There are a lot of things that I could talk about in a review of Strange the Dreamer: the beautiful writing, the interesting characters, the fascinating premise, the consequences of the different powers the gods had, or the library (seriously! – thought only briefly part of the story, it sounded pretty amazing). But, the thing that really struck me was how boldly Taylor dove into the grey areas between good and bad, or hero and monster.
A city is under threat by the gods in the citadel above them – young men and women are taken, used, and returned when no longer needed. A young man, mentally and emotionally broken by his capture, decides to rescue his people by slaying the gods all. All of them, even the children (god-spawn). But, a few children survive. The trauma of the slaying and of trying to survive combined with their own ignorance of the reasons for the slaughter leave them traumatized and just as full of hate as the humans below.
We are left with two groups, humans and god-spawn, each equally traumatized and full of hate. Taylor doesn’t take the easy way out by presenting us with simple good and evil. Instead, she shows us good that is also bad and evil that is also innocent. Through her story, she shows that that every story has two sides, but also that knowing the other’s side may not be enough to feel empathy because fear can blind us. She also explores how fear grows to hatred and how hatred is a disease that’s hard (impossible, even) to cure.
Overall, I found the story to be an easy and gripping read. But, for me, the thorough exploration of all the different sides to the story (and how one truth can blind you to other truths) was the best part of the story. The climax leaves many pretty much everything unresolved, but it also opens new doors with new revelations (this is going to be a series). While I wasn’t a fan of the can’t-be-together-OMG romance (I’m such a Scrooge in that regard), I’ll still be looking out for the next book in the series. I’m curious to see where Taylor goes with this and who, if anyone, “wins” in the end.