Strange the Dreamer, by Laini Taylor
Genres: Young Adult, High Fantasy
Rating: ✮✮ +½
“Enlighten me, Strange. In what version of the world could you possibly help?”
This book started out at five stars. Then it became four. Then it almost became one. I’m giving it a middle rating because I’m having a hard time making up my mind.
Laini Taylor is an author that, even if I’m not the biggest fan of her work, I admire with the utmost respect. Her writing is exquisite, and her stories explode with a creativity that I wish I could harness for my own. However, whenever I read her books, they always follow the same pattern: I am at first mesmerized, and then I am greatly disappointed. Then the ending is an explosion that makes up for some of that disappointment, and I’m tempted to read the second one.
The story itself is rich and wonderful. There’s a mystical city that lost its name and a young librarian named Lazlo Strange, who’s been obsessed with it since birth. Lazlo was orphaned and ended up at the Great Library by chance, and has spent his days obsessing about the Unseen City, diving into books and enriching himself with stories. For this reason, he has been dubbed “Strange the Dreamer”, and he has always believed that his dreams will never come true and he will never get to see the city he loves, the one that has become “Weep”. Of course, that’s not the case.
To dive into what the rest of it is about would, in a way, be like spoiling it for you. It’s one of those books that keeps secrets, and you have to read on to discover what they are. There are gods, and there are goddesses, and there is magic, and there is carnage, and that’s really all you need to know to get excited about it.
My low rating is due to one thing that ended up becoming many: the romance. I got sick of it. Laini Taylor’s style is very theatrical, and this is all well and good until people start smooching, because she drags it out so much that it starts to bore me to death. One kiss lasted seven pages. I’d have to use both of my hands to count how many times Lazlo described Sarai’s lips, and my toes for how many times he mentioned how beautiful her blue skin is. Not to mention the fact that it’s very instantaneous – Sarai appears in Lazlo’s dreams a couple of times, and they talk some shit about the moon and the sun, and just like that, they’re in love. I don’t get it.
It affected the pacing. This exact same thing happened in Daughter of Smoke and Bone: tons of magic and action that made the pages fly by, and then we’re slammed with a vending machine. (If you get that reference, I love you.) I started to fall asleep while reading, and at first I thought it was because I was simply tired. It’s not like it hasn’t happened before – but when it kept happening, over and over again, even after a decent night’s rest and a good dose of caffeine, I knew that it wasn’t me. I like romance, but it blighted the book so much in parts that it became nauseating.
Also, where was their chemistry? At first, I thought this was going to be an LGBTQ+ fantasy because there was tons of tension between Lazlo and Thyron, and I was eating it up. I’ll admit that I ship everything gay under the sun, but it felt like something was going to happen between them, and then nothing did, and then Sarai showed up and stole Lazlo away. I swear to god, if the next book doesn’t have Thyron at least pining for him, I am going to lose my shit.
How Laini Taylor’s books are received really depends on the reader, and I don’t think I’m ever going to be the type of person that is infatuated with them. I love how she writes, and I love the way she thinks, but the way she executes them leaves something wanting.