Here, captured between the covers, was the history of the human imagination, and nothing had ever been more beautiful, or fearsome, or bizarre.”
Oh, Laini Taylor. You’ve done it again, you devious, fuchsia-haired, Portland-hippie genius. If you’ve read her Daughter of Smoke and Bone series then you already know that she is a captivating story teller with a lyrical prose. But her newest novel Strange the Dreamer is gorgeous, tragic, literary ambrosia that I devoured in about 24 hours. Let’s just say my kids watched a lot of Daniel Tiger that day. Reading this book made me think of that moment in The Wizard of Oz. That moment, when Dorothy opens the door in her sepia world and steps into a beautiful, Technicolor fantasy world. It felt like every book I’d read before Strange the Dreamer had been in black and white and I was finally experiencing a book how it was meant to be written.
Was that too fawning? A little ass-kissy? Probably. But seriously, Laini Taylor has a gift. Her writing is downright beautiful, while at the same time being sooooo weeeeird. But more on that later. Let’s get to the plot of this amazing book.
Lazlo Strange is an orphan, raised from infancy at a harsh monastery. His only comforts are the stories he hears from an old, senile monk of the glorious Unseen City, filled with beauty, knowledge, and marvels beyond compare. In these stories Lazlo learns that the city and its tales were lost hundreds of years ago, and even its true name was stolen by magic, with the world only remembering it as the mythical Lost City of Weep. The tales haunt Lazlo, and as a teenager he runs away from the monastery and ends up a librarian, where his access to records allows him to indulge his obsession with learning more about the mysterious Weep. Despite his austere and cold upbringing, Lazlo is a dreamer and his consuming goal in life is to see the Lost City with his own eyes and discover the magic that erased it from the world two hundred years ago. He knows it’s likely impossible- the world regards Weep as a nothing more than fanciful myth. Even if it were real, it was said to lie across an enormous and impassable desert. Many set out on a quest to find it; none ever return. An impossible dream, indeed…until a band of fierce, exotic warriors arrive, claiming to be from the Lost City itself.
Lazlo soon finds himself traveling to Weep with the mysterious warriors, who claim to require assistance solving a mystery and saving their city. But Weep will not be how he imagined; he’ll encounter prejudice and fear, magic and monsters. He’ll discover secrets about his origins and fall in love with the blue-skinned girl who appears every night in his dreams. But will his dream end in tragedy?
Why you should read it
The Hero-Did I mention that Lazlo is a librarian? And that he spends his days (and majority of his nights) reading? And that he’s good and kind and brave and a sweet little virgin? Do I need to go on? I’ll go on.
It’s such a refreshing change to have the hero be a normal, nerdy guy. He’s not an angel/vampire/shifter with muscles/magical powers/huge penis. He’s not an undefeated soldier, an all-powerful Fae lord. He’s not a badass. He’s a librarian with a dream. It’s magnificent. And there’s nothing more attractive than a guy reading a book.
The moment when the “vengeful, megalomaniac villain” becomes “just misunderstood”. Awwwwww.
The Weirdness-Several years ago I recommended Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone series (one of my favorite EVER) to my sister. She reported back that she couldn’t get into it- it was “too weird”.
Oh yes she did.
If we’re being real honest…yes, her books have some weird stuff. But that’s why they’re so good. Her creativity is astounding. She crafts these rich, complete worlds and makes them so real and believable and whimsical that you just accept the weirdness without question. Strange the Dreamer is no different. Candy made from the blood of reptilian river monsters? Sure. Mountain range forged from the melted bones of demons? Why not. Heroine who screams a hundred moths from her mouth every night? No big deal. Demi-gods with blue skin? That’s great.
Right now you’re imagining this. Don’t.
So even if you find yourself asking “What WAS this girl smoking when she came up with this stuff?” (She lives in Oregon. It’s legal there), keep reading. Embrace the weirdness.
“You’re a storyteller. Dream up something wild and improbable,” she pleaded. “Something beautiful and full of monsters.”
“Beautiful and full of monsters?”
“All the best stories are.”
You won’t regret it.