Tuesday, 27 June 2017

A Review of Strange the Dreamer

I have a weakness for
metallics on darker
coloured covers!
Strange the Dreamer is a book by Laini Taylor, the author of the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy. Lazlo Strange is fascinated by stories, especially myths, legends and fairy tales. Nicknamed Strange the dreamer, he especially loves ones about the mythical lost city of Weep. When he receives the chance to see the lost city for himself, he jumps on it. Meanwhile, high above them, five blue-skinned teenagers live. One of them, Sarai, has the ability to go into people's dreams and alter them to her whim.

I know it's the first book in a duology, and I'm breaking my personal rule yet again, but I just had to talk about this one, since I'm thinking it might be one of my favourites of the year. I will say that if you don't like long, flowing descriptive sentences that sometimes fall into purple prose, this one may not be for you.

This book is so good that I was starting to wonder why I saw it trapped away in the Young Adult section. It's a giant middle finger to people who believe there can't ever bee good writing in YA, and as good a fantasy story as I've ever read, including ones aimed at adults. Than I realised that felt like I'm implying that Young Adult books can never have good writing. It's just a shame than many people who might enjoy it won't try it, as long as it's in that section of the bookstore. The writing is exquisite, and there were seriously no points where I was wondering if a sentence should have been phrased differently. How about we stop categorising books altogether?

The world is truly intriguing. Taylor has done something amazing, by creating a world that is both magical, but also not a place I would like to live. She really has created something strange and wonderful, and beautiful and full of monsters. The entire world has a dreamlike quality to it - fitting - that only goes up when we're inside someone's dream. It reads a bit like a fairy tale, playing into Lazlo's interest in them.

It's also been a long time since I've read a book with this many characters, with so many of them fleshed out into three-dimensions. Characters have a reasonable motive for their every action, even the more morally-grey ones. Yes, morally grey, because there really is no-one who's straight up evil in this book, except for the original Mesathim. Minya wants to kill humans, but when she was six, she saw them kill almost everyone she'd ever known. Eril-Fane slaughtered babies in their cot, but their parents subjugated his entire city for years, and left him with memories of love and hate. He genuinely thought the only way to be safe was to kill them all, shows remorse and regret at his actions, and is willing to listen if he thinks there might be another way. Thyon Nero steals Lazlo's research, but he's being beaten up because he can't produce the results his father requires. Taylor employs a switching POV narrative - we don't just stay with Lazlo and Sarai - and a third-person omniscient writing style to great effect.

I recommend this book to any fan of fantasy.

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