Review: Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
"This was his story. He was Strange the dreamer, and this was his dream."
“In the sheer, shimmering improbability of the moment, it seemed to Lazlo that his dream had tired of waiting and had simply […] come to find him.”
Trying to bring this book to life to someone who has yet to read it is like attempting to describe the Grand Canyon for someone who has never seen it. The absolute enormity of the ancient natural wonder, the magnanimous beauty...if you’ve been there, you know how majestic it is, and how difficult it is to put it into words. Strange The Dreamer is in a way, similar. Both have had a profound and indescribable effect on me as a human being.
Sometimes, magic is just magic. And the story of Lazlo Strange is pure magic.
So, even though I am usually quite thorough and long-winded with my reviews, I’m going to just jot down some of my favorite quotes and comment on them (keeping this spoiler-free). If you take nothing else away from this review, know that it has been well over a decade since a book has pulled me into its charismatic, unique world with such force.* And it still hasn’t let go.
"Her consciousness had wings. She couldn't fight, but it could. It was a kind of an escape, but it mocked freedom. She was still a prisoner, a secret monster. But now she was a prisoner and a secret monster who could spy on the life that she could never have."
Sarai, the secondary main character, is one of the most complex and interesting characters I have ever had the pleasure of spending time with. A blue girl with red hair who, at nightfall, can spew moths out of her mouth and not just enter but control people’s dreams?! That’s just bloody brilliant, and makes for endless possibilities of stories to tell. Despite calling herself a monster, she is extremely likable from the get-go.
"Sarai tried her first sip, and couldn't tell whether the flavor – smoke and flowers – was her own memory of tea, or if Lazlo was shaping the sensory experience within his dream.”
Perhaps my favorite scene in the book was Lazlo and Sarai’s dreamy tea party on the river bank. Though the book is branded as a YA read, there are some really deep and trippy points like this brought up that I think might escape some younger readers. Thinking about multiple consciousnesses and a dream-within-a-dream is not something I think most teenagers could fully process or understand. The only times I was reminded that it was YA was some of the dialogue, and perhaps the general atmosphere of the romance at hand (Aah, that awkward, first love). The issues at hand, and the decisions that some of the characters have to make are very much grown up indeed.
"And it was love [...] Love that sets forth the soul like springtime and ripens it like summer. Love as rarely exists in reality, as if a master alchemist has taken it and distilled out all the impurities, every petty disenchantment, every unworthy thought, into a perfect elixir, sweet and deep and all consuming.”
Sure, that’s a little mushy for my tastes. But the love in Strange the Dreamer is so much more than a boy who loves a girl. It’s a boy who loves stories. A man who loves his city and would do anything to save it. A girl who loves her adopted family, no matter how fucked up they are. An old woman who loves her son, no matter the sins he’s committed. It’s about doing what you know is right, no matter what everybody else says.
And it’s about following your dreams (no matter how impossible they may seem) and discovering that, like Lazlo’s, they’ll eventually catch up with you.
((*If you’re curious, I was referring to the Harry Potter series (of course), being the last books to entrance me such as Laini Taylor has done to me now.))
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
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