Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor – Review

Lazlo Strange has always been fascinated by the lost city of Weep. But as an orphan and junior librarian, no one takes him seriously. Then, one day, the Godslayer arrives and Lazlo has a chance to live his dream for real and visit Weep. Many questions are answered on his arrival but hundreds of times more questions appear, including the question of the identity of a woman with blue skin who keeps appearing in his dreams and seems more real than is possible.

Something I have to begin by praising is the sheer scope of imagination in this book. This is particularly evident in the creation of the powers of the godspawn, especially Sarai’s. The whole idea with the moths (I won’t go into it, its nice to be able to discover everything for yourself in this book) is simply out of this world. Everything in this book is so brilliantly weird it is beautiful. Sometimes I have to stop and think how on earth did  the writer even come up with this stuff? But then it is Laini Taylor. However, nothing seemed out of place, it all seemed credible in the world that was created. It was so vivid and magical, a joy to read.

The writing did great credit to the wonderful ideas in the book. It just fit the beautiful nature of it all, replicating the weirdness and the beauty of the world through the descriptions, which were never dull to read. I wouldn’t say the descriptive nature was too much in this case, although it might be for some people, depending on what you enjoy reading. Personally for me, it was right on the verge of being too much but it was just on the right side of the border between completely taking over the plot and characters and balancing with them to create a nice harmony, which it did. I also didn’t think there were too many metaphors, or that the metaphors were too out of place, which can happen very easily in books (e.g. Caraval by Stephanie Garber).

The characters were so real and fascinating to read about. Lazlo was just such a likeable character, a nice break from all the really brave and tough main characters and instead realistically ambitious but not without fear. He was someone you really want to root for and in my opinion never got annoying. The godspawn were also all so realistic. Each one was so individual and they felt like real people, rather being overly consistent and predictable as so many fictional characters turn out to be. Sometimes inconsistency is good; in real life people don’t remain the same and always stick to everything they say and every opinion they state. I felt like these characters were definitely real and not just cardboard cut outs. They also weren’t all likeable all the time, Lazlo gave the reader someone to back throughout the novel but the others were sometimes less so.

I did have a few criticisms, however. I don’t by any means see this as a perfect novel. I would definitely not praise the ending; I thought it took an interesting direction but there are so many other ways it could have gone and been a lot more interesting and had more at stake. I also think it dragged a bit through the middle, and I think the dream scenes added a lot of interest but other things did come to a bit of a standstill and the ending wasn’t strong enough to drag me back in and be more dedicated to the story. The book definitely could have been cut down by a hundred pages or so, without losing the beautiful dreamy effect and writing. I felt that it didn’t quite live up to the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, where it felt like there was a lot more at stake even in the first book. However, the beginning of this one was extremely promising and to begin with I thought it might be better than that series.

In short, I loved this book. Everything about it was beautiful, so imaginative and weird and wonderful. The characters burst out of the pages and the writing complimented the story and the world. My criticism would be that the plot began to move a bit too slowly in the middle and it needed something to just keep interest going, and the ending wasn’t quite enough to redeem it. I think the stakes needed to be a bit higher; I just didn’t feel invested enough. It was very good, just not quite Daughter of Smoke and Bone good. But still worth reading.

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