Strange the Dreamer, by Laini Taylor

“I turned my nightmares into fireflies and caught them in a jar.”

Strange the Dreamer had been sitting on my shelf for years, when I finally cracked it open a few days ago. I actually got my hands on it while looking for another time in the depths of my overflowing bookcase. I am very happy I did! Here is the blurb, my review follows.

“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 just 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 form 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? And who is the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams?

In this sweeping and breathtaking novel by National Book Award finalist Laini Taylor, author of the New York Times bestselling Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy, the shadow of the past is as real as the ghosts who haunt the citadel of murdered gods. Fall into a mythical world of dread and wonder, moths and nightmares, love and carnage.

The answers await in Weep.”

Opening this book was entering a world of expansive imagination and lush writing. Taylor deftly plumbs the depths of trauma and despair as well as the heights of love and purpose. I loved the importance of dreams in this story, the connection they enabled, the power they uncovered.

He wasn’t an alchemist, or a hero. He was a librarian, and a dreamer. He was a reader, and the unsung expert on a long-lost city no one cared a thing about.”

On one level it is a classic fantasy tale where the personal journey towards self discovery doubles as an heroic quest to save the multitude. There is a beautiful love story at the heart of this journey. A love story capable of restoring confidence and hope, of building bridges between antagonistic worlds. A love story that will be tested in the most extreme way. It developed relatively fast, but felt organic, not “insta love” at all. It showed two souls recognizing each other, two solitary figures finally finding a compassionate shoulder and tender, open arms. It was lovely.

Threading throughout is the tension between revenge and forgiveness, fear and mercy. The liberation of Weep, by the aptly named Godslayer, did not come without sacrifices. While he is revered as the liberator, he is haunted with the weight of what he had to do. What can he do to atone? Is there a way to escape his nightmare and gather the pieces of all that was shattered fifteen years ago?

I am also curious to see if the generational trauma evoked here can be resolved. Is there hope, when generations after generations suffered, surrendered to abuse until they were freed by an act of great cruelty? Can bloodshed, butchery really, be a staple for freedom. Is there hope for understanding, a possibility for cohabitation after all the bodies violated, all the blood shed?

“Blue as opal, pale blue. Blue as cornflowers, or dragonfly wings, or a spring — not summer– sky.”

And most of all  there is also this poetry that suffuses the whole book. The gorgeous prose that conjures up monsters and wonders. It is engrossing and arresting, full of heart and imagination.  The sentences taste of blood and honey, rich and sweet. It had me craving for more. So I am ordering Muses of Nightmares ASAP.

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor,
this edition published 22 may 2018, 560 pp
Get your own copy here

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