Goodreads: Strange the Dreamer
Series: Strange the Dreamer #1
Published: April 2017
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 or 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?
I really enjoyed the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series, so I was stoked to hear about Strange the Dreamer. But not stoked enough to buy the book; I waited until it was available at my library, so I’ve just read the novel recently. My overall feelings: It’s beautiful and imaginative and skillfully celebrates both book knowledge and field work, but it has a couple flaws.
First, the pacing is rather slow. Taylor may be known for her prose and world building, but I think it’s possible to give such things slightly too much reign. In Strange the Dreamer, it takes her 200 pages (no exaggeration; I checked) to introduce the main point of the novel. Sure, she introduces the world and the characters, but she does that thing where authors withhold information; readers are not told for 200 pages who one of the main characters is, what she’s doing, or how her life is going to intersect with the other protagonist’s. I like long books, but I don’t like this. I think Taylor could have tightened things up.
Second, the romance is not compelling. I love the two protagonists individually, but together…meh. I don’t want to say much that spoils the plot, but their relationship felt too much to me like something that arose out of circumstances rather than something I really believed in. Of course, all relationships depend on circumstances…living near someone, for example, but I left the book with too much doubt that these two would be together if things had been different in small ways. When I read about romance, I want to feel the chemistry.
The rest of the book was stellar, however. As I’ve mentioned, the world building is phenomenal. Taylor really delves into the myth and lore and of her world and how it travels and evolved. I also love that she combines love of research and book knowledge with a love of adventure and getting out and doing things. For a while I thought she was going to pick one over the other and imply that, ultimately, spending your lives with texts is not as fulfilling as going out into world, but she nicely sets out the value of both.
Strange the Dreamer is thoughtful and imaginative, stocked with a varied set of complex characters–dreamers, doers, idealists, pragmatists. I enjoyed entering this world. However, I didn’t love the story quite enough that I’m truly interested in sequel, particularly as it is set up at the end of book one. Perhaps I’ll get to it eventually, but it won’t be a priority for me at time of publication.