To me, there’s three kinds of people who dislike hyped, so-called popular YA novels. The first of these is the reader that feels overwhelmed by the hype and has built up unrealistic expectations for how spectacular the novel is going to be. I’m sure you’ve been this person a few times, and haven’t enjoyed a novel purely because it wasn’t how you expected it to be and you were disappointed that it didn’t live up to the hype. Been there, done that. The second is the person that just genuinely doesn’t like the “popular” book. They read it, maybe even DNF it, purely because it wasn’t for them. They weren’t influenced in any way and they weren’t trying to make a statement. That’s when the third kind of reader comes in. The reader that dislikes the hyped book to make a statement. To be the only one-star review on Goodreads, who will write an absolutely scathing review of the novel to be “different”, even if it isn’t their entire honest opinion.
Am I one of those people? Have I become that person?
Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
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?
Wow. Let me start off by saying that Strange the Dreamer was one of my most anticipated releases of 2017 — along with probably half the bookish community. While I’d only picked up Daughter of Smoke and Bone, one of Laini Taylor’s other novels, when the release date for Strange the Dreamer was announced, I couldn’t help but be swept up into the excitement for this one. While sometimes the hype surrounding a book can be detrimental if the reader’s expectations are set too high, it’s undeniable that it is a very exciting time in the bookish community. And not only that, but Strange the Dreamer was voted as The YA Room’s book of the month for April!
As soon as I opened up Strange, I was immediately captivated by Laini Taylor’s gorgeous writing style. I remember loving her writing when I read Daughter of Smoke and Bone, but I feel like her writing has hit a new high. It was simply sensational. Filled to the brim with lyrical sentences, poignant prose, and touching metaphors, it’s hard not to be swept up into the world she created. Strange the Dreamer is the kind of book that will have you jotting down quotes and beautiful sentences just so they can be seared onto your heart.
But once I got over the awe of how she could be such a talented writer, I realised that nothing much was happening in the beginning of the novel. There’s a lot of rambling and delving into memories that leaves us filled with a sense of wonder, but at the same time, wondering what’s actually going on. I did enjoy wafting through the narrative, but sometimes the confusion was overwhelming and made me feel like I had to take a break from reading it. I got lost in the beautiful prose, the lyrical sentences pulling me under. It was like drowning in cotton candy. It’ll taste good, but you’ll be drowning nonetheless.
I think one of the main things that contributed to me feeling as though I didn’t know what was going on at times was because of the world-building. The world Laini Taylor created was so unique and intricate, and as well as describing the characters — particularly Lazlo in the beginning — with such haunting beauty, she described the world in that way too. I’m just thinking of the gif of the kid from Matilda of the boy still pushing chocolate cake into his mouth even though he was beyond full. That was me with Strange the Dreamer and all the glorious descriptions. The writing was unbelievably evocative and gorgeous, but sometimes it just became a bit much. And yes, I’m more of a savoury person, despite my constant references to sweets. Maybe I’m hungry. I think so.
After dropping off from the strong beginning, Strange the Dreamer only recaptured my attention at around page 150, and I only could confidently say I was enjoying it at page 350. That’s a long time to be reading something you feel pretty meh about. Undeniably, there were times I could have put this book down, and I’m ashamed to say it. I just didn’t feel any sense of immediacy from the plot and while I liked the main characters and adored the writing, it wasn’t something that I was constantly on the edge of my seat with. When Lazlo met Sarai was when things really started to pick up. I loved the fantastical and magical elements in it, and the romance was glorious. However, there was a little bit of insta-love going on there. Don’t get me wrong — it wasn’t bad insta-love, but it was just there. The insta-love didn’t make me hate the romance because the romance in itself was really well done and seemed realistic, so I wasn’t that phased. But if insta-love is a big turnoff for you, be warned.
The majority of people I’ve spoken to have adored Strange the Dreamer, so don’t let my criticisms stop you from picking up this book. It’s truly gorgeous, inside and out, but sometimes that’s just not enough for me. I loved Laini Taylor’s writing style and the way she was able to create such a intricate, glorious world, but unfortunately I felt overwhelmed by the wandering writing at times and lost interest. If you’ve loved Laini’s other novels, I think you’ll really enjoy this one!
Have you ever been disappointed by a book because it was overhyped? What’s one popular book that you just can’t stand? Have you read Strange the Dreamer yet? Do you think it deserved the hype? Are you in love with Laini Taylor’s writing style? I’d love to know!
Thanks to Hachette Australia for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!