Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor: Reread Thoughts

Like I said in my September Wrap-Up post, I’m not big on rereading. While I definitely understand the appeal, I find that so much of my reading enjoyment is rooted in the surprise of what happens next, which of course you don’t get as much if you’ve read the book before.

However, I tried something new by rereading Laini Taylor’s Strange the Dreamer, which is one of my all-time favorite books. My goal was to read it before Muse of Nightmares released, but that didn’t quite happen. Strange was actually the only book I read this month, which is painful to admit, but it was a rough month.

The other new thing I tried was annotating as I read. This is typically something I reserve for school books because it makes me think too hard, but I have also seen people who swear by annotating everything they read, so I gave it a try. My feelings are still kind of mixed, but I did like highlighting and tabbing my favorite lines and scenes. The downside is I now can’t loan this copy out to people since I’ve noted foreshadowing that spoils the ending!

On that note, this post will have some major spoilers for Strange the Dreamer, so reader beware!

I was really concerned that my reread of Strange would make me love it less. I was worried about nothing. If anything, rereading it reminded me of everything I loved about it the first time through. It’s been about a year and a half since I read it the first time around, and while I wouldn’t necessarily say I forgot about some moments, I will say there are things that wouldn’t have immediately come to mind without a reminder.

Before I get into plot stuff and all the spoilers, I do want to mention that Taylor’s writing is just as beautiful as I remember it being. It really is incredible, and, even though I had read them before, the words still captivated me. I’m a huge sucker for flowery prose that doesn’t distract from the story itself, and Strange has what I think is the perfect balance of entrancing imagery and compelling story.

Now, into the spoilers.

If there is one thing you definitely have to reread in order to understand fully, it’s the sheer volume of foreshadowing Taylor uses. Some of it is more subtle than others, but it is still so effortlessly worked in that, even rereading it, I breezed by it. Looking back, I think that was one of the things that made Strange so intriguing the first time I read it; it keeps you guessing, and just when you think you’ve guessed right, it says something that makes you second-guess yourself.

This is most prevalent in the association between Sarai and death. Knowing the ending, I made a note every time it was mentioned in conjunction with her. I remember the first time through, I started off very confident that it wasn’t Sarai who died at the beginning because the association with her was so strong. I was convinced it was meant to distract you from thinking it was Sparrow or Ruby, and I latched onto every moment when Sparrow or Ruby were leaning over the edge of the citadel, thinking those were meant to be the foreshadowing. It also made sense to me that Sarai would be associated with death, since nightmares are typically related to death. During the reread, however, I realized that there was really no way to read those moments as anything other than foreshadowing to her death. The most tragic scene in relation to this is the flying dream with her and Lazlo. It’s just so painful to read about her having the time of her life flying but knowing that she won’t be flying in the end, especially because it is all she wants. In the end, she is free of the citadel but not in the way she wants: the one time she wants to hold onto it, she can’t.

On the other hand, I distinctly remember guessing Lazlo’s status as godspawn pretty early on when I read it the first time. I can’t remember when I first had the thought, but I put two and two together earlier than I think you were meant to, and, unlike with Sarai’s death, I never second-guessed myself. Again, rereading made me realize just how heavily it is implied but masked so that you think maybe he’s just special in some other way, that you’re reading too much into it. There are all sorts of clever moments when Lazlo proves there’s more to him than meets the eye, even if he doesn’t think so himself.

Speaking of Lazlo, I haven’t mentioned yet that he is actually the light of my life. Like I will protect Lazlo Strange, ultimate cinnamon roll, at all costs. I love reading such a genuinely, whole-heartedly good person, and one who somehow manages to be believable? I don’t know, I could definitely see people arguing that he’s not realistic, but I read him as someone who could actually exist, someone who defies all expectation and overcomes every adversity and it’s a joy to read.

I think that Lazlo is one of my favorite elements of the story in terms of its message. We have a character who, unbeknownst to anyone, is actually godspawn and is therefore somehow “evil,” yet he’s the gentlest, kindest soul imaginable. And while the whole of the book humanizes Sarai and the others in the citadel (yes, even Minya), it’s Lazlo’s reveal that really shatters all stereotypes of the godspawn. Sure, he didn’t know, but he doesn’t change because he suddenly has unimaginable power. If anything, he becomes more determined to help because now he feels like he can. He should feel more vulnerable or more afraid because he’s now something the people of Weep hate, but he is so key to what I hope will be their acceptance of the godspawn. My biggest fear with Muse is that Lazlo’s genuine kindness will be overwhelmed by fear and that he’ll lose his untainted joy for Weep.

The biggest change for me between the two readings was how I perceived Minya. The first time through, it all seemed very black and white: Minya was evil and clearly the villain of Weep’s (and Sarai’s) story. And while I do still think she’s the villain, I see it as more gray than that. Yes, she’s quite terrible and hell-bent on revenge and bloodshed, which, disclaimer, I don’t agree with, but there’s more to it than that. The ending tells you how damaged Minya is, that whatever humanity she had in her has been erased by fear and hatred. And that’s absolutely tragic to me. Reading her from that lens of tragic villain made me cut her a little more slack the second time around. It doesn’t excuse or forgive anything she does, but I do think it gives her character more depth than just being evil for the sake of being evil. I wonder what sort of redemption Minya will have in Muse, since I think that’s the trajectory that ending sets her on.

 divider-review

Again, I’m still not sure rereading is my cup of tea, but I am so glad I decided to pick this one up a second time, especially since it was a nice reminder before I get my hands on Muse, although that has yet to happen. I still have it on hold from my library’s ebook collection, but it hasn’t moved as quickly as I anticipated, which is fine since clearly I haven’t had need of it. I am, however, completely terrified to jump into it. I don’t want to be done with this amazing, magical world and its characters.

Oh, and as a bonus, because I don’t have a wrap-up/goals post, here’s one of my bullet journal spreads for November! I’m like ridiculously proud of it!!

Have you read Strange the Dreamer? What are your thoughts more generally on rereading books, particularly favorites?

(PS please don’t mention anything about Muse in the comments, even if it’s not a direct spoiler! I’ve been trying to avoid seeing what people think of it so I go in with a clean slate!!)

Keep reading,

Francesca M. Healy (1)

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3 thoughts on “Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor: Reread Thoughts

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