review-ish-thingy: strange the dreamer by laini taylor


I have never read a book quite like this one.

I also probably couldn’t explain it if I tried. It is so full of fantastical elements that to fully explain one would leave all the others out. Or if I explained everything, you would be unable to see how all the elements fit together, because they all seem so different from one another–but rather than throw a bunch of weird concepts into a world just to make the story sound cool, Laini Taylor actually crafts a world where these things fit in and make sense (while also maintaining an air of mystery!). Really, the only way to comprehend it all is to read it, which I highly suggest that you do.

First, the characters. They’re all very intriguing and have depths to them that later get explored–every single one is distinguished from the rest, even minor characters. But I might say the most curious bunch of characters are Sarai, Lazlo, the Godslayer, and Minya–all of them have some good and bad in them, all of them are beautifully written, and all of them demand your sympathy and attention.

Sarai has cinammon hair and skin as blue as cornflowers and dragonfly wings. She screams moths that dissipate in daylight.

Lazlo is a librarian/dreamer who spends his days thinking one thing: a mysterious city that has been forgotten by everyone else, and the name of which has been stolen from him.

The Godslayer is a hero to his city, but his shame and guilt for what he’s done runs through him as truly as his blood and spirit.

And Minya is the blue-skinned savior of four, a witness of bloodshed and carnage from too early an age, trapped at six-years-old and running everything by the strength of her will alone. (She’s so creepy. I love her.)

All of these concepts are written with descriptions and language that set it apart from other stories; I would say it’s written like a fairy-tale, but fairytales aren’t usually as elaborate as this–it’s more like a legend, or a myth, which makes sense because those are what the story is full of.

The settings themselves are very clearly established, each unique and coated in the feelings each character associates with them. The language that Laini uses to express what these places are like make you see it so clearly around you and it builds up a yearning for these places, especially the ones that the characters themselves yearn for.

There’s a grand library where Lazlo lives, which he’s fond of for saving him from the drab life of working and keeping his interests secret, and for being a place where he can read stories and learn about the mysterious city he someday wants to find.

Then there’s Weep, the city that can’t see the sky, haunted by blue-metal structures that cannot be removed but which serve as constant reminders of the trauma the city has faced for two-hundred years.

And then there’s dream-Weep, which is bright and full of laughter and the kind of place where a blue-skinned girl can eat cakes while she wears the moon on her wrist.

Things like this give the whole story its own unique character, with gorgeous prose and complicated characters and settings that seem worlds apart from one another with their own separate wonders. The simplest way to describe the story is, in fact, a description said by the characters: above all things, it’s a story that is “beautiful and full of monsters.”

Never is there a page you don’t want to quote descriptions out of or a concept in the story–including ones I haven’t even begun to describe–that doesn’t sound both impossible and real. There is never something good without its inverse, both in the characters and in the world, and that, of course, makes for the best kind of story.

So give this book a go–it feels like a legend, and it feels like it’s real, and it is full of strange things, and it is written like a dream.


  • “He dreamed of deserts and great empty cities and imagined he could feel the minutes and hours of his life running through him, as though he were nothing but an hourglass of flesh and bone.”
  • “’If you’re afraid of your own dreams, you’re welcome here in mine.’”
  • “Sometimes a moment is so remarkable that it carves out a space in time and spins there, while the world rushes on around it.”


Ruderal, which means thriving on broken ground.