by Laini Taylor
Publication Date: March 28, 2017
Format: Hardcover, 536 Pages
Genres: Young Adult - Fantasy
Find it On: GoodReads / Amazon / iBooks / Book Depository
My Rating: ★★★☆☆
Strange the Dreamer is the story of:
the aftermath of a war between gods and mena mysterious city stripped of its namea mythic hero with blood on his handsa young librarian with a singular dreama girl every bit as perilous as she is imperiledalchemy and blood candy, nightmares and godspawn, moths and monsters, friendship and treachery, love and carnage.
Welcome to Weep.
A quick warning on this book, because I did not come across any before reading: The plot revolves around a culture with a shared history of sexual abuse. There is no direct graphic reference to these events, but the entire story is about the psychological fallout of this trauma. Please take that into account if that is something you struggle to read
How did such a rich, beautiful, intricately woven book from one of my favorite authors get a 3-star review from me? Like so. You take:
- A damn cool premise. There is a city, from which no citizens have emerged in years, that has no name. The only word that can refer to it is "Weep." What happens to its people? Who cursed its name and how? Literally no one has any idea except
- The protagonist, a young man named Lazlo a low-ranking orphan librarian. He is no closer to solving the mystery than anyone, but he seems to be the only person determined to try. He has spent his childhood and teenage years poring through any text about Weep, learning its language and its history, desperately trying to keep its memory alove.
- The Godslayer. A man who is a hero to his people, but a stranger to his loved ones, and mystery to the world. He is a genuinely good man, but he has one of the most morally complex histories of any YA supporting character I've seen in a while.
- Thyon Nero, an alchemist, a golden son of the royal line, who is somehow living in Lazlo's shadow. He is my absolute favorite character of the book, because he is neither hero nor villain, or even a rival. He is, if anything, the steady force behind Lazlo's story.
- A real, true villain, rife with moral ambiguity and a damn clear justification behind her actions.
- Some serious (and well-handled!) themes of trauma, regret, guilt, personal growth, and overcoming bigotry.
But you know what else you have?
- 250 pages of setup. You read it. 250. I get that Lazlo is an orphan with a winding backstory, but I feel like ten steps of his setup could have been removed. Not only did he jump from place to place too much, but I honestly didn't get a sense of his personality until this point. There was so much narrative set up that he honestly didn't have substantial dialogue until this point. Which would almost be okay if the whole book were light on dialogue, but from this point, he has a very distinct personality and talks a downright lot. Where were you earlier, cool Lazlo?
- A second main character that first narrates like, a third of the way in? And is the most utterly generic female protagonist imaginable? Like Taylor, c'mon, your leading ladies are bamfs. Now you're trying to spoon feed me a virginal innocent-to-the-world personality-less teenager who is constantly and uncomfortably described in a sheer slip? First of all, please skip me with the sexualization of "child-like-innocence." And second, I was yawning through all of Sarai's narration (there's a joke in there somewhere).
- World building? What world building? There is definitely world building to the city of Weep, but I have absolutely no perspective on if the world has magic. Are people simply surprised or entirely devastated by Weep's secrets? It seems like people don't believe in magic, but alchemy jives with the status quo. There are flying machines but they ride horses? That was a downright interesting industrial revolution. There is a Queen but what does she rule? Is it all one country or many? How big? One continent? How has no one been to Weep when they all walk right in?
Once he was driving he story, I loved Lazlo. Once the plot was going, I loved its twists and turns. Lazlo, Eril-Fane, Thyon, and Minya? Sign me up. Throw in Sarai and the other siblings? Meh. And honestly, how dare you give my Calixte for maybe five total lines and give me chapters of Ruby and Feral? R u d e.
The high points were so damn good that I'm giving this 3 stars, but man, do I feel cheated.