“Strange the Dreamer” by Laini Taylor (2017) Review

With beauty, awe, fantasy, magic and romance, Laini Taylor’s Strange the Dreamer captures the joys of dreaming, the horrors of it and being the dreamer whilst you’re awake in ways you’d least expect.

Taylor’s Strange the Dreamer follows Lazlo Strange, an orphaned bookworm raised by monks whose knack for daydreaming has him dubbed ‘the dreamer’. Unlike those around him, Lazlo is fascinated by the past and the mystery surrounding the lost city of Weep. Sarai on the other hand is a godspawn and managed to escape slaughter as a baby. She has lived in the abandoned floating Citadel with a few of her companions that also escaped the slaughter her entire life. Whilst their unknown presence keeps them alive, Sarai’s gift to see into the dreams of those on the ground gives her a longing to reconnect with the outside world. If only they wouldn’t kill her on site.

Strange the Dreamer was easy to read, in a good way. Before I knew it I was up to page 20 and then page 60 and so on. As time went on, there were moments that did slow things down and you wished things would move on, but that ultimately came down to narrative and plot decisions.

In regard to the narrative, I was never one hundred percent clear of where it was going but that’s not always a bad thing. Sure, Lazlo was on his travels and finding purpose in his life by helping solve particular problems and Sarai longed to be seen differently and taken away from the Citadel in the sky, but what was the ultimate goal/motive for Strange the Dreamer? Eventually I figured that it could perhaps be Lazlo and Sarai’s love and longing to meet each other but that could still be questionable. Perhaps the reasoning for my thoughts could be based around the minor characters and my lack of emotional connection towards them. You don’t necessarily need to see a character all the time to connect with them.Take Poe Dameron from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. He barely has any screen time but still manages to captivate us.

In spite of this, I am aware that I am probably being a little bit too picky and do need to realize that there is only so many pages in a book! That’s probably also why authors these days tend to write extra short stories from the perspective of their other characters and allow it’s readers even more understanding of the world they’re portraying.

Saying this, Taylor’s world building is rather good and most certainly defines her as a writer. Strange the Dreamer is very detailed, descriptive, rich and inventive, proving that Taylor knows how to work with words and challenge her storytelling. It’s also fun as a reader to imagine the author establishing a world from scratch and flourishing within it. That’s one of the joys of storytelling; anything and everything is possible.

One thing I found fascinating in Strange the Dreamer was it’s rather unique way of portraying romance. Lazlo and Sarai’s relationship is at the core (for obvious reasons being that they are the main characters) and evolves in a way you wouldn’t necessarily see coming, through Lazlo’s dreams. As mentioned earlier, Sarai’s gift allows her to see into the dreams of others and alter them into nightmares if she wants. Because of this, Lazlo and Sarai’s relationship starts in Lazlo’s dream and continues to grow the more they meet in Lazlo’s dreams.

Strange the Dreamer will compel you to think about your own dreams in the most curious way. The first of a duology, Taylor manages to engage it’s readers with her world building and style, even though there are a few areas that could do with some work.

3.5/5

Book supplied by Hachette NZ – (RRP: $29.99). Click here for details.