Review: Strange The Dreamer Duology - Laini Taylor
Genre: Fantasy Published: Hodder & Stoughton, 2017-2018 My Rating: 5/5 stars, all-time favourite
“Beautiful and full of monsters?" “All the best stories are.”
Here’s the thing: I love writing reviews about books I enjoyed. I often know exactly what it was that made me love them, but also what didn’t work for me. For some reason, that same logic doesn’t fly for my all time favourite books. The best way I can describe it, is that there are many books I love with my head, and a few books I love with my heart. The latter doesn’t like explaining itself.
The Strange the Dreamer duology is a “heart-case” for me. For that reason: expect a bit of a scatterbrained review that will attempt to cover a lot, but will probably ultimately fail at that. Before I get started, somewhat of a spoilerwarning: this review will not contain major plot spoilers. However, I will mention some characters and a bit about the worldbuilding that is only introduced later in the book, and therefore could be considered a spoiler. If you want to go into this book blind, which many people including myself have recommended, please return to this review after you’ve finished the book.
The Writing First things first: let’s address the citadel sized elephant in the room that is going to make or break your enjoyment of this book: Laini Taylors writing style. For me this is without a doubt a make. It’s gorgeous, it’s lyrical and for sure in my top 3 of style’s I’ve ever read. If I could chose any author whom style I could have for my own writing, at this point in time it’d probably be Laini Taylors. To some people, lyrical writing can be intimidating, and as someone whom first language isn’t English, I can relate to that feeling. Yet Taylors writing somehow flows like water and reads as effortless as letting yourself float away on its stream.
That stream eventually drags me in completely and allows me to completely drown myself in the rich universes that she has created for us. I read both Strange the Dreamer and Muse of Nightmares during times where I desperately needed some escape: a story to completely envelop me, and transport me to other realms. I could not have picked a better book for that purpose. For me, reading Strange the Dreamer was less about the plot of the story, and more about wrapping myself in the warm blanket that is this world. Taylors choice of words in her metaphors, the scenery and imagery she invokes paint a clear but dreamlike picture in my mind that perfectly suits her story. It’s a textbook example of matching your tone of writing with the nature of the worlds you create.
The Plot That isn’t to say the plot is subpar in any way. We follow Lazlo, a librarian with a special interest in a forgotten, mythological city, now only known as Weep. He’s often mocked for his interest in this “fictional” city, until he’s recruited by a group of scholars and explorers on a mission to find this place of legends. From there follows an adventure that includes magical places, and equally as magical people, that will change Lazlo’s life forever. To avoid spoilers I’ll not go into the plot in detail, but let me say that it was so much more than I was expecting. The Atlantis-esque trope of finding a lost, mysterious city was what drew me in originally, yet there’s so much more behind this story than first meets the eye, and it was a joy to (literally) see that world open up before my eyes. I do have to say that the plot in both books is quite slow. A lot of time goes into world- and character building, so if you’re the sort of person that needs a fast, plot-driven story, this might not be the book for you.
The Characters I’m beginning to sound like a broken record (see what I mean about my heart not being able to explain stuff well), but I have a history of adoring Laini Taylors characters. In the case of the Strange the Dreamer duology, that was even more true than ever. First of all: Lazlo. I’ve said many times before that I don’t think I have ever had a “fictional crush”, but Lazlo is probably the closest I’ve ever come to one. I love me my sensitive and wise male protagonists, that are more brain than brawl, and I wish we had some more of them in fantasy. For some reason Lazlo reminded me of Eddie Redmaynes portrayal of Newt Scamander, in the best way possible. The same soft, sweet but intelligent nature and care for others. Sarai, of course, is another incredible character. I love her personality, I love how thoughtful and smart she is, and I love her powers (true story: before reading this book I once dreamed about a girl doing that moth-thing, and I though “I need to write a poem about this or something”. Imagine the chills I got once I read that passage of Sarai showing her powers for the first time). Then we have Minya, who I’ve seen people having mixed reactions to. For me, she was the perfect villain. She’s complex, and so very relatable, which makes her even more terrifying in my opinion. Lastly: the entire cast of secondary characters. Rarely do I have such strong feelings about secondary characters (the last time was probably Suzanna and Mick, also by Laini Taylor) as here. Again: I won’t go into too many details to avoid spoilers, but I adored Sparrow, Ruby, Feral and even Nova.
Final Verdict: This book truly is what it says on the cover. “Something beautiful and full of monsters…” And as such, it goes onto my all-time favourite shelf. If you haven’t read this book yet: I can only highly recommend it. As someone who is often deterred by books that are this hyped: this one is worth it!
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