‘Strange the Dreamer’ by Laini Taylor
This is the story of:
A mysterious city stripped of its name. A mythic hero with blood on his hands. A young librarian with a singular dream. A blue-skinned goddess as perilous as she is imperilled.
I love the Daughter of Smoke and Bone books, so when I (a) saw the cover for this, and (b) encountered a reading copy, I MAY have squealed. And hugged my copy when I received it. And jumped up and down a little. Then proceeded to read it in a couple of days flat. Heads up: it gets all of the stars.
I’d forgotten how gorgeous Laini Taylor’s writing is. The word ‘lush’ seems to get thrown around in reviews (or is that just me?), but it truly is. Every sentence is full of colour and texture and vibrancy – all the better in this novel, where her characters often walk in dreams.
Lazlo, our orphan librarian, captured me immediately – as did, perhaps strangely, his rival, the noble alchemist Theon. I love that Theon is as fully realised as Lazlo, and I was able to understand and pity him even as he tried to steal Lazlo’s dream. Sarai, though, was my favourite: the daughter of a murdered goddess, with a gift but no longer the heart for vengeance. Lazlo longs for her city, but his arrival triggers an inexorable chain of events that could doom Sarai and the city both.
In ‘Strange the Dreamer’, beauty and horror often sit side by side, and Taylor’s characters find themselves in impossible predicaments, with awful choices to make. If I were still in the habit of biting my nails, they would have been gone WELL before the final chapters.
The sweetness of Lazlo and Sarai’s fledgling romance, in particular, contrasts with a sense of impending tragedy. The book’s prologue looms larger and darker as the story progresses. I found myself suspecting what was to come, but hoping for a mistake or plot twist that would save someone/everyone/the whole damn thing. The conclusion is gut-wrenching. I want the sequel, and soon.
Strange the Dreamer is riveting. If you loved the ‘Daughter of Smoke and Bone’ series, read it; if you love fantasy, read it; if you love books that make you feel wonder, or that punch you in the heart, read it. It also contains my favourite lines so far this year:
There were no books to hide behind, and no shadows – only Lazlo Strange in his worn grey robes, with his nose that had been broken by fairy tales, looking like the hero of no story ever told.
Or. No story yet told.
How can you read that and not adore it?
If you have finished ‘Strange the Dreamer’ and are looking for something to fill the hole, check out The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi. That and its sequel should keep you occupied for a while (athough, as far as I’m concerned, not nearly long enough!).