Series: Strange the Dreamer #1
Published by: Hachette Australia
ISBN 13: 9781444788983
Published: March 2017
Format reviewed: Paperback (with Laini’s signature!)
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Five out of Five
Lists: Favourites and Recommended
Related Reviews: Strange the Dreamer #2
Lazlo Strange is an orphan, raised by monks initially and then in the Great Library of Zosma where he journeyed once to make a delivery and never left. Able to read three dead languages thanks to his time in the monastery, he’s taken on as an apprentice where he is able to turn his obsession of a long-forgotten city into the most extensive history in existence. Pieced together by tales once told to him by a senile monk, and any scrap of paper he manages to turn up in the library, he writes his own series of journals correlating any bit of information he can about the Unseen City, also known as Weep, as the name was stolen from the minds of everyone by what Lazlo can only assume is magic. This is until, one day, the golden prince Thyon Nero takes his life’s work from him for his own study. Just in the nick of time, as warriors and royals from the long-lost city arrive on their doorstep. And ask for their help.
Lazlo is now twenty years old and though he is told that there are people who do great things – and people who help these people achieve that (someone has to fetch them tea and run errands after all), he can’t help but beg the warriors to let him go back with them. He isn’t one of the world’s greatest minds, like the rest of the troupe the lost world are collecting – to try and solve their great mystery – but he’s desperate, and will do utterly anything they need him to do, if he can only join them. In this he earns an enemy in Thyon Nero, but in reward he gets to see his life’s obsession.
The book is massive. My copy (uncorrected proof) is well over 500 pages, and it’s such a good thing that I had the end of year holidays to read it because I really couldn’t have gone to work the next day and not be able to read it – it’s such a spell-bounding, fantastical, amazing book that it completely takes over your senses. Taylor has such an effortless way with words (that I’m sure take her an agonising long time to put together), that show such history or depth of character or place or event that you see so much in such a short paragraph. There are countless examples of perfect paragraphs in the book that although I’m not the kind to want to mark a book, I almost want to lovingly highlight the best of the best. There’s a paragraph, where Lazlo is bereft, where she likens his body to that of an hourglass – made of flesh and bone sure, but it was so perfectly put you could feel the sense of drifting morose, and of such a deep depression that she was able to give a perfect summary of what I (and I suppose many people) have felt at some stage in their life – and one that I’d always failed to describe.
The sense of history in this book could easily take three in the hands of a lesser author. We’re given an amazing place that’s cut off from the rest of an equally fantastic world, and Taylor handles the mix of languages effortlessly. If one could ask for anything more, perhaps it would have been nice to see more of different cultures, but I feel that we see much of the Unseen City in their food, and tattoos, and temples.
The characters are what drives this novel. Lazlo Strange is a beautiful creation. He’s thoughtful and considerate – known to be a dreamer, after all, as it says in the title – but he’s also strong and filled with such a great sense of what is right that you can only then realise how few characters we see like him. When he hears hatred for a race he immediately speaks up for their defence even though he’s in the vast majority, and when they retort he still doesn’t back down, he asks them to reconsider, and to try harder to see the good in people. It’s wonderful.
Sarai, a character I don’t want to explain too much and ruin the build-up, is an excellently complex character who simply wants. She is at war with herself because of her creation and what she’s been left with, as well as her parentage and her foster-siblings. She, like Lazlo, in determined to do what is right no matter how hard it is, or what the recompense may be.
This book is beyond beautiful. Taylor gives us characters that one can only crave will exist someday, in reality. It would almost be an unhealthy obsession, waiting and wishing for a Lazlo to appear someday. Ahem. The plot in this book is well handled, with some parts passing in a paragraph, and some nights taking chapters to pass and even then it’s all too quick (though not in a bad way. You’ll see what I mean when you read it.)
This is apparently set to be a duology. I’m not worried, as there was so much in this book that I know the reader will be more than satisfied, but it’s also so utterly brilliant I already don’t know what I’ll do when there’s not going to be anything new of these characters some day. Very well ahead of myself I know, as the first book doesn’t even come out in bookstores until March 2017, and yet… it’s all so brilliant I never want it to be over.