Review of Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

“The dream choses the dreamer

Since he was five years old, Lazlo Strange has been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to go 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 to cut it off from the world? What 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 many more mysteries – including the blue-skinned goddess who visits Lazlo’s dreams . . .”

When I first started reading Strange the Dreamer my first feeling was that I was in for something special.  I have never read a Laini Taylor book before and I was immediately struck by her use of language and the writing style is almost musical with a lilting flow.  The language is mature in nature and very different from what you would normally expect in a YA read. The story itself is told in 3rd person but moves between the two main characters, Lazlo and Sarai.  Lazlo is a wonderful character, quiet and unnasuming but full of wild dreams about the lost city of Weep.  The stories that fuelled his play as a young child become his lifes work as an adult, channeling his time into learning all he can of the city from scraps left behind in the library he finds as his workplace. He is wonderfully earnest, yet there is a fire in him – so when a delegation arrives that promises an answer to his dreams he comes out from his shadow, his lifes work given meaning.  Sarai is also in a strange form of existence, one of only 5 surviving children of the citadel of Weep her life is sheltered and borderline to poverty.  As with all children of the citadel, she has a power passed down from her parents, Sarai holds the power of dreams but as the daughter of the Godess of Despair her world becomes one of never ending nightmare.

When Sarai’s and Lazlo’s worlds collide within their dreams they start to unravel the truth behind all that took place in Weep and a mystery that has haunted both the residents of Weep iteslf and those who remain in the citadel.  The world building is beautiful, the story is quite a slow burn, providing you with the minimal amount of information that you need to form a picture of what is happening.  This makes the reveals all the more satisfying and really gives you a chance to understand the world and appriciate the depth of thought put into its creation.

The only downside to this approach is that for the most part I felt that the side characters got left behind. Whist time was spent on the others within the Citadel, I felt that those who were met by Lazlo during his journey were almost a side thought and they appeared just enough to progress the story.  There were some members of Lazlo’s party that I was desperate to find out more about, and I felt that there was plenty of opportunity within the 500+ pages to accommodate this as some parts could have done with a little trimming; the delicious slowness treading a very fine line between frustratingly dull at times.  There is a second book in the works, so maybe these characters may get there turn then, but from the ending i’m not sure that they will.

In summary I found Strange the Dreamer to be a wonderful read if not a little slow at times.  It was so beautifully different to the fantasy I have been reading recently and I give this 4*

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