Title: Strange the Dreamer
Author: Laini Taylor
Review: The opening to Strange the Dreamer was filled with beautiful imagery but strangely dark. We are introduced to Lazlo Strange who is a ward at a monastery because he is an orphan. Lazlo unlike the other children is a daydreamer and often runs off to live out his fantasies for which he is punished just as often. One of the older monks often tells Lazlo stories and it is here as a child that he becomes obsessed with the lost city of Weep. Circumstances have Lazlo taking copied books to the Great Library where he ends up staying because he is drawn in by the stories the library contains and it’s also the place he earns the nickname Strange the Dreamer. It comes as a huge surprise when Thyon Nero; a very important man and godson to the Queen request the complete works of Lazlo Strange most of which is research on the lost city of Weep. It is a surprise to all because everyone has deterred Lazlo from studying Weep writing it off as a children’s fable, a myth. I wasn’t even 50 pages into this book and I was already loving it and couldn’t wait to see what would happen to Lazlo next.
As we approach the ¼ mark in the novel Lazlo realizes that Thyon despite appearances has had an upbringing almost as hard as his own, and Thyon had the task of transmuting gold through alchemy in order to save their kingdom because the gold has run out. Almost instantly Lazlo begins to think about how he could help but he is no alchemist, he is a chaser of stories and legends. Lazlo tries to help Thyon and is met with hostility and violence. When he learns of what Thyon is going to be taking from him he tries to stop it but in the end he has no choice but to hand his books over, to hand his dream over to the golden godson. When warriors from Weep come looking for people to take to the Unseen City Lazlo wants desperately to be among them but he isn’t chosen instead Thyon is chosen for his knowledge of the city, knowledge that came from Lazlo’s books. Lazlo in desperation reaches out to the leader of the convoy Eril-Fane, the Godslayer and proves himself although not in the way we expect much to the anger of Thyon and ends up on the journey to Weep.
I love how Taylor seamlessly blends the real world with the mythical and the lives of the living with the lives of the dead, it is just perfection to read. Watching Lazlo and the other travel to Weep was great as we see Lazlo change and form friendships he never thought he would have and with the warriors he also learns more about the stories he treasures and new ones to add to them. I love learning about the Godspawn especially Sarai and Minya because they are complete opposites. While also the God children have gifts they use them in different ways Minya uses her gift to terrorize the humans that killed her own kind and has a goal of vengeance while Sarai pities the humans and tries to bring some a little measure of happiness in her own world of darkness.
As we cross the ¼ mark in the novel we get to see the God children’s society, what they do and how they function in relation to the wider world. As the group approach the Cusp and the Gate to Weep Lazlo is entranced by everything he sees as it is his dream brought to life before him. When the finally reach the city Eril-Fane informs Lazlo he will not be staying in the city as he doesn’t sleep well and we the reader know the reason for this, so Lazlo will be staying with his mother. Lazlo is a bit confused at first but when he sees what Weep has become he understand Eril-Fane’s choice not to dwell there. We learn that all is not what it seems between the Godslayer and the Godspawn and their connection runs far deeper than the Carnage. When the group get their first glimpse of the citadel blocking out the sky and covering Weep in shadow Lazlo suddenly realised why they were chosen. They were chosen to get rid of the citadel although they don’t yet know that the citadel is where the Godspawn are living and hiding.
As we approach the halfway mark in the novel we see the group enter Weep without the Godslayer but the Godspawn begin to prepare themselves for a battle once more with Sarai having the job of spying on the outsiders in the city and I have a funny feeling that Lazlo may be able to see the Godspawn where others can’t. Minya directs Sarai to look into the minds of the newcomers and see whether they actually pose a threat to the Godspawn. Sarai does exactly that and learns that two of the outsiders can build a flying machine giving them access to the citadel but this isn’t what concerns Sarai. Her main concern is that when she tries to go into the Godslayers’ mind she finds someone else in his bed (Lazlo) she learns that he dreams of Weep in its former glory and that while she can remain invisible in dream he can see her and she doesn’t know why. As the group learn more about the city and the citadel Lazlo also learns more about the Gods and Goddesses that rules Weep, he believes that he saw Isagol, Sarai’s mother in his dream which doesn’t make sense as she is already dead but I believe that Lazlo will be the one who will unravel the mystery of the Godspawn. On the other side we see Minya preparing an army of the death to attack the Godslayer and every other human should they come knocking and Sarai isn’t willing to stand by and watch a second Carnage take place. Seeing the Godspawns’ struggle with their own nature and their own bloody history with the humans was great the only one solely dedicated to killing the humans is Minya everyone else has some reservations especially Sarai and she finds herself looking forward to Lazlo’s dreams.
As we cross into the second half of the novel we see Lazlo learning about the city and trying with the others to uncover the secrets of the citadel, all who inhabit the city even Eril-Fane believe it to be empty but we the reader know different. I also have a theory of how the prologue fits into the greater story but I am waiting to see if I am right. As time passes we see Sarai standing up against Minya with the others caught between them, between two ideals, two different futures. As Sarai visits Lazlo’s dream almost every night she begins to learn how he sees the Gods and Godspawn and how gentle his soul actually is. Sarai changes the rules by talking to Lazlo in his dreams although he believe she is her mother and she warns him not to send up the flying machines or people will die. I loved the fact Sarai finally fights against Minya and defies the label given to her. As a small party head to the citadel for the first time Minya intends to kill them all including Lazlo when Sarai realizes this she saves them but I have a feeling things are only going to get more difficult before things get better. Now Lazlo seems to be the only connection between the Godspawn and the humans.
As we approach the ¾ mark in the novel we can see the tension building between the Godspawn and the humans but also internally as well. I loved Lazlo’s carefree and beautiful outlook on life and he does something for Sarai that no one not even her own kind has done before; he made her feel wanted and he tries to help her in any way he can, even creating new ways to help her. You can already see a romance blossoming between the pair, a romance that is forbidden in the eyes of their own kinds but in each other’s eyes they are no different. As I suspected Lazlo is the one to lead the other into change, he convinces the Godslayer of his guilt and to try and make amends. Hopefully, with Sarai’s help they plan to venture up to the citadel once more and meet with the Godspawn in the hope they can change everyone’s future and avoid Carnage. Watching Lazlo and Sarai grow with each other learning to love what the other hates is great and while Sarai can’t convince Minya to meet the humans she is comforted by Lazlo who is always at her side even when he is not. The story takes a darker turn when Thyon discovers there is something unique about Lazlo and wants to gain it for himself. We the reader can see the direction the story is going to go in but we don’t know how it is going to get there.
The ending of this book was devastating, heart-breaking and everything else I can think of that makes me cry. One thing I can say for certain is Laini Taylor had better write a sequel to this or I shall be writing her a strongly worded letter. If you haven’t read Strange the Dreamer do it now you won’t regret it and I can only dream that Taylor continues this story very soon.
Overall, I loved Strange the Dreamer despite the first half being a lot slower than I expected but the second half is definitely worth the wait. The world-building, the characters and the story arc are just divine and I can’t wait to see what happens next as Taylor leaves the perfect opening for a second novel in this world.
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