Strange the Dreamer; worth the hype?

strange the dreamer

Laini Taylor has officially landed a place on my ‘Favourite YA Authors’ list.

Are you a fan of fantasy? Do you enjoy reading about mystical cities and orphan-boys-turned-librarians who dream and dream and dream about the aforementioned mystical cities late into the night? Have you dreamed of half goddess girls with blue skin and terrible powers sharing the title of ‘protagonist’ with a sweet and hungrily curious boy with a knack for adventure?

Whether you answered yes to all the above questions, or just need to escape the world (and your responsibilities) for a few hours, then Strange The Dreamer is for you. I honestly cannot recommend this book highly enough. It’s the kind of book that you know you’re going fall hopelessly in love with as soon as you read the first few sentences. Which gave me chills, by the way. Laini Taylor as an author is nearly incomparable to me. The only other person who I could compare her to would be Maggie Steifvater–author of The Raven Cycle, and an all time fav. This book reminded me why I loved to read, even as I was reading it. The world we find ourselves in is so beautifully spun, the storytelling so immaculate, I genuinely found myself actually gasping in wonder at some points. I have heard complaints lamenting the length of this book, but I just can’t relate. I wouldn’t have wanted it to be a page shorter. I can sympathise with those who wished for better pacing, but I was having too much of a good time revelling in the prose to really care.

The basic premise itself is glorious;

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?

Welcome to Weep.

We have a QUEST! We have ADVENTURE! We have romance of the epic kind! Honestly this book delivers on every front, and I couldn’t recommend it highly enough. The characters all have enough page time (the book is huge lol so I’m not surprised) to be thoroughly fleshed out and explored… everyone has a past or a back story or inner monologue that will make you love them, or hate them or change your view completely. The world is so easy to get lost in, it’s almost scary.

One of my favourite things in this book (and any book, for that matter) is the idea that literally anything is possible. I definitely think this is why I lean more towards sci-fi/ fantasy when it comes to reading for fun, but this is such a huge theme in Strange The Dreamer. Laini Taylor really goes all in with ‘anything can happen if you want it badly enough, you just have to go out into the world and make it so’ and I love it. I also think that the main characters we have in Lazlo and Sarai really contribute towards this whole idea; Lazlo is a nobody and alone, and this is relateable on some level for everyone, but he has this dream which keeps him going and keeps him going. Again, relatable on some level for everyone. And Sarai. An an entire city of poeple think they know that she is a monster, simply because of the things her parents did. But we as the reader get to know a kind and caring and fiercely protective girl who would sacrifice anything for those that she loves. The dual third-person works extremely well here as we see much more than just the inside of our protaganist’s heads, and so we understand so much more, and so we are granted a kind of omniscience that is rare in YA Lit today, but which, in my opinion, gives a richer experience that first person.  The idea of dreaming is also woven so tightly into the fabric of the narrative that story itself begins to feel almost dreamlike, again making the possibilities for all the characters seem veritably endless. And also, I found, making me question alot of the things that keep me awake with how much I want them, the things that I dream about, but keep to myself.

A word of caution… if you prefer gripping, page-turning murder mysteries to drawn out prose and description, then this book might not be for you. Although if any story has the potential to change your mind it’s this one.

recommended for: fans of the raven cycle by Maggie Steifvater, romantics, dreamers, anyone seeking epiphany, and of course, any person who’s ever wanted to get out of this world for a few hours and go someplace extraordinary.

trigger warning for discussion of genocide and rape, also mind control.

let me know what you guys thought,

esmie xx

★★★★★

update: Strange the Dreamer #2 has a title now: ‘Muse of Nightmares’… and a Goodreads page, which means we know it’s 528 pages long (hardcover) and slated for an October 2nd, 2018 publication date!!!

 

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Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde – review

 

queens of geek

Blurb from Goodreads:

When BFFs Charlie, Taylor and Jamie go to SupaCon, they know it’s going to be a blast. What they don’t expect is for it to change their lives forever.

Charlie likes to stand out. SupaCon is her chance to show fans she’s over her public breakup with co-star, Reese Ryan. When Alyssa Huntington arrives as a surprise guest, it seems Charlie’s long-time crush on her isn’t as one-sided as she thought.

While Charlie dodges questions about her personal life, Taylor starts asking questions about her own.

Taylor likes to blend in. Her brain is wired differently, making her fear change. And there’s one thing in her life she knows will never change: her friendship with Jamie—no matter how much she may secretly want it to. But when she hears about the Queen Firestone SupaFan Contest, she starts to rethink her rules on playing it safe.

 

Queens of Geek is perhaps the most adorable book I’ve read in years!!! It was just too cute! Honestly, if you want to read a sweet, simply written, incredibly diverse book about romance and healing at a fantastically geeky convention then look no further. I did have a few issues with it, and these did drop the rating, but the book doesn’t take itself too seriously, which is always refreshing.

Jen Wilde has tackled important topics such autism, and anxiety disorder, without making them seem life ruining or completely tragic and hopeless. The story is told from alternating POV’s; Taylor, Tumblr famous in the ‘Queen Firestone’ fandom, and cosplayer extraordinaire. And Charlie, a pink haired, bi, Asian-Australian YouTuber, rising to fame after staring in a wildly successful dystopian film. Both are accompanied by their kind and funny, Latinx best friend Jamie.

I’m going to break my normal conventions and start with what I didn’t like, so that I can end this review positively, because despite its flaws, I did enjoy this book.

Firstly I have to say that there are only so many references to popular culture that you can make, as you always run the risk of your audience not being in on the joke, especially if your readers aren’t American/tuned in to Western culture. Now, I live in London and consider myself quite up to date with such things, but there were a few references that even I didn’t get, and which threw me out of the novel.

At times the dialogue felt a little stilted and forced, and I did find myself rolling my eyes sometimes, because there’s no way people actually speak like that, right? I’m fairly certain that they don’t, and again, my incredulity at some of things said (especially by Taylor) caused my focus to be pulled from the story.

Sadly, I couldn’t really connect with the characters. This doesn’t mean I don’t respect them, or like them, I just felt they were a bit flat, even though on paper they seem very multi-faceted and interesting, it didn’t really translate into the novel. I should’ve felt some sort of relatable factor towards Taylor or Charlie. Like Taylor I am deeply entrenched in fandom, and would love to go to a convention as cool sounding as SupaCan, and also have, and am currently dealing with an anxiety disorder…  but I couldn’t see myself in her or relate to her much, with the exception of a few scenes about the way anxiety affected her every day life. Charlie is POC and bisexual, like me, so surely there should have been some spark of recognition, or oh! I can relate to that! moment. Unfortunately not 😦 .

It was also very hard to enjoy Taylor’s chapters as she cried and whined in most of them… I know that she’s very anxious and autistic, so the world can get a bit much… but it was very hard to take her seriously, and started to carry less and less weight when it occurred every chapter. Also a few of her Tumblr posts that were included after most major events in the book were slightly cringey, I found! Especially as I am someone who is very active on Tumblr and posts frequently. She came across as someone who would annoy me quite a lot if I happened upon her blog, though this is purely a matter of personal preference.

Strangely, there really wasn’t much of a plot either… It was mainly centred around the two romances, and the resolutions of both of these, which wasn’t quite enough for me, but again, I feel like that’s a matter of personal preference, and also don’t really know what else could have been included to flesh it out a bit more.

With that negativity out of the way, there are lots of things I did like about this novel! The setting was really cool. SupaCon seemed genuinely awesome, and Wilde did make the atmosphere very believable and extremely exciting and hyped. She also built the romances very well! One of my favourite moments of the book, was when Alyssa Huntington, YouTube megastar and Charlie’s long time crush, was talking about her passion for science, and how meeting a successful black scientist as a young girl helped to spark an interest and present a career in science as a viable option for her.

The representation was also obviously a massive plus, as was the celebration of fan culture as a wholesome, positive experience, without the stigma of ‘weirdness’ or ‘freakiness’ that is so often attached to it.

Like I said before, if you’re looking for a quick, cute read, then this is for you, but prepare to do a bit of skim reading, especially if you prefer books with a bit more a of a substantial plot.

rating: ★★★.5 (3.5 stars)

have any of you guys read Queens of Geek? How did you find it? Whether you agree or disagree with me, don’t be afraid to let me know what you thought in the comments!

esmie xx