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 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 person 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? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?
The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries—including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?
Welcome to Weep.
Warnings: mentions of rape, death of major character
The best way you can describe Laini Taylor’s writing is “something beautiful and full of monsters”. It can’t be denied that her lyrical style, lush settings and world-shattering scope stories have a whimsical and romantic touch to it. Strange the Dreamer is one such book, that brings out beauty in a world that feels like it couldn’t yield any. Even on a superficial level, this book has a lot of things to fall for – that cover, the title, the fact that it includes a love story between a Muse of Nightmares and a Dreamer.
The short version of the story is that Lazlo Strange has always wanted to be to the Unseen Kingdom, or Weep, as it has been called since 15 years, when he felt the real name of the kingdom erased from the world. He has known only of the Weep of more than 200 years ago, when it was a shining city that drew awe from all corners of the world, an arcane mystery than no outsider has been able to reach. So when he gets the chance to accompany the Godslayer to solve Weep’s problem, he jumps on the chance to go there. However, when he reaches Weep, he sees a city has been robbed of its light, literally and metaphorically. The Gods that ruled Weep in the last 200 years were of a cruel sort, and their damage has left a deep-rooted fear and hatred in the citizens of Weep.
Meanwhile, hidden in the floating citadel above the city, five godspawn/demigods are living by one Rule – show no existence of life. They are cut off from the city, and are afraid to ever leave the citadel, because that would mean their death. 15 years ago, in the Carnage that had ended the gods, many of their siblings were also killed, which is why they are obviously at odds with the human citizens of Weep. The oldest among them, Minya, who was a young kid at that time, is specifically traumatized by those events and has had a deep seated hatred towards the humans, and more so for the Godslayer. Her instrument of torture for the living denizens is Sarai, the Muse of Nightmares, who is the other main character of this story. Sarai, through her ability to dreamwalk, has seen what the Gods did to the humans, violated them and their free will and how they are still traumatized by it. So, while she was brought up on Minya’s hatred, she also came into compassion by herself. Even so, she is beholden to Minya for saving her life and feels obligated to carry out her duties.
When Sarai meets Lazlo in a dream, she starts to appreciate the foreigner who dreams of a better Weep than the one she has known. Their relationship, though starting with a mutual attraction, develops soon in a love that you can’t help but root for. I mean, like she is nightmares and he is a lucid dreamer and that is so freaking romantic but I can’t do it justice because I am limited.
No, you have to read the book to see how Taylor develops their relationship, how the stakes are set against them, how their circumstances seem to keep them apart. They are idealistic and innocent, despite being aware of cruelty. It is heart-breaking, and normally I wouldn’t be a fan of a romance-centric plot, but Strange the Dreamer is much more than just a romance. Every character with a major arc is well-constructed, their decisions and their motivations driving the plot forward, but also being very rooted in the world in which it is constructed. This is one example of a unique fantasy world that molds the very story itself, and requires the world to carry forward the plot.
There is a lot more flailing and gushing I can do about the book (which I have kept a rein on so far), but ultimately all I can say it that it is skillfully written book with a unique world and a story that moves you. There is not one particular obstacle to the plot, not one particular villain or character that causes misery, each secondary character being different moralities (Except for the Mesarthim – they were most definitely trash) and their differing needs causing the problems. There are justifiable reasons on both sides, but there are also been irreparable damage done, and it makes you wonder how will it ever resolve (with hopefully minimum deaths) but this is Laini Taylor and speculation isn’t going to help me, so I’m just going to sit here waiting for The Muse of Nightmares.
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