∴ Strange the Dreamer (Strange the Dreamer #1) by Laini Taylor ∴
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.
That was his dream, daring and magnificent: to go there, half across the world, and solve the mysteries for himself.
It was impossible of course.
But when did that ever stop any dreamer from dreaming?
MAJOR SPOILERS THROUGHOUT:
Let me start off by saying that by no means is this a bad book. While my rating and this review may make it seem that way, I don’t mean it like that. For me personally, this book was just not as enjoyable as it was for so many other people. I struggled through most of this. Not because the story was bad, but because of the author’s writing style.
In almost every positive review you see of this book or this author, you will probably see some remark or another referring to the “lyrical or poetic writing” or Laini Taylor’s “beautiful way with words”. To me, if you took out the “poetic or lyrical writing” or the overuse of figurative language, this book would be half the size it is and make two times more sense. Or, I wouldn’t have to spend so much time trying to figure out what a sentence means when it could have been simplified. I don’t personally want to have to look up words or a phrase every few minutes to understand what I am reading. Plus, some of the analogies Laini Taylor uses just flat out don’t make sense. She also tends to use really complicated metaphors, that take a whole page, to explain a simple concept that could be explained in one sentence.
The Plot- The plot is one of the really interesting things about this book. While you know from the beginning the general idea of the plot, the real problem and scenarios surrounding it don’t really appear until later in the book. Instead of the plot being revealed at the beginning and watching it progress, this book has it slowly reveal itself and has a distinct mystery surrounding the plot. It came across, at least to me, like a bunch of puzzle pieces that were slowly brought together to from a solid idea at the very end.
While some people might enjoy this type of plot, I do not. I like quite the opposite. I like to know what it happening and why it is happening. Clearly, this book was not for me in that aspect either.
Plus, the “plot twist” at the end did not shock me at all. I suspected pretty early, but it was confirmed to me on page 193.
The World Building I found this world, while interesting, to not make a lot of sense.
Firstly, there is no map at the beginning of the book. An author doesn’t have to include one, but traditionally, a fantasy book should have one so to prevent some confusion.
Secondly, there are entirely too many terms and phrases that aren’t completely explained (or only explained once) and the term keeps getting brought up like I am supposed to fully understand what it means.
Thirdly, the landscape of any of the places that I saw in this book weren’t fully explained. I couldn’t tell you where Weep is in relation to Zosma. I also couldn’t tell you what the surrounding area looks like. Fourthly, countries that are at war with Zosma are brought up, but the names are never said and where the countries are geographically is never explained either.
These things might not bother some people, but for me, it made the world really hard to visualize geographically.
Weep- While we are on the subject of Weep, let’s talk about it. I found it to be… lackluster. From the very beginning of the novel, Weep is built up so much by Lazlo and by the mystery surrounding the city. When the city is finally shown, I found it to be rather dull. It wasn’t magical or mysterious at all. This made the whole plot surrounding it and the arrival of the characters to be a little anti-climactic for me.
My biggest problem however, was not any of that. It was the dread and the emotional stuff that I feel Laini Taylor put me through at the end. I don’t know about you, but I do not like to be drug through the emotional wringer if I feel it is unnecessary. I am an emotional reader and I tend to connect with the story/characters very easily. I did that with this book. I was fully invested in the characters and, as soon as I was deep enough in the story, I was able to comprehend that one of the girl Godspawns was going to die. I didn’t know exactly which one, but I knew.
I personally feel like Laini Taylor knew that 99% of her readers would be able to guess this and would spend the rest of the book speculating when it was going to happen. She constantly built tension and she dropped little things to convey that one of the girl Godspawns would die soon.
On page 408, it is announced that it is the second Sabbat of Twelfthmoon. From the Prologue, I knew that this was the day one of the girl Godspawns would die. Naturally, dread filled me when I read that line. I did not want one of the girls to die and I did not want to see it happen. Also, when I read this line, I expected the death to happen really soon, like within 30 pages. It didn’t.
It, along with that feeling of dread, was dragged out until page 497. For almost 90 pages, I was put through a lot of emotional turmoil, afraid to turn the page for fear of one of the Godspawn girls dying. I feel like Laini Taylor did this on purpose. I know, the author has to build tension and suspense, but I feel like this was a little overkill.
I hate that feeling of dread and it ruined those 90 pages for me, as well as ruined my emotional attachment to the story. How am I possibly supposed to get all warm and fuzzy over Lazlo and Sarai kissing when I’m scared she is going to die in the next chapter?! I just did not appreciate the emotional stuff that I was put through during those pages when I feel like it was completely unnecessary.
The Characters- I must admit, the characters were the bright light of this book. Without them and my connection to them, I can honestly say that I would have DNF’d this book pretty quickly. I finished it only because I wanted to find out what would happen to them.
One thing I really liked about this book was that there was no clear villain. I could not simply say, “That character is evil. They deserve to die” which made things difficult for me at times. Every character had many layers to them and even the characters that did things I would consider “evil” did them in a way and for reasons that made me not help but sympathize.
Lazlo- I loved his character so much and all I wanted to do was hug him and give him the world. Lazlo is one of those unique characters that is wholly good. I would be shocked to find a person (or a reader especially) who could not connect with him in some way or another.
Sarai- I really connected with Sarai as well. I felt bad for her and all of the Godspawn. They deserved SO much better than the hands they had been dealt. It hurts my heart that they weren’t given a chance to be good and different from the ones that came before them. Sarai, in particular, really stood out to me because she is so good and, in some ways, she is Lazlo’s foil. While he is “Strange the Dreamer”, she is the “Muse of Nightmares”. He dreams so much, while she is haunted by nightmares and only wishes she could dream like other people. This made her character incredibly sad to me; that one of the only things she wanted was something I take for granted every day.
Ruby, Sparrow, and Feral I liked them all. I felt bad for them and I sympathized with them. I just feel like they weren’t as much of a focus in this book as I would have liked. Feral in particular felt a little flat. I couldn’t tell you any personality traits of his except for his gift.
Minya- Minya is one of the characters that I struggled with. On one hand, she is trying to protect her family and is dealing with a lot of guilt because she couldn’t save more Godspawn babies. On the other hand, she wants to right this wrong by doing bad things to good people. I couldn’t help but empathize with Minya and her situation and it makes her character really hard to like or dislike.
Eril-Fane/Godslayer- Eril-Fane is also one of the characters that I struggled with. On one hand, he was abducted, mind raped, and put through things that I can only begin to imagine. On the other, he killed the Godspawn babies. While I think he is a good person and was trying to do what he felt was right, I cannot condone what he did or allowed to happen. That hate and fear that could drive someone to do something so horrible as to kill babies is abhorrent to me. This makes it incredibly hard to form an opinion on him and it makes his character really hard to like or dislike. I honestly don’t know how to feel about him or Minya.
Thyon- I still haven’t made up my mind where Thyon is concerned. I just don’t know if he is a bad person, or if his situation simply pushes him to do bad things.
Azareen- I want to see more of her. She didn’t really speak much throughout this book and I have only seen glimpses of her through other people’s perspectives.
Calixte- I loved Calixte. I really wish she would have been more present throughout the book because I highly enjoyed her character and the scenes she was in.
Overall, I would say that this book just wasn’t for me. I can certainly see why other people would enjoy it. I just struggle with the writing style and the format this book was written in. Ultimately, I could take or leave this story which is not the feeling I want to come out of a book with. I don’t think I will be reading the next book, but later on down the road, I could. I think it would just take the right circumstances to pick Muse of Nightmares up.