This is my review for Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor, be warned there are spoilers!
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 m
ore 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?
– Blurb & Goodreads Description
First things first, before getting into the proper part of the review I just wanted to draw attention to some of my favourite, doubtless unintentional references to popular things in this book – a bit of an insight into the way my mind works and what certain things make me think of.
The opening sentence of the blurb for the book, and I think it’s also I line in the book is ‘The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around’. This screams Harry Potter to me, I literally can’t read it without this old man voice in my head going ‘the wand chooses the wizard Mr Potter, not the other way around’. Then, we have the beautiful line ‘a day such as dreams are made of’, which is very similar to one of my favourite lines of literature of all time, ‘we are such stuff as dreams are made on’. Maybe it’s just me, but my brain made a the link, and it definitely added to my appreciation of this tiny section of the book. To finish up this random intro section, I couldn’t go without pointing out that the fact that they all have two hearts was giving me serious Dr Who vibes. Okay – now onto proper review stuff.
I went into this hoping for a great adventure story, and I was way too eager for that adventure to start. When Thyon was first introduced, I immediately wanted him and Lazlo to sneak off together and go on a massive bonding/exploration trip together. You know, the kind where Thyon would become less of a snob and Lazlo would become more confident, and they would both grow as people, and make this amazing discovery together. Once it was revealed that Thyon was being pressured and abused by his father and the Queen, and that he basically never said ‘thank you’ but he did to Lazlo, I was convinced that I knew where this story was going.
Needless to say, Thyon was by no means as decent as I expected him to be. I knew that he was stuck up and rude, but I thought that there was going to be way more hidden humanity to him. For me, the point of no return with Thyon came when he told Lazlo’s orchard story about himself. Because we know what Lazlo went through, just for that one moment of enjoyment, it made me so angry that Thyon would take that away from him – this is exactly the kind of story that Lazlo should have been telling the Tizerkane, and it was literally like someone was stealing part of his life.
However, aside from the fact that Thyon is someone he has to deal with, Lazlo is probably the luckiest person alive. His dream, the thing that he wished for most in the world, the thing that he so desperately wanted to be a part of, literally came and found him. He reminded me of fangirl/boy, silently waiting and praying for their heroes to come and lead them away on magic quests – except it actually happens for him!
There are two traits that you can find in almost all of my favourite characters. First, they love reading, and second, they are sarcastic and sassy. Lazlo had the loves reading thing sorted from the beginning of the book, he was taken in by the library and dedicated all of his spare time to writing down his literary discoveries – I was already super fond of him before the story even really got started. He was however pretty quiet, completely aware of his place in society – because it had been so ingrained in his mind. At this stage I felt sympathetic towards him, but I was waiting for more. I loved when he stood up in front of the crowd of scholars, and the Queen, and Thyon, and basically everyone he knew, and was finally bold enough to say what he wanted – but for me, he hadn’t quite hit his major turning point yet. That came during one of my favourite scenes, when Lazlo is telling Calixte what he imagines the city to be like. In this scene he insults Thyon and the other pompous palace guests by comparing them to arrogant gods, and he does this right to their faces. For me this marked the point when we saw that he had really grown as a character and was no longer so afraid to be his full self, it was not a sudden burst of passion, but rather a deliberate choice which he made.
With regards to Sarai, on the whole I liked her as a character, but there were some things that I’m still not quite sure how I feel about. For me, imaging someone with blue skin wasn’t such an issue – in Laini Taylor’s other series half the characters have animal heads, so I was expecting to need a good imagination. It was a bit weird that all of the ‘sisters’ (except the six year old) were to some extent lusting after their ‘brother’, but I’m willing to overlook that seeing as none of them are technically related to him, and he is the only living male that any of them have had any contact with in the last fifteen years. The first issue that really gave me cause to stop and think was although Sarai feels bad for the humans, and is occasionally kind to a couple of them, she has been tormenting them every night for 4,000 nights – she even tried to drive her own father insane, she might feel bad about what she does, but her sense of humanity is definitely limited.
But more than all these previously mentioned things I queried about Sarai, the thing which I found most strange was the nature of her gift, especially in relation to the others. Think about it, Ruby can summon/control fire – normal gift, Sparrow can help plants grow – normal gift, Feral can control clouds and the weather – kind of normal gift, and Minya can control ghosts – kind of normal gift. Sarai’s gift on the other hand is that every night she can scream out a hundred moths that she controls and sends out into the city, with each of the hundred moths relaying images to her which she sees simultaneously. If that wasn’t weird enough, don’t worry – there’s more, it turns out that when one of these moths lands on the skin of a sleeping person, Sarai is able to control their dreams. That is probably the craziest and most complicated gift/magical power to ever have been invented.
Although there are some more lighthearted moments in the book, and it is action driven and exciting, it’s not especially funny – especially as you get closer to the end. Nevertheless, there was one line which (probably unintentionally) provided a moment of light and humour in the middle of the chaos. I don’t know why, but thus one line stuck in head and I couldn’t forgive myself if I didn’t mention it. There’s a moment when Sarai is telling Lazlo about their world, and she tells him that they used to have two moons. Lots of fantasy worlds/parallel universes have multiple moons, but hardly any of them provide a reason for this – you simply take it as part of the world. Laini Taylor, however, provides a reason… and it is this… the second moon is a spare – incase they lose one! If that isn’t the weirdest explanation for something then I don’t know what is. Don’t ask me why I found that so funny, I guess it’s just a random insight into my sense of humour.
This book screwed with my brain a bit towards the end, because I had suspected for ages what the big reveal would be – that Lazlo would be a God, but the thing that I didn’t see coming was what we had actually known from the VERY BEGINNING of the book – namely, that Sarai would die. For some reason I had instantly assumed that the blue girl who died in the prologue was Isagol, therefore, when it turned out that Sarai had died I was so unbelievably shocked, I could hardly process it. Also I was kind of disappointed in myself because I’m usually quite good at spotting when plot twists and exciting reveals are coming, and what they’ll be, but I missed literally the most obvious thing in the book.
So in summary, I really enjoyed this book, I thought it was a great unique story and I will definitely be anticipating the next (and I think final) book. There are a lot of things that I want to find out, but the main two are these: 1, we know Lazlo’s father is Skathis, but who is his mother – initially I thought that it would be Azareen, but then I realised that he was too old so… we’ll see what we find out. 2, are the actual seraphim going to feature in the story at all – the seraphim are a big part of Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, and I’m wondering if they might be the key to fixing the problem of the Mesarthim.
So that wraps up this review, I hope you enjoyed it, if there’s anything you would like to see reviewed just let me know.
Thank for reading, Elsie x