In the fall of last year, I was fortunate enough to meet Laini Taylor. Although I hadn’t yet read any of her books, her Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy had been sitting on my shelf for some time. While I met many authors that day, she really stood out to me, not only because she has bright pink hair, but because she was a joy to talk to during my brief introduction. Now, having finally read one of her books, I am dying to meet her all over again so that I can gush like a total fangirl over “Strange the Dreamer.”
Let me just start my review by saying this: Lazlo Strange epitomizes everything I look for in a narrator. From the beginning, he was just such a genuine, compassionate and humble character. Somehow, Taylor made it feel as though I were reading a story told by my best friend. Amazingly, over the course of the book, he only got better – he treated those who looked down on him with kindness and understanding, remained humble and was adorably innocent. Although I loved the book for many reasons, Lazlo’s narration was really what kept me coming back for more.
While not every character can be as incredible as Lazlo, Taylor did manage to bring quite an eclectic cast to life. Sarai, the other primary narrator, spent the entire book conflicted. As a godspawn, she was hated by all of the residents of Weep, and spent her whole life hiding from them. While her companions in the citadel hated all humans, Sarai felt compassion toward them. The conflicting love and hate she felt for the residents of Weep made her a really relatable character.
“Strange the Dreamer” was written in such a unique way that I doubt I will ever find anything similar. The best way to describe it is this: Taylor’s narration changes perspective in an almost conversational manner. Where most authors indicate a change in narration with a chapter change, Taylor seamlessly shifted from view point to view point. It was like being part of a conversation, and jumping from mind to mind as each person spoke. I’ve never read anything quite like it, and while it took some time to get used to, it really was well done.
Alright romance lovers, I haven’t forgotten about you. “Strange the Dreamer” contained not one, but three devastatingly beautiful love stories. The first, of course, is between Sarai and Lazlo, who don’t even really interact until well into this book. Although the other two romances are more secondary, they are just as well-written and heart-wrenching. At the risk of sharing spoilers, I won’t elaborate further.
As is the case with most first books in a fantasy series, “Strange the Dreamer” was a little slow to pick up. The first half of the book was spent learning the characters and Weep’s rich backstory. I did pick up and put down the book multiple times, and didn’t really get sucked in until around the 300 page mark. However, I absolutely think that those first 300 pages were worth the read (as is the whole book).
My Takeaway: Although it didn’t immediately suck me in, “Strange the Dreamer” is absolutely worth reading. With one of my favorite narrators of all time, and a rich new fantasy world to dive into, it is definitely one of my favorite YA books so far this year.
My Rating: 4.5/5