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Strange the Dreamer

Review

Strange the Dreamer

No one knows the power of dreams, of fantasies, of imaginings, quite like Lazlo Strange. His companions as an orphan at a monastery, they stem from the stories of an obstinate monk --- stories of Weep, a city of creatures and humans beyond imagination. No one has seen or heard from Weep in centuries, the city gradually passing into legend. But Lazlo knows that Weep is more than myth, and that it wasn’t always called Weep: as a child, he felt the true name of the city plucked from his memory and the minds of all who spoke of it. Now a young man, Lazlo works in the library, searching for clues to Weep, his one fascination, in his free moments. On one miraculous day, travelers from Weep arrive in the city. Soon Lazlo finds himself heading to the fabled land, but Weep is no longer the same city of legend. As he uncovers the stories of Weep, he finds more questions, questions about the people he meets and their history --- including the blue-skinned girl that appears in his dreams.

"STRANGE THE DREAMER encapsulates everything that makes a novel remarkable....With Laini Taylor, telling a story is art: one can see that she loves the act of passing the story from herself to her reader just as much as the content."

STRANGE THE DREAMER encapsulates everything that makes a novel remarkable. The first element that grabs the reader’s attention is Laini Taylor’s writing style. Taylor takes the English language and melts it like sugar into caramel, swirling it into elegant words and phrases. She utilizes figurative language that perfectly captures specific feelings and experiences, while at other times she crafts devastatingly simple sentences saturated with so much anger, despair, or simple truth that readers can almost feel their pulse skip under all the emotion. If music and writing ever overlap, it is in Taylor’s STRANGE THE DREAMER, as sentences rise and fall with emotion, as words rush down the page but then slowly meander across a line, each accented with the sharp signals of punctuation. Plot and characters form the backbone of a story, but STRANGE THE DREAMER proves that writing style shapes a tale, refines it into something far more powerful. With Laini Taylor, telling a story is art: one can see that she loves the act of passing the story from herself to her reader just as much as the content.

As the story progresses, the reader will realize the next strength of the novel: the characters, characters who are more than either their mistakes or heroics. Taylor manages to provide an honest, vulnerable look at each major character of the story, and many of the minor characters as well. By the end of the story, the reader understands why each individual acts the way that they do --- not just if they support good or evil. Taylor blurs the lines between hero and villain, not only by powerfully revealing the mindsets of different individuals, but also by exploring the layers of an individual beneath their public identity. On another note, readers will love the two main characters, Lazlo and Sarai. Both embody portrayals one doesn’t often see in the fantasy genre --- Lazlo, of a reader unashamed of his nerdy, “childish” obsession with Weep, and Sarai, a girl struggling with crippling fear and insecurity.

Many see fantasy as a genre less about themes and more about action and entertainment. STRANGE THE DREAMER sidesteps this convention. The story includes a meaningful look at the aftermath of tyrannical rulers: it faces the aftermath, the hurt, the fear and the bias that come from years of oppression. There are lessons about power ---- what it means to have power, to lose power, to fear power --- and lessons about legacy --- what it means to have a family, to hate a family, to lose a family. Within this vibrant, imaginative tale lie powerful ideas, ideas that apply in a contemporary sense as well.

With all of that said, does STRANGE THE DREAMER even need further explanation? While the backdrop of heavy topics makes this novel one for older teens, it is one that any older teen should pick up, regardless of their love of fantasy, as long as they enjoy a beautiful and powerful story. Lazlo Strange is a dreamer, and so is Laini Taylor: and by the end of the story, the reader will be too.

Reviewed by Rachel R., Teen Board Member on May 20, 2018

Strange the Dreamer
by Laini Taylor

  • Publication Date: May 22, 2018
  • Genres: Adventure, Fantasy, Young Adult 11+
  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 0316341673
  • ISBN-13: 9780316341677