Strange the Dreamer
Review by Jarad Johnson
This beautifully written book is easily my favorite of the year. It is epic in scope, and all-encompassing. This modern-day fairy tale recounts the journey of Lazlo Strange, an orphan who was raised by monks, and then became a junior librarian. His quest centers around a mythological city, one that has been his obsession since he was a child. But the entire story begins with a girl with blue skin falling from the sky. And if that doesn’t entice you, nothing will.
Its difficult to encapsulate the splendor and interconnectedness of the entire book without giving away anything away. The main characters, one of whom shares a name with the novel, are beautifully drawn. Strange the Dreamer, otherwise referred to as Lazlo Strange, is an endearing and believable character, one of few to come out of the genre in a number of years, and truly one of the gems of the novel. One of the best parts of the novel is getting to read a character grow into a complex and believable self. The other protagonist, Sarai, is also a marvelous character. She is the exact opposite of Lazlo, and the gradual nature in which we learn about her and the terms of her captivity are a showcase of the thought-out nature of most of the novel. Her sense of building dread and opposition throughout the novel is tangible. Thirdly, the way in which the author displays fear and prejudice in the novel is universally relatable, and the way in which she exposes that and challenges it is woven into the entire novel.
The entire world of the novel is absolutely breathtaking. Everything seems to be thought through, and as someone who appreciates details, the novel is full to the brim, which is part of what makes it so immersive. Just the way that marketplaces and cities are described is enough to transport the reader. The author’s descriptions of the characters’ dreams is a standout part of the book. There are several chapters devoted to dreams, a tricky thing to do well.
I have issues with some parts of the book, mainly the last third. There is a dramatic shift here, both in focus and narrative, from the plot so far to insta-love, or love at first sight. Characters become positively smitten with one another, seemingly overnight, in a way that I found unrealistic. It seemed rushed, almost as if it should have been drawn out further across the novel, or that the novel should have been long enough to accomodate this part of the plot. Also, the ending is abrupt, a major cliffhanger, which I understand in a way, it felt unfinished. While I think that there definitely was room for this part of the plot, I think it was crammed too tightly into the last part to really feel like a part of the whole.
The novel as a whole is amazing, and definitely worth a read, just for the descriptive and detailed aspects alone. It has a rich plot with well-rounded characters and reads like the epic I think it was intended as. I am without question going to read the next one, and while there were problems with the ending and the last part of the novel in general, I don’t think it detracts too much from the work as a whole. It says a lot about a book that I wanted it to be even longer than it was!
Jarad attends Middle Tennessee State University, loves tea, and tries to spend every spare second reading. Jarad is majoring in English. Bless his heart! Let's all light a candle for him and send him happy thoughts!