Book review · Fantasy · Young adult

Review: Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

StrangeOn the second Sabbat of Twelfthmoon, in the city of Weep, a girl fell from the sky.

Years ago, there was a war between gods and men.
It was a massacre. Men won.
Strange the Dreamer is the aftermath.

I have read many fantasy books. After a while, some of them start to feel similar. The same stories, the same themes, the same tired fake-medieval world.
Not here.

Strange the Dreamer is a story about the instability of peace, about forgiveness, about hope and dreams. I had never read a fantasy book with this premise; books never tell you what happens later. Because, supposedly, that part is boring.
It isn’t.

I loved how this book never took the easy way out.
It would have been so easy to show one side as good and the other as bad. But all the major characters have a motivation, and even the ones who do terrible things – you know why. Everyone has been hurt so much.

The function of hate, as Sarai saw it, was to stamp out compassion—to close a door in one’s own self and forget it was ever there. If you had hate, then you could see suffering—and cause it—and feel nothing except perhaps a sordid vindication.

You could understand everyone, and… suffer.

Strange the Dreamer may not be a happy book, but is it beautiful.
Not only the descriptions are beautiful and full of monsters (all the best things are) but Laini Taylor is the only author who can describe a girl’s skin as “her smooth cerulean loveliness” and get away with it. Call it purple prose, but it works.
Also, this book starts with the best prologue ever.

Few YA books can capture such a magical, dreamlike atmosphere, and very few have such an interesting worldbuilding. Angels and demons, gods and men, alchemy and moths. Strange the Dreamer is set in a monastery, then in a library, then in a lost city who lost its name.

(Now that we’re talking about the worldbuilding: this book is totally set in the Daughter of Smoke and Bone universe. Just read the part where Lazlo is talking about “The Oldest Story in the World” and tell me that’s not Dreams of Gods and Monsters).

And the characters.
No book had ever shown me a bookish character whose love for books I actually felt. Lazlo grew up loving stories, and he is a dreamer. It’s an important part of him. It’s not just a relatable but irrelevant quirk.
Dreamer. That’s what Lazlo is.

And when Lazlo Strange the Dreamer met Sarai, the Muse of Nightmares, everything was perfect. I didn’t even care that the romance developed quickly; I don’t call it instalove if it feels real.
I loved Sarai a lot.
She hates herself for what she has done. She hates the world for what has been done to her. But she’s also tired of hating.

The only problem I had with this book – the only reason this is 4.75 stars and not a full five – is the length, the pacing. 536 pages is a lot, and the first 150 after the prologue aren’t that great. The rest? Perfect. The ending? Weep is actually an accurate name for that place.

My rating: ★★★★¾

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