Com­pelling and en­gag­ing

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Reads -

hap­pened to the city and why does everyone now call it Weep?

Tay­lor in­fuses these scenes of La­zlo as a boy, rush­ing about on his imag­i­na­tive quests, with such pure joy that she quickly es­tab­lishes him as the char­ac­ter to root for.

Of course, we know La­zlo is never going to stay put, but Tay­lor’s writ­ing of­ten makes us for­get this fore­gone con­clu­sion.

In fact, the pos­si­bil­ity of La­zlo re­main­ing in the strict and stuffy abbey at times seems like a real dan­ger.

Strange The Dreamer feels both unique and fa­mil­iar at once. It’s a di­chotomy that is metic­u­lously planned and yet fresh. There are tropes from fairy­tales across the ages, a trav­el­ling gen­eral who gath­ers he­roes, mas­ters, and companions to him, and then there are the gods, mon­sters, and mag­i­cal crea­tures.

Tay­lor not only fits all these pieces into her book, she turns out a fan­tasy fic­tion that re­stores magic to its finest. She comes at these dis­parate el­e­ments from such var­ied per­spec­tives that even with a fore­shad­ow­ing of plot­lines you’ll be sur­prised and de­lighted by where she takes her char­ac­ters.

The main earthly an­tag­o­nist is the al­chemist Thyon Nero, a well thought-out vil­lain who acts from a grounded mo­ti­va­tion. He’s a rav­ish­ingly hand­some man who seems to have ev­ery­thing ex­cept the fi­nal key that can trans­mute lead into gold.

The more we learn about the smug and self­ish Thyon, the more he becomes the bad­die we love to hate. You know him: He’s the pop­u­lar guy from high school with the looks, the money, and the bad at­ti­tude. But Tay­lor also takes care to hu­man­ise him by peek­ing behind his gilded façade.

It’s a sig­na­ture move on Tay­lor’s part. She builds La­zlo’s world and its char­ac­ters up un­til you think youknow­itall,andthen­she changes ev­ery­thing with one sen­tence.

Be­yond these do-good­ers and evil-do­ers, Tay­lor also in­tro­duces a blue-skinned god­dess named Sarai.

She’s be­gins ap­pear­ing in La­zlo’s dreams, and becomes the other mys­tery he sets out to solve. The only way to do this is to join the gen­eral’s quest that’s going to piece to­gether the mys­tery of Weep.

As these char­ac­ters be­come ever more in­ter­twined, Tay­lor flips among their points of view. She may start a sen­tence with one char­ac­ter’s POV but she’ll fin­ish with an­other char­ac­ter’s opin­ions. It’s less dis­con­cert­ing than you’d think, be­cause her el­e­gance in writ­ing means this trick al­ways lands.

Tay­lor’s prose is im­me­di­ate, com­pelling, and en­gag­ing. Strange The Dreamer is the sort of book you can’t put down un­til you fin­ish what you’ve started. It took me back to my child­hood when I would sneak a torch­light into bed at night so I could con­tinue read­ing a book un­der the cov­ers long af­ter lights out.

There’s no date yet for its se­quel, The Muse Of Night­mares. But in the mean­time, af­ter you’re done with Strange’s world, check out Tay­lor’s Daugh­ter Of Smoke And Bone se­ries, as well as her 2009 Cy­bils Award-win­ning novel Dream­dark: Silksinger from her Faeries Of Dream­dark se­ries.

Laini Tay­lor Lit­tle, Brown, young adult fan­tasy

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