ARC Review: Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

BookReview

Written by: Laini Taylor
Release Date: March 28, 2017
Pages: 544, hardcover
Series: Strange the Dreamer, #1
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Book new epic fantasy by National Book Award finalist and New York Times bestselling author Laini Taylor of the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy.

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 to 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?

In this sweeping and breathtaking new novel by National Book Award finalist Laini Taylor, author of the New York Times bestselling Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy, the shadow of the past is as real as the ghosts who haunt the citadel of murdered gods. Fall into a mythical world of dread and wonder, moths and nightmares, love and carnage.

Welcome to Weep

LetsTalk

I think most of us can agree that Laini Taylor is a writing goddess. Her words have a melody that I’ve never seen any other author replicate, and the worlds she creates are magical, reminiscent of old fairy tales while still entirely her own.

So yeah. If you can’t already tell, I loved Strange the Dreamer.

The main character is Lazlo Strange, a librarian obsessed with stories, and particularly stories of a mysterious city called Weep. (But not actually called Weep–it’s complicated.) He’s basically the epitome of “beautiful cinnamon roll too good for the world too pure”. Basically, if you’re sick of alpha male type protagonists and want to read about a shy sweet bookworm who shows some great strength when the situation calls for it.

The other protagonist is Sarai, and she lives in a floating castle with her family and a bunch of ghosts, and basically anything I say about her origins will be a giant spoiler, but her past and the way she deals with it, her relationship with her power and her family and her background are all so compelling and she’s wonderful and brave and and I love her.

Also, Lazlo’s friend Calixte is wonderful and I am honestly shocked that I haven’t heard more people talking about her when she’s responsible for one of the Iconic quotes in this book (“beautiful and full of monsters”) and she’s a giant pile of sass and complements Lazslo’s character perfectly and is refreshing and lovely. (She’s also gay, and I’m hoping she and her girlfriend will get more screen time in Book 2).

Which brings me to how another thing I love about the world is the humor, because Laini Taylor’s stories are so Epic with a capital E and they could easily get too heavy, but there’s also this lightness in the way she writes and the way her characters see the world.

And the plot twists, oh my god, the plot twists! My current Goodreads review of the book is “Laini Taylor can fight me” so that should tell you something.

So why did I give Strange the Dreamer four stars instead of five? Funnily enough, the same reason I gave Daughter of Smoke and Bone four stars. Too. Much. Kissing.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love kissing, and I especially love the way Laini Taylor writes kissing because I especially love the way Laini Taylor writes anything, but after a certain point it just got to be too much. There was this giant block of Lazlo and Sarai looking into each other’s eyes and saying sweet things to each other and lying in bed together and after a while I just wanted to move on with the actual plot of the story. Plus, while I love Lazlo and Sarai individually, nothing about their romantic relationship really compelled me.

It also didn’t helped that I kind of shipped Lazlo with his rival Thyon. In my defense, within the first few pages of the book there was a scene where Lazlo and Thyon stared at each other for a few paragraphs and Lazlo was thinking about how beautiful Thyon was and then we found that Lazlo knew something about Thyon that no one else did. So, can you blame me for holding out hope for a hate-to-love thing between them? Can you really blame me?

But kissing-related issues aside, Strange the Dreamer is an enchanting, ethereal book with a rich ensemble cast and a fascinating world. If you’re looking forward to getting caught in the magic that is Laini Taylor’s words, you will not be disappointed.

Sondra

ARC Review: The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco

BookReview

Written by: Rin Chupeco
Release Date: March 7, 2017
Pages: 400, hardcover
Series: The Bone Witch, #1
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A Publishers Weekly Most Anticipated Young Adult Book of Spring 2017!

In the captivating start to a new, darkly lyrical fantasy series for readers of Leigh Bardugo and Sabaa Tahir, Tea can raise the dead, but resurrection comes at a price…

Let me be clear: I never intended to raise my brother from his grave, though he may claim otherwise. If there’s anything I’ve learned from him in the years since, it’s that the dead hide truths as well as the living.

When Tea accidentally resurrects her brother from the dead, she learns she is different from the other witches in her family. Her gift for necromancy means that she’s a bone witch, a title that makes her feared and ostracized by her community. But Tea finds solace and guidance with an older, wiser bone witch, who takes Tea and her brother to another land for training.

In her new home, Tea puts all her energy into becoming an asha-one who can wield elemental magic. But dark forces are approaching quickly, and in the face of danger, Tea will have to overcome her obstacles…and make a powerful choice.

Memoirs of a Geisha meets The Name of the Wind in this brilliant new fantasy series by Rin Chupeco!

LetsTalk

The Bone Witch attracted me because of its cool concept (a girl raises her brother from the dead and finds out she’s a magic necromancer who can protect the world from demons!) and beautiful cover. There was a lot I loved about the book, but ultimately it was not the spellbinding adventure I hoped it would be.

The greatest thing about The Bone Witch is the worldbuilding. The world is so rich and layered, the magic system is unique and fascinating, and the twists that separate it from many other fantasy worlds made the story a delight to read. There are powerful magical women, and scary undead demons, and magic necklaces, and men who forge hearts, and other fun things like that. The author clearly put a lot of thought into the intricacies of her world–everything from the fashion and food to the political situation to the mythology is described in detail. Given how short this book was, I was impressed with the complexity.

I also liked the structure. The story is told in alternating chapters–the main character, Tea, telling the story of her past and her training as an Asha, and a bard visiting Tea to learn her story years later, after her exile. The way the story is told kept wondering all the way through–what had happened to Tea? And what would she do now?

I loved Tea’s relationships with Fox, her brother whom she raised from the dead, and Mykaela, her mentor, a bone witch with an intriguing past. There was also some pretty cool discussion of gender roles.

What wasn’t there, you ask? A plot.

There was some action in the first 10% of the book, and the last 10%, but mostly it was set-up and infodumping, and a very extended training montage. And after a while I got bored. It took me three weeks to get through this book–it was THAT slow.

I also did not feel the romance at all. It was just…there, enough for me to feel its presence, but not enough to actually be developed.

There’s a lot to love about this book, and if you, like me, are intrigued by the concept and cover, I recommend that you give it a try. Unfortunately, it just was not for me.

 

Sondra