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.
Description taken from Goodreads.
Strange the Dreamer begins its first chapter with an extraordinary word: shrestha, a noun for when a dream comes true, but not for the dreamer. According to the book, it’s an archaic term originating from Shres, the bastard god of fortune, who was believed to punish supplicants for inadequate offerings by granting their heart’s desire to another.
Although I wasn’t aware of it until I cracked open this brilliant novel, Laini Taylor is incredibly insightful and unique in her ideas and the ways she conveys them. As I know that now, I’m sure she’s able to understand the suffering that she has put me–and all of her readers–through in being the recipient of our dream to have the second book in this series right now.
Now, those of you who have been following the blog for a while may know that I have been patiently (and, at times, not so patiently) waited for Strange the Dreamer since about a year ago. From the beginning, I knew this book would be special because it was the first time in nearly four years of blogging that I read a preview that made me crave more. I’m happy to report that it didn’t disappoint.
On the literary level, Strange the Dreamer is pretty close to flawless, in my opinion. Yes, the writing is flowery, so much so that it’s almost over the top, but it dances on that delicate balance so gracefully that I fell in love with it. Taylor has found ways to describe new worlds that the rest of us couldn’t dream, and she does so in a lush and signature voice that I haven’t seen from any other YA fantasy writer ever. If I stress only one point in this review, it’s that Taylor gives me hope for this genre. There’s still so much to discover, magic and mayhem and tragedy that we know nothing of yet, and these incredible writers will guide us closer to that Neverland.
Some will argue that the instalove shows a distinct lack of style and ability to write romance. I would have to disagree. I know I used this instalove argument with Louise Gornall’s Under Rose-Tainted Skies as well, but back then, it was because I didn’t feel that the drawn-out romance was necessary. More than anything, Gornall’s main idea was about the strength we all have within us and how people can learn to live with mental illness. I don’t think Taylor’s main goal was to show that she can write great romance in this novel. To think that would be to completely miss the genius of Strange the Dreamer and what sets it apart from other books in the genre, and that is the message of what hate is.
There are some truly great pieces of insight in this story about character, humanity, stories, cruelty, and magic. Above all else, the takeaway was about how toxic hatred can be and how complex an idea it is. Did Strange the Dreamer feel like it had an agenda? Absolutely. Did I mind? Yes, a little bit, but the agenda was very well crafted into the heart of the novel, and I felt the genuine grief and sincerity in trying to express this issue and how it plagues the characters of the book just like it plagues the world today.
More than romance, Strange the Dreamer emphasized acceptance. *spoilers, skip to the next paragraph if you haven’t read the book yet* Sarai and Lazlo didn’t get together because they were supposed to have some epic love story, but because they saw each other for what they were, and they weren’t held back by prejudice or hatred. For the first time in their lives, they found another who was everything they needed. And perhaps I’m wrong. Maybe the point is that it is an epic love story. Maybe epic love stories aren’t loud and dramatic, but quiet, unthreatening, and just content.
As for the plot and pacing, the only thing that slowed down was the segments where the descriptive writing went on a bit too long. If you’re a fan of flowery writing, you probably won’t feel the difference in pacing at all. If you’re not usually a fan of it, then you may want to skip a few paragraphs. Nothing major. There were also times when I wished that I could hear from Lazlo instead of Sarai or Sarai instead of Lazlo. Other than that, the plot flowed together seamlessly. Every event came together one after the other naturally, and the way that it joined with the themes and the writing was what truly made the story.
The last thing I can think to speak on was the emotional appeal. I loved Strange the Dreamer in so many ways, but not because of the emotion. Curiously, I found that the story didn’t speak to my heart in that way. As much as I enjoyed Lazlo and Sarai, as much as I sympathized with them, none of it hit me super hard. As for memorability, I’ll always remember it as the only preview I received that made me crave the book, and I’ll remember its literary aspects. Well worth a reread to see about the emotional aspects ;)
Now, to suffer from shrestha.