Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

I’m not normally much of a fantasy reader – I’ve read one too many books that takes a dozen chapters to set up the world and lore before actually diving into the story. I decided to give this book a shot in part because it isn’t a part of a long series (it’s a part of a duo) and because it was highly lauded (nominated for a Printz award). While this is the best fantasy I’ve read in a long time – it’s not entirely without the long winded set up that a lot of fantasy books seem to suffer from.

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.

This was the first book by Laini Taylor I’ve read, and it will definitely not be the last – the quality of the writing was off the charts. The prose was almost lyrical and it spun exceptional imagery for the reader. It was especially once the characters reached the city of Weep that the descriptiveness of the writing really shined – it was easy to picture the ancient city shadowed by a reminder of a violent past. This story is told from two points of view: that of Lazlo and Sarai. Having the dual points of view added a depth to the storytelling – both characters had limited experience with the city of Weep and what had happened all those years ago. It was fascinating to read their points of view as their stories converged and their ideals and beliefs changed as a result of knowing each other. On a side note – if you are considering listening to this book as an audiobook, I would highly recommend you read it as a physical book instead. The narrator does a really poor job with some of the voices and it was enough to make me almost stop listening to the book and switch to the physical copy.

My one gripe with this book is how long it took to get to the interesting parts of the story. For the first third or so of the book, it felt a little on the tedious side. The author spent a long time setting up the world, and while she was doing so, not a lot happened in the story. It wasn’t an efficient use of time, and even after all of the world building was done, I was still unclear with how some of the intricacies worked. It wasn’t until Lazlo arrived in Weep that things started to get interesting, and the plot started to pick up the pace. Also – I wasn’t a fan of the prologue – it effectively spoiled the big twist at the end.

I really loved exploring the world of Sarai and the children of the gods. They were isolated in a home filled with ghosts, and their characterizations really reflected that. While the story was in Sarai’s point of view your could feel the tension among her family – they knew that their life hung in a perilous balance but still tried to make the best of it. Lazlo was also a fascinating character – despite being raised in an unloving home, he was kind to all those around him and inquisitive to a fault. He struggled with social interactions in what felt like an authentic way. Most of the side characters were well used – though some of the members of the caravan to Weep were severely underutilized.

I would definitely recommend this book to someone looking for a fantasy novel that isn’t part of a long series and doesn’t take too long to get into. Also, I would highly recommend not listening to this book as an audiobook – the narrator is distracting and it really takes away from the story. 4/5

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  1. I love fantasy, it’s my favourite genre. I agree Laini’s writing is fantastic. I’ve not read this one, but I do own it, but I’ve read and loved the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy.
    Gemma @ Gemma’s Book Nook

  2. I’m with you. I’m not much of a fantasy reader either, but this sounds really good. I am going to check it out based on your recommendation!

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