Kindle Edition, 278 pages
Published August 4th, 2015
I started reading two books at around the same time, both belonging to the Middle-Grade Fantasy genre. At first, I was positively sure I was going to like this one more, but the further I read, the less convinced I became…
“Ever since his twin brother’s death, Alex has curiously been unable to get a full night’s sleep and has never been able to dream during those small hours of rest. One night, this all changes when he finds himself in a surreal world that he soon learns is known as “The Dreamscape.” Tasked with either learning to harness his abilities as a Dream Walker or fall into an eternal coma, Alex journeys to the Ruby Mansion with a Philosopher—member of a goodly group of Dream Walkers—to learn more of the dangerous race of Nightmares and the terrible purpose behind their machinations.
Meanwhile, the perpetually-stressed 13-year-old Ashlyn Cohn finds her dreams becoming more and more chaotic and frightening as she attends summer school and, for the first time, encounters a Dream Walker who would forever change the course of her life.
All the while, the plans of the mysterious ‘Tainted’, an order of turncoat Dream Walkers plot to destabilize the benevolent Philosophers for their own puzzling and reprehensible purposes. The mysterious Tainted agent known only as ‘Black’ seeks to use the tumultuous Ashlyn as a pawn in their deadly plans, leaving Alex and his new Philosopher friends to contend with their perplexing conspiracy.”
The concept of the Dreamscape is quite interesting. It shows a lot of imaginative skills from the author, and making it all add up in the end, which I think it did when it comes to the world building part, is quite an achievement. It requires you to think, which I can greatly appreciate.
Imagine your dreams are real, just not in this world/conscience. Every time you dream, your mind enters a whole different world, an existing one, created by other beings. These beings can be compared to some kind of godlike entity when it comes to creating the universe and weaving things like planets and realities by bending spacetime. Like one of those giant soap bubbles you can pull up around you. Except these are very sturdy soap bubbles with entire worlds in it. The building of those worlds happens simply by using building blocks. Kind of like you’re playing Minecraft.
Now this is my personal (and probably very flawed) understanding of the world the author created in this book. Very interesting! The fact that he added actual people to it who can influence these worlds (and still create new ones as well) gives it a whole extra layer of depth. If I have to describe the ‘feels’ by comparing it to something else, I’d say this is Inception meets Alice in Wonderland.
The characters start off alright. Alex seems like an interesting boy with a distinct personality. I probably felt connected to him right away because he’s suffering from insomnia, something I’m all too familiar with myself.
Ashlyn’s character was one you come across in a lot of YA/MG books: the stubborn teenage girl who is being fed up with some aspect of her life. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It didn’t annoy me or anything. What did, though, were her parents. They were some of the blandest characters I’ve come across in a long time. Mom’s hardly around but only comes in to check on her daughter’s homework from time to time. Dad’s hardly around as well and shows even less interest in his family. I certainly hope this whole static relationship serves a purpose which gets revealed later on in the series. This includes the odd focus on flies in Ashlyn’s house. If they don’t serve a purpose in the end, then why the heck include them?
At around 40-50% into the story, things started to go downhill. The characters fell short of having any kind of consistent personality (Leopold, one of the head Philosophers, Alex, and Ashlyn being the exceptions here). Black, the main character of the ‘dark side’, if you will, seemed interesting in the beginning, yet turned into an indecisive, menopausal weird kid the further I read. My suspicions, that he’s actually Alex’s lost twin brother, are never confirmed, yet seemed pretty obvious to me (if I’m wrong here, I’ll eat a strawberry jam sandwich [barf] or post an embarrassing flute video of myself as my way of apologizing for any wrongful accusations).
It wasn’t just the characters who were dull; there were also some pretty bad clichés/platitudes in the story. Examples? When Alex has already made a decision about something important in the morning, then somebody comes up and says “You have to make your decision tonight.” This one is kind of hard to explain without giving away any spoilers, but my note here was “Of fucking course“, so I hope you get my gist.
Another example, which is easier to explain, would be giving an evil tiger a British accent just for the sake of making him sound more evil. It’s like SWTOR’s Imperials all over again. For those of you who have no clue what I’m talking about:
Now, I don’t know if this was just my ARC-version of the book, but my goodness, there were numerous typos and grammatical errors in here. Together with the lack of some sort of dividers in between scenes (jumping from one to the next scene simply by starting a new paragraph instead of a couple of enters and/or markings), it often made it hard for me to follow the story properly. A few simple adjustments could make it flow so much better.
I struggled a bit with rating this book. It could use a lot more improvement when it comes to the storyline and characters in general. On the other hand, I still think the world building was excellent and not something I read about before. Together with the fact that I did enjoy reading it, I’m going to give it 3 brownies and recommend it mostly to a younger audience who don’t care about the things I tend to get annoyed about ;).
A big thank you to C.J. Burry for providing me with a copy of his book in exchange for an honest review.
Links to the book:
~About the Author~
C.J. Burry is the author of the Dream Walker series, as well as numerous short stories and novellas published online and in other venues. He has worked in the
writing field since 2007 and, apart from writing, has been an editor, critic, and mentor. He started working on the Dream Walker series in the winter of 2010 and is still constantly working on building that universe, among others. He holds a Master’s degree in Creative Writing and currently lives in the American South with his wife and two golden retrievers.