Published: 28th March 2017
Publisher: Little Brown Books
Author: Laini Taylor
Length: 532 pages
My Rating: 5/5
Brief Summary: 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?
I have many things to say about this book. One of the things I will say is that it has the best book I have read in 2017 so far. The plot is fantastic, though at times a lot to get your head around as a majority of fantasy books are, and Taylor's language is exquisite. I think it's amazing how Taylor manages to craft this completely new world which is very different and yet in certain aspects very similar to our own. Fantasy is my go to genre, it always has been since I was a child, and Laini Taylor's Strange the Dreamer has captured everything which I look for in the genre such as magic, distant lands, gods and goddesses, a sprinkle of romance, and excellent world building.
The first few chapters of the novel can be slightly slow placed which was a bit off putting at times but this was also needed to introduce certain concepts about Taylor's world and mostly importantly build a foundation for the city of Weep where the majority of the story takes place. Taylor's world building is wonderful and her descriptive language really gives the reader a clear image of what the fantastical world of Zosma and Weep look like. I especially loved reading about Zosma's library where the protagonist, Lazlo Strange, lives as a librarian. It was so wonderful to read about books being written about in such a lovely manner and Lazlo's deep love for books captured my own, and many other readers, deep infatuation with reading which I thought was lovely coming from a male protagonist.
This leads me on to my next point: Lazlo Strange. I adored Lazlo as one of the protagonists so much. He isn't your typical male protagonist, he is shy, overly polite, not very physically strong, and lives in a fantasy world. Lazlo is also abused a lot as a child, he is brought up in an Abbey for the first thirteen years of his life, and sometimes this sort of abuse can make a character turn guarded and nasty. Not Lazlo Strange my dear readers. Oh no, Lazlo takes what happened to him as a child and is nice to everyone because of what happened to him, which I loved about his characterisation. He doesn't act like a victim, even though he has suffered a great deal during his early childhood, and he still treats everyone, even those who do not deserve to be treated with kindness, with a gentle manner and this sort of attitude is so inspiring. To be nice to people even if they aren't necessarily nice to you. It's a motto I live by (Lazlo is a total hufflepuff) and it was lovely to see Lazlo's attitude towards people being unaffected despite what happened to him as a child. He is also obsessed with stories. Stories about the lost city of Weep in particular. I was able to connect with Lazlo for a number of reasons and this made me love his character from the moment Taylor introduces him to the reader. If anything Lazlo is one of the most atypical male characters I've read about in long while and it was refreshing to have a male perspective in YA literature because the majority of protagonists in the genre now are female. Especially since Lazlo is the least brooding, mysterious male character ever unlike the majority of the YA genre.
Whilst this book is in the YA fantasy genre I didn't feel like I was reading YA fiction. Maybe it's due to Taylor's beautiful language or the complexity of her world, but I didn't feel like I was reading YA fiction especially because the amount of dark themes in the novel such as enslavement, torture, death, rape and imprisonment. Some of these dark themes aren't mentioned but rather subtly implied by the writer but even so the Gods in this book are not very nice people and they have done a lot of terrible things to the citizens of Weep, as has the 'Godslayer' otherwise none as Eril-Fane the man who destroys all the Gods to the children of the gods. I won't relay any spoilers but lets just say Eril-Fane does some appalling things as well and that the point of this novel is that the citizens of Weep and the masochistic Gods are just as bad as one and other.
Another aspect which I adored was the relationship between Lazlo and Sarai. There was something so beautiful and yet fragile about their relationship, their entire worlds were coming apart at the seams and they only cared about making sure the other one was safe. It was so sweet to watch how their relationship grows... but the ending. The plot twist - sort of plot twist? - at the end of the novel tore me to pieces. Now, I don't tend to cry when I'm reading. Normally I'm very good at not crying even if the books is very emotional. That seemed to go straight out the window when I got to the end of Strange the Dreamer because I was crying so much! I'm not even sure why because everything... Well the majority of things gets resolved, but I need the next book now! It's killing me I need to know what's going to happen!
So, if you're interested in the fantasy genre then I would recommend Strange the Dreamer. It's honestly so beautiful and needs more love.