Thursday, May 25, 2017

Strange the Dreamer

Lazlo Strange grew up an orphaned nobody, first callously raised by monks and then callously raised by librarians. Since he was a child, the legends of a forgotten land called Weep have fascinated him. From then to adulthood, he compiled every scrap, every story, and every mention of the lost city that everyone else think is a fairy tale. As an adult, Lazlo is a lowly librarian, but inadvertantly helps an enemy discover his beloved city. He seizes the opportunity to help Weep and its envoys with a unique problem that the envoys won't reveal until they get there. The problem is hugely obvious, puzzling, and the reason why the inhabitants of Weep have travelled the world so the smartest, most skillful, and most innovative people can try to solve it.

I was a bit doubtful going into this book because the beginning took a little bit to get started. As the story goes on, I was completely hooked. Lazlo is such a relatable character because he comes from so little and keeps his kind heart despite the way everyone above him treats him. His polar opposite is Nero, the privileged golden boy who is miserable, rich, and given every opportunity under the sun. Lazlo is happy despite his low standing and even goes out of his way to selflessly help Nero who works to steal everything Lazlo has worked for. He doesn't let rivalries or even his own frustration and anger get in the way of his kindness. In a rare moment of confidence, Lazlo convinces the Weep envoys to take him with them and his lifelong dream comes true. Unlike the others invited, he doesn't have special skills and isn't widely known, but he learned the language of Weep and everything he could about their culture and history.

Five teens live above Weep who are half god and half human known as godspawn. They all have magic abilities. Minya can command the souls of the dead. Sparrow has power in plants and nature. Feral influences the weather. Ruby can create and control fire. Sarai has the most unique ability to put her consciousness in a swarm of moths and enter the dreams of mortals to either observe or control the events. The people of Weep slaughtered the gods while Minya, the oldest of them, rescued as many babies as she could. The gods ruled tyrannically, kidnapping people for their whims and bringing them back with no memory. Both sides have legitimate grievances and committed terrible atrocities towards each other. Minya is filled with rage and literally stunted her own growth because she can't move on from the slaughter she witnessed. Sarai has done so many things against humans because of Minya coaching her from a young age, but she's beginning to doubt Minya's way after realizing that humans aren't that much different than her.

Sarai meets Lazlo in his dream and he can actually see her unlike any other person. They form a relationship and get to know each other, leading to the one of the sweetest Romeo and Juliet type romances ever. Although it is a trope, the interactions are so organic and the language is so lyrical and beautiful that it seemed like new. The world building amazed me. Taylor creates such mindblowing worlds that I have trouble putting her books down. The beginning goes a little slow to get to know Lazlo, but once the group heads for Weep, the pace takes off. This is the rare book that I want to read slowly to savor the world but I also want to devour it as fast as possible to find out what happens. The ending has so many twists and turns that I never saw coming. It does end on a bit of a cliffhanger and I can't wait to see what happens in the second installment, Muse of Nightmares. After this novel and the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, Laini Taylor has a lifelong fan in me.

My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins

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