Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor (Strange the Dreamer #1) / ★★★★☆
One sentence summary: Young librarian Lazlo Strange’s dream has always been to go to the lost city of Weep, where a young goddess overlooks the city, infecting its inhabitants with nightmares.
“I’ve never had a guest before, and I’m not sure how to do it.”
“A guest,” Sarai said faintly. That word. When she went into dreams, she went as a trespasser, a marauder. She had never been invited before. She had never been welcome. The feeling that came over her was all new – and extravagantly nice. “And I’ve never been a guest before,” she confessed. “So I know no more about it than you do.”
“That’s a relief,” said Lazlo. “We can make it up between us, however we like.”
Not often do I use the word epic, because I find that most of the time it’s overused, but Strange the Dreamer is definitely something I need to use the word epic for. Because it’s epic. From the cover to the story, to the font and the chapter titles, I felt like I was reading something big. Strange the Dreamer was one of the most unique books I’ve ever read, from its unusual premise and characters to the beautiful world it’s set in. Everything about it is extremely well-developed, and I was sucked into the story immediately. The world of this book is so golden in my mind. This story is beautiful and it’s heart wrenching, and I was in love with the way Laini Taylor presented us with the paradox of good people who do bad things as a main theme of her story. It definitely made me think and despair and hope as much as the characters.
So why not five stars? I did find this book a bit slow. This is a book you really settle into, and it’s a story that very much takes its time, but sometimes I found myself wanting to go faster than the story was taking me. I’d want to get to the next plot point, but a relatively small scene would take longer than felt needed. The slower pace did add to the richness of the story, but I found myself dragging at points. I loved the strangeness and the fancifulness of this book, but it was the more romantic, whimsical parts of it that dragged on the most for me and made me eager to get more into the plot.
I also felt a little misled by the beginning of the novel, where we are introduced to a character who I felt led to believe would be a very central character and create very central conflict. I was so intrigued by the dynamic between this character and Lazlo and had expected a larger conflict between them, but it kind of faded as the novel went on. Perhaps it’s unusual for me to be disappointed by lack of conflict, but I had really been hoping for something more between these characters to add to the plot, and was disappointed that it had seemed so monumental in the beginning and then overshadowed by the rest of the book. But there is always book two, I suppose!
Overall, though, this book was incredible, extremely imaginative, super unique, and extravagantly beautiful. Also, I loved the way each section of the book was introduced by a definition. Those were so spot on, and I never knew a definition could make me feel such anticipation and foreboding at times.
Lazlo Strange is without a doubt one of the sweetest characters I’ve read in a very long time. I loved Lazlo so much. I think anyone who is a lover of books and stories can find him relatable, except he is…a better, sweeter person than me, at least, ha. I also loved the sense of humor Taylor gave him, it was so incredibly endearing. And of course, his character development definitely broke my heart at times.
Sarai was brilliant, and I loved, loved, loved her conundrum of hate vs. empathy and compassion. It was my favorite aspect of the book, and I loved the Sarai’s inner and outer conflict battled these things. Sarai was so brilliant and beautiful, and I loved the mess of personalities she was trapped with.
I loved that this book gave me such gray area characters who messed around with my own thoughts and emotions toward good vs. bad vs. evil, and how it can lead to love, hate, and shame. They were so well done.
Laini Taylor’s writing is something else. It’s POETRY. Everything is so vivid and so gently and beautifully worded. This book is definitely one that stands out because of its writing style, and the story gains so much from it. Like I said, everything was golden in my mind.
Was I satisfied?
This book was epic, and one of the most unique stories I’ve ever read, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The pace was a bit slow for me, but this book is truly an experience.