Review: Strange The Dreamer

Review: Strange The DreamerStrange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
Published by Hodder & Stoughton on March 28th 2017
Pages: 544

A brand new, heart-stopping novel and the first in a thrilling duology from the much-loved author of the DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE trilogy, Laini Taylor.

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 to 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?

In this sweeping and breathtaking new novel by National Book Award finalist Laini Taylor, author of the New York Times bestselling Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy, the shadow of the past is as real as the ghosts who haunt the citadel of murdered gods. Fall into a mythical world of dread and wonder, moths and nightmares, love and carnage.

I was late to the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, only picking up the first book at the beginning of 2016, despite having had it on my TBR for a long time.  I ended up loving it (as everyone had predicted) so I wasn’t sure what to expect from Strange The Dreamer – could it possibly live up to Taylor’s original trilogy?  In particular, where Daughter of Smoke and Bone was urban fantasy, Strange the Dreamer is true fantasy and while I much prefer new worlds, I have to admit that made me a little nervous – would Taylor’s world-building for a totally new world be as addictive?

Short answer: yes, and yes. I needn’t have worried!

Strange the Dreamer opens with a gripping mystery – the blue girl who died, and the people’s terror of her – and it had me hooked pretty much straight away.  After the intial drama of the opening, Lazlo’s life at the library is definitely a slightly slower pace, but I still loved getting to know Lazlo, the mysterious background of Weep, and to a lesser extent, Thyon Nero.  Taylor’s writing is beautiful, and between the way the writing flows so smoothly and the gripping story, I flew through this in a week – and I have to admit, I was savouring it, and could have finished more quickly but I just didn’t want it to end!

The characters in Strange The Dreamer are great, and although I can understand there maybe wasn’t space given how long the book is already, I’d have liked to see a bit more of some of the supporting cast.  Calixte is already a firm favourite, and Lazlo is a character I found very easy to connect with – his wishful dreaming of the mysterious city while everyone dismisses him, the way he doesn’t quite fit in, his love of books and of stories all made him so relatable.  I was seriously intrigued by Thyon Nero, Eril-Fane and Azareen, and I loved Sarai and the others.  This isn’t a black-and-white, good-and-bad kind of story (notice how my favourites never are?!) and I loved the depth of each of the characters, their flaws and shades of grey.

Strange the Dreamer has everything I hoped for and more; the romance is sweet, and tender, the story is addictive and full of twists, the writing is beautiful and the characters are just great fun.  All in all, I think I loved this even more than Daughter of Smoke and Bone – the fact it’s fantasy rather than urban fantasy, and the depth of the world-building and story made this feel more like a fantasy with a romance, than a paranormal romance, which Daughter of Smoke and Bone occasionally felt like.  If you’re new to Laini Taylor’s writing, or you didn’t quite love Daughter of Smoke and Bone, I’d definitely pick this up!  And if you’re already a fan, pick this up for more of what we’ve come to expect from Taylor: beautiful writing, wonderful characters and swoon-worthy romance.

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TBR List Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone

TBR List Review: Daughter of Smoke and BoneDaughter of Smoke & Bone (Daughter of Smoke & Bone, #1) by Laini Taylor
Published by Hodder Paperback on August 5th 2012
Genres: Fantasy, Love & Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 420
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased

"Errand requiring immediate attention. Come.
The note was on vellum, pierced by the talons of the almost-crow that delivered it. Karou read the message. 'He never says please', she sighed, but she gathered up her things.When Brimstone called, she always came."

In general, Karou has managed to keep her two lives in balance. On the one hand, she's a seventeen-year-old art student in Prague; on the other, errand-girl to a monstrous creature who is the closest thing she has to family. Raised half in our world, half in 'Elsewhere', she has never understood Brimstone's dark work - buying teeth from hunters and murderers - nor how she came into his keeping. She is a secret even to herself, plagued by the sensation that she isn't whole.
Now the doors to Elsewhere are closing, and Karou must choose between the safety of her human life and the dangers of a war-ravaged world that may hold the answers she has always sought.

Plot: ★★★★★
Characters: ★★★★
Addictiveness: ★★★★★

When I read it…

I read this over a couple of days, between January 12th and 16th 2016.

What I’d heard before I read it:

So many things! I’ve seen a lot of love for Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Rinn and Micheline both loved it, and our tastes tend to overlap pretty well so that’s always tempting).  My mum also loved it in real life, and it’s been on my TBR list since July 2012!  I finally picked it up now because it was the winner of the January TBR list vote.

Despite hearing such great things, for some reason, I’ve always been a bit hesitant about Daughter of Smoke and Bone – I think I’d heard so much about the beautiful writing, that I was worried the book was going to be a bit too… artsy for me, that the poetic prose would overshadow the fantasy elements which were what I was actually excited about.  So, after having this book on my shelf for more than three years, I went in with somewhat mixed feelings!

“Hope can be a powerful force. Maybe there’s no actual magic in it, but when you know what you hope for most and hold it like a light within you, you can make things happen, almost like magic.”

What worked for me:

  • The characters: I liked Karou – she’s mysterious, interesting and talented, but also insecure and relatable, and that made it impossible for me to dislike her.  But while I liked Karou, I LOVED Zuzana, her fiesty, kick-ass, tiny best friend, and the banter between the two of them.  I adored Brimstone, the mysterious teeth-collecting demon who sends Karou on missions without ever telling her why.  I found Issa adorable, so warm and comforting, the sort of mother-figure in Karou’s life.
  • The world-building: Karou’s Prague, Brimstone’s shop, the market in Morocco – everywhere the story went, it felt like I went.  Every setting came alive around me as I read, and I was absolutely hooked on Karou’s world from page one.
  • The writing: It’s impossible to deny that Taylor’s writing is stunning.  If I’d been reading this on my kindle, instead of in paperback, I know there would have been highlights everywhere.  There were funny quotes, romantic quotes, beautifully-written descriptive quotes… The prose is beautiful and poetic and the whole story is wonderfully evocative and atmospheric.  Karou’s world came alive around me as I read, and

“Happiness. It was the place where passion, with all its dazzle and drumbeat, met something softer: homecoming and safety and pure sunbeam comfort. It was all those things, intertwined with the heat and the thrill, and it was as bright within her as a swallowed star.”

What didn’t quite work for me:

  • The romance: I’m not a huge romance fan (excluding my guilty pleasure of reading erotic romance but that’s a whole other story), and I did feel that the romance in this was a bit too rapid, and a bit too perfect, for me.  I liked Akiva, and the romance was definitely not a deal-breaker for me, it

Overall thoughts:

I think Hannah’s review and her opinion that the book is almost three parts is absolutely spot on.  Like Hannah, I felt that the middle section – which focused heavily on the romance – was the weakest.  Despite that, I enjoyed the first section (which was my favourite), and the last, enough to balance it out.  I didn’t dislike the romance, but I did feel it dampened the uniqueness of the book, which otherwise was completely different from anything else I’d read.  I debated back and forth between a four and a five star rating, but I eventually decided on a five, because I really did love the story, the world-building, the writing, and can’t wait to read the rest of the series.

Other Reviews of Daughter of Smoke and Bone: Dragons & Whimsy | On a Book Bender | Read Breathe Relax

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