The more I think about it the less sense it makes, but I am still going to try and be objective. Also I am thinking that maybe I am done with hyped up books, I am just so tired of being let down. Not that this is a bad book, it just didn't work for me.
What is up with the cliffhanger? How dare I even hope for a standalone novel?! I should have known that this was going to be series. I wasn't prepared for the end with no ending.
At a first glance the plot for Strange the Dreamer seems very unique and interesting, but take away the whimsical and weird writing - and it's really nothing new. I figured the ending when I was about 80 pages in.
A guy goes on a quest, finds out that the hero he's been worshipping is not who he seems he is, there is a girl, they fall in love and the main character takes girl's side and then it's them against the world. That is the premise of this book (more or less), plus few very interesting twists and turns.
Also why did they have to have blue skin? I see blue and I think of Smurfs. Or of James Cameron's Avatar.
Speaking of the whimsical and weird writing. I am all for that! I love dreamy, beautiful prose. But it has to make sense. And more often than not, in Strange the Dreamer it doesn't make any sense.
'The timbre of his voice sent a thrill through Sarai. It was deep, low, and raw - a voice like woodsmoke, serrated blades, and boots breaking through snow.' - I'm sorry, WHAT? How is the voice compared to the boots breaking through snow? Sure it is a beautiful sentence, but it doesn't make any sense. There were many, many eye rolls while I was reading.
Lazlo Strange is one of the main characters of this story. I liked Lazlo for the sheer notion that Lazlo LOVED books.
'The books were his, and they were all that was his. He'd made them, and he loved them in the way one loves things that come of one's own hands, but even that wasn't the extent of it.'
Lazlo was a librarian's assistant and for the most part his journey was a beautiful one. I also adored the simplicity of things he wanted from life. His dreams were bigger than big, but he had no notion for material things.
'Not luxury, which was beyond his ken, but simple comfort: a wash, a shave, meal, a bed.'
And one of my favorite lines of the whole book:
'He didn't need to be told that "dreamer" was not a qualification. It wasn't enough to want it more than anyone else.' - I really LOVED this part. And I loved even more that for him it was enough to be a dreamer. How much better life would be if "just a dreamer" or "just a reader" were full pledged qualifications.
So I enjoyed Lazlo. For half a book. But then he abandoned all he was after he met a girl. One glimpse of girl's bare collarbones and Lazlo has forgotten all about his books, his dreams and his duties. There was only one mention of his love for books after he met his "love", and it wasn't nearly enough. It's like the librarian-Lazlo we knew for 300 pages of a book just vanished. I say love with quotation marks, because the romance was quite ridiculous. It was beautifully written, goodness YES! But it was ridiculous nonetheless. More on the romance later.
Sarai is the second character whose point of view we read through. I liked Sarai. I felt for Sarai - trapped and manipulated, with a gift that felt like a curse. I also thought that her gift was very original - I loved the aspect of it.
Her story was a tragic one, even more so at the end.
'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.'
Feral, Ruby and Sparrow. I group them all together, because to be honest if they were absent from the story nothing would have been different. They were just there. They didn't seem to have minds of their own, and were so easily controlled. Just talking props. Even more so in the end, which ENRAGED me so much! If you read this book already you know what I am talking about. How could they have nothing to say? How could they just stand there and take it?
Feral was the worst of them. So bland and so uninteresting. Unable to make easiest of decisions for himself.
Sparrow I liked. I felt for Sparrow, such a gentle and innocent soul. She alone seemed to be Sarai's friend. Also I wouldn't have minded having her gift. Maybe that's why I love her so much, because in my eyes she is just a little garden girl.
Ruby, a little spitfire, so completely opposite of Sparrow, and I liked her too. She brought some needed fire to the blandness of it all. I didn't think I would have liked her sexual explorations, but I did. If there was nothing else to do - I would have chose kissing as well. At least for her it made sense.
Minya was a very hard character to judge. Every time I was ready to hate her with passion a reason was brought up and I was pitying her, feeling bad. And it just went on and on, in circles. To be honest it was like that with all of the characters. I kept looking for the evil, bad character, but there was none. Well, not truly evil. Because every time something horrid was revealed about somebody - a reason as to why they did those horrid things was brought up immediately, so I would feel bad for them. Which is good, because it showed that nobody is truly good or bad, but in the end I felt like - well if nobody is bad, what are we even doing here??
That changed in the last 10 pages though.
I also should mention that it took me ages to read this book. For about 280 pages nothing really happens. I just kept slugging through, not able to read more than 30 pages in one sitting. It was the weirdest thing. I was liking what I was reading, but I didn't care about it at all.
The only thing that gave me life was the BANTER! The dialog was truly magnificent in this book.
'I didn't like to mention it last night, but today is your new beginning. Ten silver every time you say you're sorry."
Lazlo laughed, and had to bite his tongue before apologizing for apologizing. " It was trained into me," he said. "I'm helpless."
"I accept the challenge of retraining you."'
'You don't" she returned. "Did you forget to sleep?"
"How dare you, he said mildly, taking a seat at her table. "Are you suggesting that I look less than perfectly fresh?"
"I would never be so uncivil as to suggest imperfect freshness."'
Now onto the thing that truly bugged me - the romance. As I mentioned above it was beautifully written. Incredibly so.
'Tonight she and Lazlo had sought solace in each other and found it, and they had hidden in it, blocking out reality and the hate they were powerless against. They had no solution and no hope, and they'd reveled in what they did have - each other, at least in dreams - and tried to forget it all.'
!!!BIG SPOILER ALERT!!!!
They met about 4 times. In a dream. They fell in love. In a dream. In the end Lazlo decided that nobody else mattered, Weep didn't matter (granted the city wasn't what he hoped it would be, but still you don't abandon life-long commitment overnight), Eril-Fane didn't matter anymore, his research and love for the city didn't matter anymore. All he cared about was this girl that he met in a dream. And he was ready to sacrifice everything and everybody for her? And it gets even worse. She's dead, so he's sacrificing everything for a dead girl he barely knows? How morbid and creepy is that?
I could not buy this 'romance'. Even if they have truly fallen in love in a dream, they fell in love with their dream-versions, which were not really themselves. They were both bold, and direct and adventurous in dreams. They even said that if this wasn't a dream they would have never approach each other so directly in a real life. So this is basically an internet romance turned into fantasy! As I said before, at first the idea of this novel seem different and new, but once you strip the sugar coating it's just two people hitting it up in a google chat room.
However, Strange the Dreamer did have a romance I could get on board with. The love story between Azareen and Eril-Fane. Now that is LOVE, that is romance, that is real LOSS and real PAIN. They were together for 18 years, even if they got to only enjoy 5 days of it. She survived him being abducted. He heard her being raped, while being a powerless sex-slave to a cruel 'god'. He did unspeakable things for her. She was the push he needed to break free from Isagol. My heart really broke for them. Their side story was my favorite thing about this book.
And in the end when Eril-Fane dropped down to his knees and wept... My eyes finally welled up from all the feelings I felt for them.
Will I read the second one when it comes out? Maybe. There were many interesting questions left unanswered and I would like to know how it would play out. I am also hoping that the second one would be better paced, and maybe less weirdly written.
Would I recommend Strange the Dreamer? I would say yes. A lot of people adore it, and I see the reasons for it. Just because it didn't work out for me, it doesn't mean it won't work out for you. I had a lot of issues with the book, but I also had many things that I really liked. Eril-Fane's life story and the conversational banter alone are good reasons to read it.
Freelance BETA reader.