Review: Strange the Dreamer, Laini Taylor

Strange the Dreamer 3

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.

I knew I was going to like this book from about 10 pages in when I started to get that tingly, warm feeling of excitement that accompanies only the very best of reads. There were libraries and orphans and magical mythical cities lost to the known world, and I was instantly hooked.

I think I would have to describe Strange the Dreamer as the perfect magical fantasy book. At many points throughout my reading journey I proclaimed aloud that I wish I had written this book, so wonderful is it. Taylor captures her world so perfectly, and the characters are simultaneously everything you’d expect in such a novel, and also so much more.

The titular Lazlo Strange is every cliche of the genre: a shy, parentless bookworm who does nothing but dream, but Taylor runs the concept of dreaming so beautifully throughout the novel, and expands not only Lazlo’s capabilities, but also the set-list of unique characters (and gods), so I’ll forgive her. On the opposing side, I also fell a little in love with the godspawn characters, including the nightmare-inducing, moth-screaming (you have to read the book to understand) Sarai and the strangeness and wonder of her world.

Strange the Dreamer is full of moral questions I hadn’t fully anticipated, and I liked that the book kept me guessing as I navigated its twists and turns (also happinesses and heartbreaks – I’m not sure I can forgive Taylor for everything). It’s young adult, but like so many that fall under that description I felt the weight of the story reaching up to be something else. Something like a fairy tale and a fable and a classic all mixed up together, and I can already feel that it will become a firm favourite amongst my fellow YA lit-lovers.

It’s been a while since I’ve been so absorbed in a book. I truly loved everything about the Strange the Dreamer, and the worn cover and pages of my pre-release copy (praise the lord for friends in publishing!) reflects just how essential it became for me to lug all 532 pages with me wherever I went. I can only thank my literary stars that, as Taylor says in her closing words, the story is not over yet.

Bring on the sequel! (And may it have an equally beautiful front cover.)


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