“You’re a storyteller. Dream up something wild and improbable,” she pleaded. “Something beautiful and full of monsters.”
“Beautiful and full of monsters?”
“All the best stories are.”
I have to start things off by saying that Laini Taylor is one of the most lyrical and magical writers I have ever encountered. Her books are filled with the sort of quotes that instantly and irrevocably stick with you, and her stories are incredibly woven and utterly perfect.
In preparation for Muse of Nightmare’s release in October, I decided that, rather than reread the actual book, I would listen to the audiobook for Strange, and it. is. amazing. I have been excited for Muse since I finished Strange the first time (this listen was my third time through the book since it was released), and yet I had almost forgotten just how much I love this story. If you haven’t listened to the audio of this, I cannot recommend it enough. The narrator is a dream and did a perfect job.
Now lets talk about the book, WITH SPOILERS!
“Sometimes a moment is so remarkable that it carves out a space in time and spins there, while the world rushes on around it. This was one such.”
Lazlo Strange is a dreamer. A monk-raised orphan grown up to be a humble librarian, he spends his life between the pages of books, dreaming of adventure, and magic, and mystery. His life’s work is studying the ancient and lost city of Weep, and his deepest desire is to one day see the mythical land, even if such a dream is impossible. Until one day it isn’t. Not only is Weep not lost, but it’s citizens come looking for help, presenting Lazlo with the chance to see the land that has long enchanted him.
“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.”
Sarai is Godspawn. Hidden in the Citadel high above the city of Weep, she and her 4 siblings live in fear that they will one day be found and killed. Killed like the gods that birthed her, and the nursery full of godspawn she was raised with. Trapped with no way out, and forever separated from the world, Sarai’s only escape lies in her power. She possess the ability to enter dreams, and to change them. For over a decade she has entered the dreams of the residents of Weep and given them terrible nightmares, both in retribution for the slaughter of her kind, and to have them live in fear of ever again entering the Citadel where they refuge. But entering their dreams has taught her compassion and sympathy, and she has started to understand why they did what they did.
“I’m not a dream,” said Sarai. There was bitterness in her voice. “I’m a nightmare.”
These two unlikely dreamers somehow find each other and perhaps, together, they can find a way to save Weep and ALL of its inhabitants, Godspawn included. And find love in the meantime.
“It was no small thing to shed a lifetime of non-being and suddenly be seen.”
I think the place to begin has to be with Lazlo’s fixation on the lost city of Weep. This is Lazlo’s obsession, his passion, his life’s work, his dream. And fucking Thyon comes along and steals it right out from under him. I cannot express enough how hard my feels were working when this happened. I was angry and frustrated and completely devastated. The moment when Thyon greets Eril-Fane and straight up lies about his love of Weep and then he tells of how he felt the name disappear one day while playing in the orchards. I wanted to reach through the pages and throttle him, and then I wanted to cry at Lazlo’s heart breaking right there. And then the absolute triumph when Lazlo finally can’t take it anymore and begs Eril-Fane to be included in the journey, and he agrees.
“Get out of doors, Strange. Breathe air, see things. A man should have squint lines from looking at the horizon, not just from reading in dim light.”
One of my favorite small parts of the story is the journey across the desert to Weep. The tizerkane have embraced him as one of their own, and I got vindictive pleasure out of seeing Thyon being treated like the outside he is. I also love how they take guesses as to what is threatening Weep, and for the first time we get to see Lazlo spin a tale. One that’s beautiful and full of monsters.
“He believed in magic, like a child, and in ghosts, like a peasant. His nose was broken by a falling volume of fairy tales his first day on the job, and that, they said, told you everything you needed to know about strange Lazlo Strange: head in the clouds, world of his own, fairy tales and fancy.
And now to Sarai and her siblings. I adore Sarai. I love how she is has come from such a tragic thing and still manages to maintain some hope, and to see the decency in people. Laini paints a beautiful and sad portrait of life in the Citadel for the 5 of them; they have each other, but can never hope to see beyond their own walls, to grow up and live a full life, to make new friends, or to fall in love and raise a family. Sarai’s heartache is very real and you sense it each time she sends her moths into the city. Through her abilities she can escape the Citadel for a short time, but can only ever observe and never experience. She is tasked with giving nightmares in order to keep them safe, but by keeping them safe she is denying them the chance for things to change for the better. Until Lazlo.
“And that’s how you go on. You lay laughter over the dark parts. The more dark parts, the more you have to laugh. With defiance, with abandon, with hysteria, any way you can.”
Sarai and Lazlo are my OTP, and their absolute wonder in each other is beautiful. She grew up knowing she would be killed if only for the color of her skin, and Lazlo – not having been raised in Weep – sees nothing but the girl underneath it. There is a such a powerful message here, and I feel like it gets overlooked.
Here is Sarai, hunted for the sin of being born, who has a father in the city who has lived for 16 years thinking he killed his child – and who believes he had no choice but to do just that – and all she wants is to walk among the people whose dreams she has haunted her whole life.
And then we have Lazlo who is invited into Weep with open arms, is loved by all who know him, has finally found his home, and then we discover he, too, is godspawn. You see the disbelief in the citizens as they realize this man that they adore is part of the race they were convinced to be irredeemably evil.
“And they gazed at themselves in it, side by side and hand in hand, and they beheld neither gods nor monsters. They were so nearly unchanged, and yet that one thing – the color of their skin – would, in the real world, change everything.”
And then everything goes to hell in a hand basket. Just days after discovering one another, Sarai is dead. Really, actually, totally dead. Lazlo saves the day, frees the city from the Citadel’s shadow, has nothing but joy in his heart that now, NOW, he can finally save Sarai, see Sarai, touch Sarai. Only to discover her body impaled on a fence post, gone before he can reach her. SO MANY FEELS.
“She was young and lovely and surprised and dead. She was also blue. Blue as opals, pale blue. Blue as cornflowers, or dragonfly wings, or a spring – not summer – sky.”
But wait…there is hope. And more tragedy. Minya has the ability to hold Sarai’s ghost and prevent her from passing into the beyond. It’s not life, but its something like it. However, literally mad from a lifetime of anger, Minya is prepared to hold Sarai hostage in return for Lazlo doing as she commands. And she is ready for vengeance.
“Vengeance ought to be spoken through gritted teeth, spittle flying, the cards of one’s soul so entangled in it that you can’t let it go, even if you try. If you feel it – if you really feel it – then you speak it like it’s a still-beating heart clenched in your fist and there’s blood running down your arm, dripping off your elbow, and you can’t let go.”
This book left off with such a massive cliff-hanger, and then we had to wait FOREVER for the next book! I am so glad Muse is now out, and that it is just as incredible as its predecessor. I will be reviewing that soon, I promise! We have much to discuss!
What was your favorite part of Strange the Dreamer? Tell me in the comments below!