Laini Taylor’s recent trilogy, which began with Daughter of Smoke and Bone, was a terrific foray into fantasy fiction. So I grabbed this first in a new series with some interest. It’s always difficult to begin a new series, letting go of old characters who you might not feel quite finished with, and embracing a whole new world and storyline.. but Taylor has created yet another compelling fantasy world here.
Strange the Dreamer starts with two stories that soon become intertwined. Laszlo Strange (Strange being the name given to orphans or unclaimed children in his land) grows up in a terrible monastery before finding his first real home in a library. A lover of stories and fairytales, he makes a particular study of a land known only as ‘Weep’ – the real name being obscured by magic. So when citizens of Weep appear – he begs to go with them and make his dreams come true.
But Weep has many secrets… including a history of rebellion against evil Gods that threatens to arise as teenage Godspawn test out their powers high above the city. One has power over dreams…
This is a love story, an adventure and the start of something special. I loved the story, the characters and the symmetry of not one, but two Strange Dreamers in the novel. Clever plotting, intricate characters and overall a roaring tale. You’ll love it.
I’d heard a lot about The Left Hand of God, and had it marked on my to-read list for some time. But I was disappointed with the plot, which wasn’t really epic in scale.
Thomas Cale was raised a Redeemer, a soldier for fanatic religious zealots. He was abused and mistreated from childhood and eventually turns his back on the order when they murder and rape women.
He and his friends make their way to a safe city where he meets and falls for the princess he eventually is sworn to protect.
Cale’s military prowess and the love story dominate the narrative, although interests develops in the very last portion of the text, when the Lord Redeemer most responsible for his mistreatment reveals he is the centre of a prophecy. By forcing the princess to betray him, he lures Cale back to his cause, ultimately leaving the pathway open for more interesting things (hopefully) in subsequent books.
Ursula Le Guin’s classic science fiction novel is a re-read for me, but this is the first review I have posted on it. I remember enjoying it in my young adulthood and now – however many years later – it is a delight to find it equally as compelling. Travelling right now, it lured me back for a chapter or two on buses and trains – or curled up at some ungodly hour in a hotel room when I should have been sleeping. Clearly a powerful book.
The Left Hand of Darkness surrounds two characters – Genly Ai, an envoy representing an interplanetary body committed to peace and unity, and Estraven, a wily politician on the planet he is visiting. Gethen is a wintery planet, and the people there lack gender. Once a month, they go through a mating phase known as ‘kummer’ during which hey adopt male or female physical characteristics. They may adopt either over their lives, depending upon the gender adopted by their mate.
The relationship between the two characters is a fascinating one, seen initially only through the envoy’s eyes. As the narration changes (Estraven narrates alternating chapters and short spurts of Gethenian history and folklore are also included) we begin to understand how little the envoy understands the culture and politics of the world he had chosen to visit. His path is a dangerous one – and the one man he should trust is the one he is most suspicious of.
Le Guin’s world is fascinating and fully realised – the history and backstory are rich and realistic. Compelling and intelligent, The Left Hand of Darkness is more challenging than many modern science fictions. One that will provoke thought.