Book Review: Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

By Nora Lowe, Tanya Postian, and Edith Bachmann

Laini Taylor’s Strange the Dreamer is a fascinating novel that tells the story of Lazlo Strange, a librarian with a dream. His story intertwines with the story of Sarai, the daughter of a human and a god, who is considered revolting “godspawn” by the citizens of Weep. Weep is a village that has lost its name, or rather its name has been wiped from the memory of the world. While most of the world dismissed Weep as simply legend, Lazlo has dedicated his life to learning all he can about Weep, even learning the language. He has spent his life as a seemingly insignificant librarian who once lived in a monastery. You can imagine the people’s surprise when warriors from Weep show up asking for help. He ultimately travels to Weep along with a team of talented individuals selected by Eril-Fane, a man who has achieved fame through killing the gods that controlled and tortured the citizens of Weep, earning him the title of Godslayer. He recruited these individuals to help rectify a severe problem that plagues Weep. However, he doesn’t disclose its nature. Lazlo is permitted to accompany the accomplished “chosen” of Eril-Fane as a secretary. As his journey progresses, Lazlo develops into a strong brave adventurer, one he wished to be since he was a child. Upon arrival in Weep, Lazlo who now enjoys the affection and respect of his peers is astonished to learn the nature of this mysterious problem.

This story parallels that of Sarai, an 18-year-old goddess with an extraordinary talent. She has the ability to visit the dreams of the people of Weep, and to alter them in any way she chooses. She has been manipulated by her older sister, Minya, who saved them from death at the hands of the Godslayer when they were children. Minya assures Sarai that she is indebted to her and uses this as an excuse to get Sarai to do her bidding. Minya wants Sarai to give nightmares to the citizens of Weep as a form of revenge. Ultimately Sarai begins to forgive the people, especially considering the torture they endured at the hands of the gods, and she comes to question whether the nightmares are an appropriate punishment for these primarily innocent people. However, no matter how close Sarai feels to the citizens of Weep as she becomes familiarized with them through their dreams, they cannot see her and she remains trapped within the statue or Citadel. When Lazlo enters Weep, Sarai enters his dream and is delighted to find a fantastical world of his imagination. And amazingly, Lazlo sees her. Sarai continues to visit Lazlo and is comforted by the optimistic world he envisions. Soon their acquaintanceship blossoms into love. They are frustratingly close, yet worlds away as he lives below her and her above. As the tensions between Godspawn and humans intensifies, the likelihood of their meeting decreases. As the plot and conflict crescendo, the question arises: how much are Lazlo and Sarai willing to sacrifice in order to love each other in more than a dream, and what will their adversaries do to ensure their dream never becomes a reality?

So, if you are currently trying to figure out your next independent reading book, or just trying to find a book to read, this may be a book for you. Due to the character development and many mysteries, it is a great book for character analysis. A complex and well-written plot is perfect for discussion. As the storylines of Lazlo and Sarai weave in and out together you can discover new themes, watch the characters develop, and make predictions.

Strange the Dreamer also has many powerful messages. One such message has to do with hatred and the roots of hatred. Taylor asks the question “How deep are the roots of hatred? How do they affect your life?” We see this in the residents of Weep. Many of their lives have been forever changed through the reign of the gods. This fuels emotional conflict present throughout the novel. We see two different viewpoints full of hatred. Minya lived through the slaying of god and many of the children, while the citizens see the event of liberation from the suffering. Another message has to do with skin color. Taylor effectively uses fantastical skin colors to parallel the issue of racism in our world. In one part of the book, two of the characters, one with blue skin and one with slightly tan skin, end up switching skin colors in a dream sequence. They remark on the fact how simply by switching skin colors, to the world it changes everything. As you read the book, you will probably be able to find many more messages and themes, but we’ll leave them for you to discover.

If you decide to read this with your friends or are looking for discussion questions, here are some. Ask yourself: How does Minya’s past affect her actions? How does Sarai show she is a static or dynamic character? How do the character’s ethical and moral views differ? Why does Thyon Nero act as he does? What would it be like to live in a citadel up in the sky? How will it end? The questions you can up with and all the ideas you can think about are endless.
If after reading it, you will enjoy this book and are looking for some related reads, you will probably like Laini Taylor’s Muse of Nightmares.This is a continuation of this book and is very much plot driven with a heart-wrenching storyline (get out the tissues); and although we haven’t read it yet, Laini Talyor has another series: Daughters of Smoke and Bone.

Looks interesting? There are many places to borrow or buy this remarkable read. Go to your local library or the library here at school. Looking into buying it? It’s available with Amazon, or your local bookstore. In addition, make sure you know how you are going to get your hands on the second book, Muse of Nightmares.