Book Review: Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

I still think the UK version is prettier.

I still think the UK version is prettier.

Strange the Dreamer
by Laini Taylor
Goodreads | Amazon
Series: Strange the Dreamer #1
Published: March 28th 2017
Rating: I will be casually bringing this book up in conversation pretty much constantly. NOT AT ALL SORRY.

I just... really loved this.  I loved in it a way that I am pretty sure means that it has somehow seeped into my soul and become part of me.  

This book is a fairy tale.  Not in the sense that it is a traditional story with familiar elements.  If a fantasy world somehow had its own myths and legends and somehow those stories were published into a book that book would be Strange the Dreamer.  

This book is the story of a shy young orphan boy who grows into a young junior librarian.  The name of a strange city that was cut off from the rest of the world 200 years ago is suddenly lost. From one minute to the next and for no reason that anyone can name the whole world forgot it and so it comes to be known as Weep.  Lazlo becomes obsessed with the city, and it's fate.  It is also about a young blue girl goddess who is growing up in hiding with her siblings.

He read while he walked. He read while he ate. The other librarians suspected he somehow read while he slept, or perhaps didn’t sleep at all.
— Strange the Dreamer

Lazlo is an interesting character.  He is an introverted, even shy, male. Many of his qualities are traditionally feminine. He isn't powerful, rich, or handsome.  He can't fight and sometimes is a victim.  While reading this book made me very aware that there are still certain things that we expect from different genders especially in fantasy.  Lazlo isn't dangerous.  He never holds a sword.  He is the dreamer of the title. His strength is internal and hidden away from the world.  He doesn't have to be the big man to be the hero. He is content with being the hero of his own life rather than the hero of the world.  I loved that Liani Taylor let that happen.

There is a love story. It is central to the story but doesn't take over the story.  You know how sometimes in romance there is a secondary couple? I usually like that couple more than the main couple because their love doesn't have to have the predictability of the main couple. The love story in Strange the Dreamer feels like that except it is also satisfactorily filled out.

Fantasy is all about world building.  Adult fantasy can get bogged down with this and sometimes YA fantasy hardly bothers with it. This book hits the perfect balance.  The world is understandable and real, but the focus on the story is still on the characters and not in the world.  I loved the writing. There are authors that you want to just get on with the story and writers that you want to describe every sounds, sight, and emotion.  Liani Taylor is definitely the latter for me. She paints with words.  There is some amazingly beautiful, disturbing, and powerful imagery in this book.  For example, there is a statue floating a hundred feet off the ground the size of a mountain, the shadow of which covers an entire city.

Strange the Dreamer is the first book of a duology. That is both the bad news and the good news.  The good news is that we are going to be able to visit this world and these characters again.  This prospect warms my heart and fills me with glee.  The bad news is the wait.  I don't have it in my hands at this moment, and that means that I have had to wait too long to start reading it.  Unacceptable.  Highly reccomended.

From Goodreads:

The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around—and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever.

What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?

The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries—including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?

Welcome to Weep.

Book Review: Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor

Daughter of Smoke & Bone cover

Daughter of Smoke & Bone
by Laini Taylor
Release date: September 27th, 2011

This book was amazing and you should read it.  It was deliciously creepy and unsettling; Sensual but not gratuitous; Romantic without being trite. 

Karou is about 1000 times cooler than I am.  It is true. And yet somehow I do not hate her for it.  She was an independent and strong main character who not only wasn’t abrasive but managed to be thoughtful, likeable, and vulnerable.  I read a lot and I feel as if female leads who are strong and don’t annoy me are this white whale that I am constantly searching for.  Maybe because my standards are so high for them.  Male MC basically have to get through the book without being a dick to get a pass.  I know that this is a terrible double standard.   Is is because female character represents more than the space on the pages of the book that they inhabit to me? 

This isn’t a book where things are obvious.  I spent the first half of the book trying to figure out what the hell was going on.  Liani Taylor dumps you in at the deep end of the pool and just assumes that you can swim.  It wasn’t that the writing was unclear, it was that everything was inferred.  Karou is a mystery even to herself.  The use of third person past tense was perfect here.  Exposition is given in snatches and the reader builds a picture of Karou even as she is building a new picture of herself.

The writing was lush and textured.  I felt as if I could physically touch everything.  It didn’t feel as if the book had an unusual amount of description and yet everything was so perfectly realized.  Liani Taylor also managed to make the whole world that she had created feel fresh. The idea of denominations of wishes was brilliant.  I know that I have never read anything like that before. Yet it sort of slid into place as if it was some concept that I had always been told. 

The last 1/3 of the book was relentless.  I was reading at a frantic pace as if stuffing the words into my head fast enough would quiet that internal voice chanting, “What will happen? What will happen? What will happen?”  I was so focused on the plot that I know I missed out on the writing itself which is a shame because that is exceptional.  I will be rereading this again very soon to give myself a chance to properly appreciate it.

I must read the next book.

From Goodreads:
Around the world, black hand prints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grows dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherworldly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real, she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands", she speaks many languages - not all of them human - and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

When beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?