Title: Strange the Dreamer
Author: Laini Taylor
Series: Strange the Dreamer, #1
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date: March 28th 2017
Laini Taylor dazzles with her writing and storytelling ability in her latest fantasy Strange the Dreamer. Lazlo Strange has always been a nobody. With his head in the clouds, Lazlo has been regarded as a little odd, especially when it comes to his obsession with the mythical city of Weep. Every since Lazlo was a child, he’s been fascinated by fantastical stories of Weep and when its true name was stricken from everyone’s memory, Lazlo became determined to find out everything he possibly could. Years later, Lazlo is still trying to uncover the truth of what happened to Weep, though most still view it as folklore. When strangers arrive in Zosma, bearing a striking resemblance to the soldiers of Weep, Lazlo can’t help but think this is his chance, a once in a lifetime opportunity to see the city that’s been calling to him his whole life. But there is a darkness in Weep that has forced the Tizerkane soldiers to seek out help from the outside world. A mystery that they have spent years trying to solve and one that will spellbind Lazlo and take him on an unexpected journey of love and heartache.
Laini Taylor’s writing is enchanting. Strange the Dreamer reads like a dark kind of fairy tale, taking readers on a sinuous journey. We see Lazlo as a rambunctious child, prone to fantasizing; he is a warrior of Weep, defending its people against the monsters that reside in its magical land. We see him as he grows into a man, defined by his inability to forget the mostly forgotten city. Though seeing the city with his own eyes would be the ultimate dream come true, Lazlo recognizes that he lacks the kind of resources needed to do so. There is an undefinable allure to Lazlo that makes him impossible to ignore and so he is invited by Eril-Fane, leader of the Tizerkane, to accompany them back to Weep. There is a kind of wide-eyes innocence to the junior librarian. He is good and honest without much effort. He’s intelligent and imaginative without any arrogance. He’s unassuming and open-minded without any a hint of duplicity. In all honesty, I wouldn’t be able to understand why anyone would not immediately take a liking to Lazlo, which is an asset for a novel that takes it’s time to unfold.
There are other beings at play in the city of Weep, a mystery that haunts and even follows the people of Weep into their dreams. Once upon a time, Weep was ensnared by the Mesarthim, gods who used their powers to take when they saw fit, to wreck havoc because they could. Eril-Fane, the Godslayer, rose up when others couldn’t, cutting down the Mesarthum rule, killing every last one, or so they believed. Sarai is an offspring of one of the gods and she along with four others have hidden themselves from the world in order to survive. Their lives have not been easy and when Sarai’s magical gift puts her in contact with Lazlo, no one’s world will every be the same. Taylor’s does such a fantastic job of giving both sides of this war a voice that it becomes impossible to call one side right and the other wrong. Both have been touched by unspeakable evil and both carry an justifiable hate for the other.
While Laini Taylor’s Strange the Dreamer does at times feel unnecessarily long, the likable protagonist and beguiling storyline make this a must read.