave. But he is very attractive in other ways, he is quiet and unselfish, has always been so. He loves books, and stories, and he is desperately loyal to his dreams. He’s thoughtful and kind and bright. In the summary, Sarai is the blue-skinned goddess, a mystery to all of Weep. Therefore, I won’t spend much time on her, except to say that she is just as good as Lazlo, and haunted by her own demons and inner conflicts, yet still retains her innocence. The cast of secondary characters are no less great. They are all so very complex and fleshed out, and I don’t think the story would have stood up so well without them. The banter and wittiness were incredible, and their interactions with each other helped to showcase the very best of Lazlo’s personality.

I think the romance verged a bit in insta-love, or “insta-fascination”. But it is so sweet, and well done, and I loved BOTH characters so much, and I think that is why I feel great with this insta-love. Because we already know them apart, each in their own individuality, their doubts and their hopes, and so when their stories finally merged, it felt as if it was completely natural that they feel an attraction to each other because of their personal stories.

All in all, Strange the Dreamer was a fantastic book, from top to bottom, in all aspects of literature, and it definitely is part of my Favorites list. I would recommend it to everyone who loves rich, intricate and beautiful stories.

**Thank you to Hachette Book Group Canada for providing me with this book!

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