By: Gabrielle McLaren
If you can squeeze in one last read before the weight of a thousand textbooks knocks you down, consider Laini Taylor’s latest release Strange the Dreamer. The novel follows Lazlo and Sarai, two orphans — one a self-proclaimed fairy tale expert, the other dubbed the ‘mistress of nightmares’ — and their strange relationship to the city of Weep, whose name was stolen and its gods killed.
Though it may look like a brick, Strange the Dreamer is a quick and engrossing read. Imagination aside, credit goes to Taylor for her beautiful prose. Its poetry illustrates and embellishes her universe, but ends before the floweriness overwhelms the plot, dialogue, and humour.
The cities and citadels of her worlds are in constant evolution and development, regardless of which point of view Taylor uses. Every time you think you have the novel figured out, it’s tipped sideways. As the history of Weep unfolds, bit by bit through several sets of eyes and experiences, it simultaneously gets clearer and more complicated. When she tackles the theme of history, Taylor is careful never to establish good guys and bad guys, sprinkling guilt and remorse across her cast of characters.
In a world, and in a country, where Ontarian teachers fight to remove Sir John A MacDonald’s name from schools and whose sesquicentennial encompasses catastrophic failures and tragedies alongside successes, these questions resonate. What should we remember, and how should we do it? How should we face shameful pasts without hiding or forgetting? How should we grow from history, and is that enough? What should we do with anger and pain in the face of the unforgivable? The questions Taylor asks in her fantasy world make her novel a thought experience as well as a gorgeous and entertaining read.