Sarai has lived and breathed nightmares since she was six years old.
She believed she knew every horror, and was beyond surprise.
She was wrong.
In the wake of tragedy, neither Lazlo nor Sarai are who they were before. One a god, the other a ghost, they struggle to grasp the new boundaries of their selves as dark-minded Minya holds them hostage, intent on vengeance against Weep.
Lazlo faces an unthinkable choice–save the woman he loves, or everyone else?–while Sarai feels more helpless than ever. But is she? Sometimes, only the direst need can teach us our own depths, and Sarai, the muse of nightmares, has not yet discovered what she’s capable of.
As humans and godspawn reel in the aftermath of the citadel’s near fall, a new foe shatters their fragile hopes, and the mysteries of the Mesarthim are resurrected: Where did the gods come from, and why? What was done with thousands of children born in the citadel nursery? And most important of all, as forgotten doors are opened and new worlds revealed: Must heroes always slay monsters, or is it possible to save them instead?
Love and hate, revenge and redemption, destruction and salvation all clash in this gorgeous sequel to the New York Times bestseller, Strange the Dreamer.
This book holds more wonder and beauty than most places in the world. It’s as if the universe decided that it was tired of being so immense, so it compressed all of its complexity and splendor into a smaller form just so it could make everyone around it feel like they were a part of the stars.
This whole experience already feels so far away—like something out of a dream—and the whole of my being is wrapped around so much fondness and aching love for this series. I genuinely wish I could find some way to hook myself to this world, and never leave.
Once upon a time there was a silence that dreamed of becoming a song, and then I found you, and now everything is music.
So, what’s this book about?
After the citadel’s lurch from the sky has tipped everyone into grief and chaos, Sarai’s a ghost now, held in Minya’s thrall and all they would ever be able to do about it is what they’d ever been able to do about it: nothing. And Lazlo—once a faranji dreamer and a war orphan of Zosma—is now confronted with the truth of him being the half-human son of a god, blessed with the same power that had been Weep’s curse for fifteen years.
Now the scales have a heavy weight on them: Minya’s anger like a canker at the center of everything, dancing them around a chessboard, and Sarai and Lazlo’s hearts are things edged with the fear of it, every sweet moment spent together not really theirs, but just borrowed for a little while. And even though their lives had been so long a thing of hideous dread that for the length of a few pages, they’d forgotten to be alarmed by the horror of Minya being the only hook Sarai could tie the tethers of her soul to, there is a part of them—and of the reader—spinning and wondering, that wants to know how long Minya’s calm and patience would stand, how long until it fell or crumbled beneath the hate and fear that weren’t a legacy left by their slayed kindred, but new and bright and all her own.
How long before Minya came to chase them out of whatever corner they’ve carved for themselves? Could they defuse the hate that had woven itself into her veins, as much as her power had roots under her skin? What will befall Weep if Minya’s will for vengeance made its way to it? Who is the mysterious Nova, looking for the Mesarthim who had taken her sister and left her not even scraps of memory to try and catch her with?
And what happens when all the secrets so long kept close to the chests of those who held them spill out and prove deadlier than even Minya’s wrath?
I would have chosen you, if they had let me choose.
There’s something quite indescriptible about Laini Taylor’s storytelling. The fortitude of her bright mind ceaselessly surprises me; I know what to expect, and yet I am still thrown off by her ingenuity. Lush, reverential language and her gift to infuse every page with magic and heady emotions remain a hallmark of her work. It’s that rare kind of book that you want to read slowly, deliciously, relishing every exquisite sentence. But Laini Taylor doesn’t only draw you in with sensuous passages, she leaves you reeling with a fantastical tale at the thresholds of love and family and identity, and there, a wish flickers in your heart to become part of the story.
I’m also so impressed by how she deftly dances across genres, careening between fantasy and science-fiction. Even more inspiring is how she sprawls out from her story’s already expansive beginning to an even broader canvas of magic and war and divinity, brilliantly tying the myriad threads of her story together by the end.
I was honestly split between sorrow and elation after finishing this book, the two states seemingly inimical but right then, they were sharing the same shadow. I genuinely love this book so much. And oh my God, the characters.
I adore absolutely every single character of this book; my heart is a big cherry pie, enough for everyone! Laini Taylor imbues every character no matter how minor with heart and soul. Their development is so beautifully rendered that they all eventually settle into themselves like an impression in the sand, and only growing stronger from there.
✨ LAZLO STRANGE
I love Lazlo Strange so much. He holds his eyes wide and sees everything, really sees, and seems to love it, all of it, life and the world and everyone in it. He’s a gardener and people are his roses. His love is so concentrated. He literally has the sun inside of his soul and it’s like…how can one person have so much vitality and kindness? He’s the kind of person to whom you would willingly give so much of your heart. I was half-afraid that the torrents of the collective horror that had been building in this book would wear away at the edges of his soft-heartedness, but he is still the same gentle dreamer whose nose has been broken by fairytales and whose kindness still radiated from him, and made you find faith in humanity again. Anyway, nothing makes me sadder than the fact that Lazlo Strange will never think about me as much as I think about him.
Sarai, the transcendental goddess of my heart. I wish she would send her mind and senses and moths winging down to my room and spin whatever dreams she wants to torment me.
I loved how she thought she wasn’t strong enough to do so many things until they were over, and she had done them. How she was far from helpless, and when in positions of impotency, how quick she was to address the issue and attempt to take control in whatever way she can. She had passed through a long dark time and had come out of it—if not alive—so much stronger.
✨ SARAI AND LAZLO
I obviously only ship things that are guaranteed to cause me immense pain but I haven’t experienced this much joy since Lazlo & Sarai have been in close proximity of each other so there’s that. I love them. I love how they clung to whatever fleeting, small, precious joy they were allowed, how they were a constant reminder that happiness do not cease to exist in the shadow of something large and ominous, that surrounding yourself with your loved ones can make you feel human again, a person beyond whatever troubles you. Everything about them is so soft and heart-shaped and I just [clutches fist] love them.
Minya has spent so long sustaining herself on all the anger she had brewed since that day when the Godslayer slew babies so humans could live. She had honed her rage as a razor blade and planned a thousand parries to blows that may never come. The Carnage mangled her emotions, poisoned her faculties for love and trust until they were so tangled with hate. And still, she protected Sarai and the others, she sheltered them, she kept them from the winds that would batter them into the earth. They were her family and she was theirs—bound not by something as coincidental as blood but by shared trauma and survival and choice—and that is a bond that could take a great deal of strain before it snapped.
This book might have started out as an Us from which Minya was excluded but every acidic confrontation that followed was less about the moment Minya held Sarai’s soul as a bargaining ship and more about the vast sweep of their past, the warp and weft of old resentments. It was more about loving the people you care about like you would love the moon—not only when it’s full and bright, and being there for them not only when the sun is shining, but also when a thunderstorm is brewing inside of them.
I’m still so incredibly emotional over Minya. This kid needs to sit on some soft grass, or a foam mattress in the sun to give her cold shadow a soft place to rest. She’s always on that pavement, that cement, in her mind, it’s not good for her.
Since book one, I have felt every stab of the remorse I knew Eril-Fane was inflicting on himself. The regrets, the resentments and all the things that pressed into him, and made his heart feel as though it might give and break like a bone. The apologies that were too heavy for his tongue and the almost-palpable memories of a war where he’d experienced terrible acts of violence, and perpetrated many of his own. It honestly pained me that he had so many secrets, so many fears and places he did not let anyone—not his wife, not his mother—bring light into.
But the pain was quickly sucked away in the wake of his incredible character development: Eril-Fane realizes that a good portion of healing is in simply allowing sensations to arise, just sitting with them and feeling them instead of bottling them up. He realizes that sometimes, in order to survive, you must see the good in your past. There will always be things that he wishes had never happened, things he wishes he could rewrite. There will always be bad memories and things that he regrets. But they are part of who he is—all he can do is accept that they have happened and celebrate the person they’ve allowed him to become.
✨ THYON NERO
Reading this book comes with this weird onslaught of affection for Thyon Nero that you never expected, but just grows the more you read.
In the first book, and even at the start of this one, he’s arrogant, self-centered and insufferable. By the end, he still kind of is but with an overlaying sense of responsibility and maturity to quell the worst bits. His character development isn’t a complete overhaul, but he does end up so much better than when he started. He tries to earn everyone’s respect and friendship rather than assuming he deserved it because of his privilege. And there is a humility that comes with that understanding. It was a good look for him, knocking the hauteur away and leaving a remarkably pleasing vulnerability in its place. I genuinely thought I have been wrung out of every last ounce of the sincere affection that might have bloomed in my heart for Thyon, but he proved me wrong.
On a VERY important note, my queer heart has always suspected that Thyon was one of us AND I WAS RIGHT. I would lay down both of my kidneys for a spin-off series featuring him getting called out on his haughtiness by a certain someone. Also I would give up forty years of paycheck for my favorite lesbian girlfriends Calixte and Tzara, I love them so much I’m so glad we got to see more of them. I’m even gladder for Calixte and Thyon’s friendship, they’re the epitome of mlm and wlw solidarity. ICONIC.
She had more than she had ever dared dream, and yet, new dreams sprout up when old ones come true, like seedlings in a forest: a new generation of wishes.
Lastly, if you haven’t found your way to this wonderful series, please do so now. Trust me: you need these characters in your life.