Book Review: Strange the Dreamer

Oh. My. God. You know when all you’ve seen about a book is hype, hype and more hype, and you just think it can’t be as good as everyone says it is, so you’re a little wary of actually reading it? That’s kind of how I felt about finally getting the chance to read Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor. It couldn’t really be as good as the hype was suggesting, could it? Well, yes. Yes it could. I adored this book from the very first page and now that I’ve finished it, I’m not really sure what to do with myself!

std cover

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 to 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?

The writing in Strange the Dreamer is some of the most beautiful I’ve ever read. It’s incredibly evocative, and I could imagine everything about the world in vivid technicolour. It’s like reading a fairy tale for grown ups, which given the themes of the story, I can only imagine was deliberate. It works as a concept so well that I’m a little in awe of Taylor.

I fell in love with Lazlo almost immediately. We first meet him as a five year old orphan, unable to resist the temptation to continue playing in his imaginary version of the ‘Unseen City’ (he doesn’t like calling it Weep), even though he knows the monks who look after him will punish him. He grows up into a junior librarian who always has his nose stuck in a book – until he is given an opportunity he never expected in a million years, and he embarks on an adventure of a lifetime. Twenty year old Lazlo is like an alternative version of myself, which is possibly why I like him so much. *g* But he’s also loyal and generous and just wants to do the right thing, even if he knows it won’t necessarily be good for him, and I almost cheered when he joined the expedition to Weep because he deserved to be a part of it.

I don’t really want to talk about the plot, because I think it’s much better for everyone to go into this book almost blind, but the world-building is breathtaking and the characterisation of the whole cast is on point. There are characters who have been through some terrible things, and their PTSD (though it’s obviously not called that) is palpable in every scene.

Strange the Dreamer has catapulted right to the top of my best books of 2017 list (and I’ve read some truly amazing books already this year). It’s going to take some doing to dislodge it in the next nine months too. If you’re a fan of fantasy, or just gorgeous world-building and prose, you NEED to put this book on your TBR.

5/5

ARC received from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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