"Strange the Dreamer" Book Review
Updated: Jun 25, 2019
Author: Laini Taylor
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
When I finished Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor, I wanted to recommend it to everyone. I wanted to rave about it until my voice hurt. In fact, after that last page, I just sat for about a minute trying to process the perfection of what I just read and how I had gone without it for so long. Strange the Dreamer is one of the most fantastical, magical, beautiful, and well-done novels I have read. Drinking in the incredible prose, plot, and worldbuilding, it was like I was a child again reading Harry Potter for the first time. It’s been a while since I’ve had a new book become my second favorite of all time, but I knew Strange the Dreamer would before I even got halfway.
The novel is about Lazlo Strange, an orphan, raised by monks, who fantasized about a legendary city since he was a little boy. But then, as if by magic (OBVIOUSLY by magic), everyone forgets the name of this fabled place, and the only name left on their tongues is Weep—or as Lazlo calls it, the Unseen City. Escaping from the monks and moving to a library, Lazlo spends his life into adulthood lost in books and uncovering the secrets of Weep, deeming him Strange the Dreamer. Of course, Weep doesn’t exist, according to everyone else. But then, one day, the warriors from this fabled city, led by a hero known as the Godslayer, come to the Great Library seeking help from outsiders. They have a problem they cannot solve themselves. So, Lazlo joins the group and travels with them to Weep, where even his dreams are invaded by the mysteries of the city.
This review won’t be long, because 1. I can’t put into words how incredible this book is. And 2. In a way, the reasons are straightforward. Strange the Dreamer combines incredible worldbuilding with beautiful prose, like if Naomi Novik and J.K. Rowling had a baby. That would be the best child ever. I didn’t pick a lot of quotes to mention at the end, because every line is so beautiful. I could have quoted every one. Also, I lost myself in the story and may have sometimes forgotten to document favorite lines…The way Strange the Dreamer is written is very much like Naomi Novik’s Uprooted, because it sounds like a fairytale with prose that are beautiful but easy to understand. Sometimes, text can be stunning at the cost of an easy read. This book succeeds in having both, making it even more like a fairytale.
The worldbuilding is OUT OF THIS WORLD (don’t hate me too hard for that pun). Taylor fills me in on culture, environment, religion, backstory, location, attire, animals, traditions, etc. without ever making me overwhelmed. And everything is vivid and so mapped out, I’m never questioning anything. I could dream of this world tonight. I could travel to Weep and step into the city myself. I also wouldn’t mind meeting these characters while I’m there.
They are amazing. There is clear development, believable interactions and reactions, and addictive relationships. Lazlo is by far my favorite. His love for books, his dreamer personality/aesthetic, his kindness, his acceptance, his everything makes him so likeable. I did not mind at all traveling through this story with him. And I loved reading about other characters too, because this book is not just from Lazlo’s perspective. In the end, I felt some type of emotional attachment to all characters, even the evil ones. I love a character that I should hate but I can’t help but sympathize for too. Taylor hits this out of the park.
Strange the Dreamer is one of those books I want to hold to my heart. I want to go to the beginning and start again, because I already miss the story. I already grieve the end. Typically, I don’t reread, but this is an exception. The sequel, Muse of Nightmares, comes out in October, so keep an eye out for that! And please, PLEASE read this novel before you read anything else! Every page is worth it. Until next time, Nooksters!
“The Library knows its own mind,” old Master Hyrrokkin told him, leading him back up the secret stairs. “When it steals a boy, we let it keep him.” (16)
It was impossible, of course.
But when did that ever stop any dreamer from dreaming? (25)
There were no books to hide behind, and no shadows—only Lazlo Strange in his worn gray robes, with his nose that had been broken by fairy tales, looking like the hero of no story ever told. (79-80)
“Unkind,” said Ruza, wounded. His face crumpled. He pretended to weep. “I am fearsome,” he insisted. “I am.”
“There, there,” Lazlo consoled. “You’re a very fierce warrior. Don’t cry. You’re terrifying.” “Really?” asked Ruza in a pitiful little hopeful voice. “You’re not just saying that?”
“You two idiots,” said Azareen, and Lazlo felt a curious twinge of pride, to be called an idiot by her, with what might have been the tiniest edge of fondness. (187)
Lazlo had given her the moon on her wrist, the stars that bedecked it, the sun in its jar on the shelf with the fireflies. He had even given her wings. But what she wanted most in that moment wasn’t the sky. It was the world and broken things, and hand-carved beams and tangled bedcovers, and a lovely tattoo round her navel, like a girl with the hope of a future. (461)
There was a man who loved the moon, but whenever he tried to embrace her, she broke into a thousand pieces and left him drenched, with empty arms. (528)