It’s been more than a little crazy at college lately, so I’m only now getting to my review for this book…which I read in October. I actually got the chance to see Laini Taylor at a signing for Muse of Nightmares, and I was motivated to read Strange the Dreamer before going.
Strange the Dreamer follows the mystical and captivating journey of Lazlo Strange to the lost City of Weep, and what he finds there. Weep is a secretive and magical city across the desert that Lazlo travels to. Split between Lazlo, the dreamer on the ground, and Sarai, the nightmare in the sky – Strange the Dreamer follows Lazlo and Sarai’s attempts to heal a broken city and navigate their budding love.
This book was such a treasure to read. The imagery is this book is hauntingly beautiful and captivating; Laini Taylor has a way of painting such strange and creative worlds. In Weep, there existed powerful Gods who enslaved the people of Weep, and kidnapped their women and sometimes men. These women would return months or years later, with no memories of what happened to them. However, the people of Weep know (to an extent) what has happened – the women have no memories of it, but have given birth and understand what this implies of their time in the Citadel. Lazlo Strange stumbles onto the scene about 15 years after the Gods were murdered by the people of Weep. However, the powerful sky ship of the Gods is still in the sky, leaving a permanent shadow over the people of Weep. Led by the Godslayer, a group of Weep citizens collected a group of engineers, scientists, and Lazlo Strange, to help them get rid of the ship.
Parallel to Lazlo’s journey to Weep and time spent there, is Sarai. Sarai is one of the last children of the Gods. She and three other children live in the Citadel. (the sky ship). Sarai and each of the children have powers, but remain trapped in the Citadel, with no way out, and aware that even if they could go to Weep, they would be killed. Sarai’s power is that she can enter the dreams of Weep’s people – including Lazlo. Through Sarai visiting his dreams, Lazlo learns of the history of Weep and falls in love with Sarai as well.
The most powerful thing about Taylor’s novel, is how she addresses trauma, and from many different perspectives. Much of Lazlo’s time in Weep is spent trying to discover what happened to the people of Weep. For the most part, the occupation is not spoken of – it’s something the people of Weep are unable to address. They want to move past it, and act like it hasn’t happened. However, with the shadow of the Citadel looming above them, they are unable to. In addition, the lack of memories of the taken is something some view as a gift and some as a curse. Overall, the collective trauma of the City of Weep is a stark contrast to the lyrical and beautiful prose of the book describing a magical world of godspawn with blue skin, dreamers, and impossible things.
Juxtaposed with the people of Weep’s trauma is the trauma of the children left in the Citadel, primarily Minya. Minya is the oldest of the children, and she saved Sarai and the other children on the day the Godslayer and a few other soldiers from Weep raided the citadel and murdered the Gods. However, another dark secret of Weep, is that they did not only kill the Gods, but their children as well. Minya witnessed their murder, and was only able to rescue four other children. From that day on, Minya has been frozen in the form of a child. A visible metaphor of how her trauma affected her, Minya is unable to move past the horror she witnessed and her hatred for the people of Weep. The contrast between Minya and the people of Weep is so vivid, and witnessing both sides you can’t help but to sympathize with both – which tears you apart since Minya and the people of Weep are only able to hate each other, and not able to understand each other.
Strange the Dreamer is written wonderfully, and is so beautiful to read, but what makes it such a powerful read is Taylor’s story of collective trauma, race, and what it means to dream of a better world.