Narrator: Steve West
Series: Strange the Dreamer #1
Published by Blackstone Audiobooks on March 28, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Length: 18 hours, 20 minutes
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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?
Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor is a vibrant, captivating story about mortals with lives touched by the gods and the fallout of those encounters. While it is characterized as YA, I feel it is a fantasy novel for all ages to enjoy.
Lazlo is a dreamer. He bears the name given by all orphans, Strange, but he is destined for much more than anyone in the city of Zosma knows. He is good, kind, brave, undeterred by the harsh reality of his low birth and social class. The contrasting characteristics of the secondary characters only serve to highlight how unique and special Lazlo is. When he dares to take charge of his destiny, his years of hard work studying the lost city of Weep pay off.
At the same time, Sarai, one of five surviving god-spawn struggles to not inflict harm with her immense power but at the same time, safeguarding herself and the other survivors in the giant Citadel that looms over Weep and continues to cast a shadow over its citizens. She haunts the dreams of the living, digging for information, but finds a sanctuary in the mind of Lazlo.
There are forces on the ground and in the sky that make confrontation inevitable, but can Lazlo unravel the mystery of his ability soon enough avoid bloodshed and to finally free the people of Weep forever?
There was so much to love about this book. Taylor skillfully builds characters with layers of complexity. Her flawed heroes struggle with personal trauma and pressures, make questionable choices, and ultimately face the consequences of their actions. I admire how the author doesn’t just dump facts and history on the reader to help them understand the world, but gently feeds us details in the dreams and waking lives of all of the characters. The world building is vivid and intricate, leaving me breathless by the depth of detail in the social structure, landscape, and mythology. The city of Weep and its citizens are frequently featured in dream sequences, which I imagined in saturated Technicolor; the blue of the God’s skin, the green of the growing things in the Citadel, or the red of the blood spilled on the night of the Carnage.
Note: Fair warning, this book ends with a lot of unresolved business. Thankfully, the sequel, Muse of Nightmares, has already been released. Phew!
This book was made to be read aloud. The lush, lyrical prose called out for an equally lush and lyrical voice. Steve West’s performance was extraordinary. The rich tones of his voice, gave an almost mystical quality to the passages detailing dreams or history. He created believable, distinctive accents for each character and managed to voice the female character’s without making them sound shrill or whiny. His pacing was perfect and his enunciation was exceptional. I’ll confess, I selected Strange the Dreamer specifically because it was narrated by Steve West. No surprise, I highly encourage everyone to check out the audio version of this book.
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