Review: Strange the Dreamer

Laini Taylor, Strange the Dreamer, 2017

Laini Taylor’s Strange the Dreamer, the first in a new duology from the author of the best-selling Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, focuses on Lazlo Strange, a librarian with an imagination for the fantasy stories, mainly those around the lost city of Weep (which he is sure of that magic has caused the population to forget its original name and thus it was renamed Weep). After a Godslayer, Eril-Fane, forms a group of philosophers and soldiers with the task of rescuing Weep from the punishment it has been left in since Eril-Fane killed the Gods some fifteen years ago, Lazlo approaches and begs to be part of his team, and, much to the surprise of everyone already recruited, Eril-Fane accepts Lazlo’s offer, with the promise of fairy tales and research knowledge of the mystery of Weep.

Aside from Lazlo’s story on the ground, we are also following Serai’s journey above the city of Weep. Serai, a Godspawn with four others, have been living alone (with ghosts helping out) since the Godslayer killed the Gods and each of the five of them possess powers. This, however, leads into one of the early criticisms of Strange the Dreamer: too many characters.

From the formation of Eril-Fane’s group we are introduced to a handful of characters, each with a fantasy name, and then we are introduced to five more with tales of many more from the past. With them all having fantasy names, and some having magical powers, it can become a bit of a challenge remembering who is who at times. Especially with Serai and her four friends, as I struggled remembering who of the five names was the holder of the ability to create fire.

The only other downside is the pacing of the novel. Laini Taylor has said Strange the Dreamer was only ever supposed to be a standalone novel, but that the world became too big that it became a duology, and this is seen when we follow Lazlo’s journey for the first half of the novel. While the second half of the novel holds all the action, it does mean the first half of the novel is focusing on Lazlo and his new friends walking, and Serai and her friends living their day-to-day lives.

Those issues aside, though, Strange the Dreamer is a novel well worth reading for fans of fantasy novels. Lazlo and Serai have brilliant character development throughout, and it’s a nice change to see a character like Lazlo in a young adult novel be an ordinary person, rather than a master of a particular physical field (such as Katniss being a master of the bow and arrow, and Harry Potter being the ‘boy who lived’); Lazlo is simply a librarian with a wild imagination. And it becomes obvious throughout that Laini Taylor made the right decision in putting Lazlo Strange at the centre of the novel (he wasn’t initially) as his personality and behaviour strikes as a character worth investing in.

Serai’s gift also allows her character to develop throughout the novel as she has the ability to see inside people’s dreams and alter them (which she initially used as a revenge tactic), and this allows us into worlds of dreams while seeing Serai’s reactions to what she witnesses. All of this, combined with the simple things such as the creative chapter names implemented, make it a very well put together novel. Strange the Dreamer, overall, is a good introduction to this new duology, and I am very excited to see where Laini Taylor takes it in the sequel.

7/10

*Buy it on Amazon here*

Other works by Laini Taylor:

Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy:

  • Daughter of Smoke and Bone
  • Days of Blood and Starlight
  • Dreams of Gods and Monsters

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