For a book I picked up on impulse, I really enjoyed this!
In Laini Taylor’s novel Strange the Dreamer, Lazlo Strange grows up an orphan, raised by monks. Then, he starts work at the great library of Zosma, reading fairy tales, histories, and of course the stories of the lost city of Weep. But then, when he gets the chance to join a group of people actually going to Weep, he leaves behind all he knows in search of his dream. Meanwhile, Sarai—daughter of a goddess—has spent years in fear of humans, after a human called the Godslayer destroyed nearly everyone in the citadel she calls home. Yet Sarai and Lazlo are on a collision course, with ramifications neither can predict.
I pretty much immediately loved Lazlo—he’s sweet-hearted, intelligent, and idealistic. Seeing him learn more about the world, not only from books, is an excellent experience. And Sarai is also well-written—strong in the face of a nearly unbearable situation, and still kind despite everything she knows about humans. The other characters like Eril-Fane, Minya, and Thyon help to make this magical world feel real and alive.
This isn’t the fastest paced plot, but I didn’t mind, as this enables Taylor to describe the world, introduce characters, and overall build a solid foundation. The intrigue present in the question of why Weep is the way it is, and what will happen when Lazlo’s and Sarai’s worlds collide, keeps the tension at a high enough level until we reach the explosive end. I was fully interested the entire time and wasn’t bothered by the pace, though I suppose some might not enjoy it as much as I did.
Weep’s backstory is pretty dark, and so this is definitely a book for older teens and adults. The Godslayer’s actions involve murder, not just of adults, and this might give some people pause. However, his acts are never viewed as a noble act; in fact, most of the story explores how heroes often are not heroic. I thought it was interesting that this book examines how myth doesn’t characterize people accurately, and how people can be affected by the myths they inspire. (Sorry if this makes no sense; I’m avoiding mentioning spoilers.)
In the end, this book is about forgiveness, love, and finding strength in difficult situations. The romance is fantastic, the characters are wonderful, and the writing style is gorgeous and vivid. The ending of this book is intense, emotional, and aggravating—but only in the sense that you must know what happens next. Luckily, I have the sequel!
Overall rating: 8.6/10