Since he was five years old, Lazlo Strange has been obsessed with the mythical lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to go 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 to cut it off from the rest of the world? What did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of a god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?
The answers await within Weep. But so do many of more mysteries – including the blue-skinned goddess who visits Lazlo’s dreams…
Strange The Dreamer by Laini Taylor took me a full month to read, but my slow pace, for once, wasn’t because of a slump; I was simply savouring every second. It’s a well established fact at this point that nobody writes quite like Laini – magic dust coats every page as she crafts odd and enchanting worlds one can’t help but fall into.
“Lazlo felt as though the top of his head were open and the universe had dropped a lit match in. He understood in that moment that he was smaller than he had ever known, and the realm of the unknowable was bigger. So much bigger. Because there could be no question:
That which cast Weep in shadow was not of this world.”
Strange The Dreamer is about two young people trapped within small worlds they are absolutely desperate to escape from: Lazlo “The Dreamer” Strange, formerly monk-in-training now librarian and completely obsessed with finding the lost city of Weep; and Sarai, spawn of long murdered Gods, officially but not actually dead herself, doomed to spend her entire existence hiding in a ruined citadel floating above Weep from humans who would kill her on sight. She has blue skin, so flying under the radar isn’t really an option.
The novel switched effectively between Lazlo’s narrative and Sarai’s, on the ground in Weep and above it inside the citadel while establishing the history of horror suffered by the inhabitants of both.
Far from the magical place of opportunity he had envisioned, Lazlo finds the city crumbling beneath the weight of its painful, bloody history. The central tension of the novel on both sides – Lazlo and the people of Weep and Sarai and the Godspawn of the citadel – is how to move forward. Both groups are defined by the atrocities of the other. For the humans living down in Weep it’s the centuries spent as slaves to the Gods, disappeared, killed and raped at will before being cast back down to Earth when the Gods were finished with them. For the Godspawn, it’s the massacre of the Gods – and most of the Gods’ children – by the humans. Minya, one of the surviving Godspawn is so trapped by the trauma of that day she simply never grew up – she is stuck as the six-year-old girl she was on the day the Gods and their babies were violently murdered in front of her. Meanwhile the citizens of Weep, years after the murder of the Gods, live in literal shadow – the citadel that was (and unbeknownst to them, still is) the home of the Gods hovers above them, forever blocking out the sun.
Strange The Dreamer is a novel about trauma, and how we deal with it as individuals and societies. For the humans, the only way forward they could conceive of was the complete eradication of the Gods, even the babies, who they refused to imagine could grow into anything other than the monsters that their parents were. Equally, the surviving Godspawn can only see the humans as murderous. Survival means revenge and the eradication of the monstrous other.
Well… mostly. There is a level of exhaustion with violence among certain characters in this book. A hope, small at first but growing, and, I think, contagious that there might be another way. But the other way is buried under so much rubble it’s hard to know if those hopefuls will ever manage to uncover it fully.
Strange The Dreamer is a rich, layered novel that explores the grey areas of life. For every character that seems on the face of it villainous, there is a level of complexity within them that prevents the reader from seeing them as purely monstrous (apart from maybe Drave. It’s hard to feel any real sympathy for that guy). The world is magical, curious and tragic in all the ways we have come to expect from Taylor’s work, and the characters – even those we can’t help but dislike – engaging. While very long, the book keeps you hooked throughout – though I could have done without Lazlo and Sarai’s long shared dream sequence – until the shock ending that will have you desperate for book two.
I can’t wait to see what happens next.