Review: Strange the Dreamer by Laini Talyor

Hello and happy Thursday! If you haven’t noticed I’m really trying to get a Monday/Thursday posting schedule down and I’m going to hesitantly say that it’s working? I know that I’ve missed one Monday so far but otherwise its looking pretty good! Let’s hope I can stockpile some posts for the months of October through November when midterms and assignments hit me like a ton of bricks haha.

Speaking of hitting me with bricks, let’s talk about Strange the Dreamer because I feel like I just got beaten up in the heart! Laini Taylor, just one quick question – who gave you the right? This was my first foray into Laini’s writing (I’ll get to Daughter of Smoke and Bone one day, I swear) and I gotta say, I loved it. Her writing is so lyrical that it’s super easy to get lost in it. And that’s exactly what I did. I was in Ottawa this past weekend and was a little distracted from the book due to hanging out with my brother (he’s going to uni this year and playing Junior A hockey y’all! I’m so proud!). But the train ride back to Montreal? Completely taken up by Lazlo, Sarai, Eril-Fane, Thyon Nero, Azareen and every other beautiful inhabitant of Weep on that fateful day.

What’s a horizon? Is it like the end of an aisle of books?

Let’s just start off with me giving this book 5/5 stars and more, and that this review will be full of SPOILERS!!!!!!!!! You have been warned. If I had money then Muse of Nightmares would be my current read (but I don’t so Slaughterhouse 5 here I come). The pacing was perfect, I was left guessing what was going to happen but everything that happened was within reason. Taylor sprinkles small bits of information without the book that you throw away as superfluous, and then she brings them back and makes you smack yourself of forgetting such a CRUCIAL piece of the puzzle. It’s actually astounding how brilliant she is (Taylor and Maas and Stiefvater basically are my holy trinity now, you can’t stop me).

Whereas I sometimes feel like the romance in books in rushed, I didn’t feel that in Strange. I know, Sarai and Lazlo never actually met, and they only maybe spent 36 hours together in total. But what feels real to me is that so much of this time was spent getting to know each other. It wasn’t love at first sight (in fact, for Sarai it was pretty much wariness at first sight and then she had a look-beyond-what-you-see moment). They spent hours talking and learning about each other and they very clearly wanted more time and planned a future where they would have that time. It was absolutely sweet and innocent and boy did it make my heart happy.

He had a trio of fears:
This was the first: that he would never see further proof of magic.
The second: that he would never find out what happened in Weep.
The third: That he would always be as alone as he was now.

From a world building perspective, I don’t think Taylor could have done anything better – Weep and Zosma and the orphange are brilliantly described. I was a huge fan of the description of Lazlo and the books, because it’s exactly what I would do when first presented with an incredible collection – stare in awe and then get lost in it. And when Nero took his books? Heart wrenching. I feel like Taylor made the book in the perspective of a bibliophile and wrote it for bibliophiles. And that makes my heart feel warm and fuzzy.

The characters were also a highlight. There were so many little nuances that caught me eye, the first being a casual sprinkling of LGBTQ+ rep (heyyyyy), and the next being basically subverting the idea of masculinity. The most respected man in Weep, Eril-Fane, shows emotion, admits weakness and has emotional motivators. Thyon Nero, the golden boy of Zosma, couldn’t be who he is without help, and he RESENTs that, not to mention that he is an abuse survivor and this lends a whole new light to the situation. Lazlo, a strong man, places his power in stories and words, rather than strength. It was so refreshing.

And the godspawn. I loved each and everyone of them. Ruby and Sparrow were compelling, Minya made me feel so so sad for the burden placed on a 6 year old, Feral reflected the hunger for knowledge that I think everyone feels towards a certain subject, and Sarai is the dreamer in all of us, wanting to escape into our dreams and others. They made me feel accutely aware of the injustice in the world and how living with certain circumstances can forever change someone and their personality and being.

I think Taylor did an excellent job of addressing the trauma of an occupation, and how it’s effects are lasting and widespread. All of Weep suffers from PTSD of the Mesarthim, and can’t even look at the citadel. That’s how deeply their suffering is engrained and bound to them. They can’t look at the children without hatred in their eyes, because they cannot remove the picture of the parents. It’s a horrifically accurate and poignant description of trauma, and I really applaud Taylor for this.

Just because the past is blood doesn’t mean the future must be, too

Yikes, I could go on about this book forever and ever. Even just the repetition of short phrases over and over again got to me. Please, if you haven’t read Strange the Dreamer yet, DO IT!

I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

That’s all for now ducks, have a great weekend and see you Monday!
~ Mon

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