Friday, May 26, 2017

Book Review :: Strange the Dreamer

Strange the Dreamer - Laini Taylor

"In this sweeping and breathtaking new 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."

Oh, how to review a book like this!  As one would expect from Taylor, Strange the Dreamer is a textured and lyrical and beautiful read.  It's all heartache and mystery and tragedy and romance.

The novel was a fairly slow burn for the first half, but with such rich and beautiful descriptions - Taylor's turn of phrase is so ☝.  We meet Lazlo, our dreamy, sensitive anti-hero, here a young boy immersed in a rich, self-constructed fantasy world.  Lazlo is lovely, and I must say, I do have a soft spot for orphaned protags (hello, Harry, Kvothe, Anne with an 'e').  There is something of Patrick Rothfuss' magician in the initial chapters, both in the gorgeous writing (every sentence is delicious), and the character archetype.  I do, overall, prefer sweet Lazlo to the showier Kvothe, but was perhaps a little less swept up in this story?  That may change...

Lazlo is not the only great character, central and side alike are multi-faceted and beautifully drawn.  Most evoke a full revolution of feelings towards them.  Taylor is so good at this.  There's a messiness that feels human and true, despite her stories being all. the. way fantasy.  The bad characters are bad, but you're kind of aching for them too.  The 'good' characters have hidden darknesses.  This is what I love most about her stories, though the large-scale adventure-y-ness is pretty topnotch too.

On that, I have to admit the journey isn't as epic as it sets out to be.  The setting actually starts to diminish as the story unfolds, perhaps in part because a chunk of the second half is set in dreamscape.  These tilt-shift perceptions are a little disorienting and pull away from story dynamics that are truly compelling.  For instance, super interesting characters are a side-lined for the sake of the romance.  Urgh.  Lol.  Is it okay to say I just want to skip through the kissy bits and get to the crux?  #sry.  I also feel confident that the loosened strands will be picked up in the next book, so I'm fully prepared to forgive all the kissing, lol.

All said, this isn't a completely perfect read for me, not in the way the DOSAB series is (if you're new to Taylor, start there!), but there is the exact level of complexity, authenticity and, well, heartbreak that I require from a story, so, definitely a winner.  I'm so glad this is a Book One.  I assumed it was a stand-alone and felt increasingly desperate watching the leftover pages diminish at a rapid rate, with still so much to resolve!  Whew!  Bring on tome two!

Strange the Dreamer is available in stores now, which you'll already know if you are as rabid a Laini Taylor fan as I am!

Review copy kindly provided by Hachette NZ

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