Plot Summary: 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?
Star Rating: ** 1/2
My very first reaction, on beginning Strange the Dreamer was, ‘Seriously, seraphim again!?’ I mean, I really liked Laini Taylor’s original series, which starts with Daughter of Smoke and Bone, but you’d think she’d have come up with a new supernatural entity for her second series, surely? For clarity, the plot is completely different, but I did raise a skeptical eyebrow during the first few chapters.
The plot – slow to start but pretty damn great.
Alrighty. I really did like the plot. It’s told in alternating chapters between Lazlo, down in the city of Weep, and Sarai, trapped with her godspawn siblings in the Citadel. Unusually for a book of this nature, I can’t say I particularly preferred one narrative over the other. I liked both characters and, whilst their voices were a bit same-y, I was willing to get on board with it as it was a voice I liked. Both of their stories are unique – it’s not something I’ve seen done before and I really enjoyed the ingenuity of the plot.
The problem is that it took a really long time to get going. A really long time. I understand that there was a lot of world-building to get through – there are several lands, with their own characters, legends and societies, but it’s not introduced subtly at all. The first quarter of Strange the Dreamer was almost painful to drudge through. Yes, the writing is pretty, but that’s not much of a saving grace when nothing is happening. I’d read a chapter and then put it down. And then another chapter… and down it went. It just wasn’t easy to follow what was happening, much less why it was happening, and even less why I should care. Three stars for the first third of the book.
An upward swing… and then waaaaay back down.
In contrast, the middle of the book is great. Really great. The plot is in full swing, and we’re learning more and more about Lazlo and Sarai, as well as Eril-Fane and Azareen, and their circumstances. The pace is much slower and I was enjoying learning new things, instead of desperately trying to keep them all straight in my head. The plot, as I said, is very creative and I was totally on board with Strange the Dreamer. I absolutely could not wait to see where it was going to go. Four stars for the middle of the book
But ohhhhhh, I should have seen this coming. I have always, always remembered how much I loathed the ending of Dreams of Gods and Monsters. To be honest, I can’t even remember what that ending was, but I recall the disgust and disappointment quite clearly (and there’s another review here that makes me feel vindicated). Therefore I should absolutely not have been surprised at the terrible ending of this one. First of all, I think it was a mistake to include as much information as she did in the prologue. It essentially spoilt what could have been a huge, dramatic twist. But I actually think that plot point was quite clever, I’m just not convinced we needed to know about it in advance.
Secondly, yes, yes, Laini Taylor’s writing is very pretty. But seriously, there is a fucking time and a place. I do not need pages and pages of flowery description in the middle of a tense, action scene. The pacing is way, way off and I found myself skipping whole paragraphs of ramblings just so I could find out what was going to happen.
Thirdly, the ending. I don’t mean the Ending ending, the one hinted at in the unnecessary prologue as, yes, that’s a good ending and an interesting idea for the second book. But the build-up to that, the plot development that makes all that possible, is horrendous. It’s all way too easy and I’m so disappointed. This huge insurmountable problem is solved with an ‘eh,’ and a shrug of the shoulders.
And the rest – romance (yay), writing (nope).
I’ve seen a lot of reviews that slate the romance as being Insta-lovey, and normally I’d be right there, waving my red scowling banner alongside them. I hate InstaLove. But this time… I don’t know, I sort of get it. Not only had neither of them really seen another person of the opposite gender before, they were both sort of misfits that came together in unusual circumstances. And it wasn’t super instant, I suppose. I do think that way too much of the book was taken up with it – I would have liked less kissing and more action – but I don’t object to it in principle.
Also, this isn’t going to be popular, but I feel the need to say it. Yes, Laini Taylor’s writing is pretty. It flows beautifully and much of it is very quotable. It holds up very nicely when compared to a lot of other similar novels. The problem is that it hides a lot of lazy plot development. Characters frequently ‘just knew what they had to do,’ or ‘suddenly realised what it all meant,’ and I wanted to beat my book against the table every time it happened.
For clarity, my views on this book were so varied that I pre-ordered the next book and cancelled it, all in the space of a day. I don’t understand all this ‘Strange the Dreamer fills my soul’ crap. Yes, the plot is unique and I really enjoyed that part, once it got going, but the pacing is awful, the book is too long and the ending is terrible.