Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Review: Dreamstrider by Lindsay Smith

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I received this book for free from Roaring Brook Press in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Dreamstrider by Lindsay SmithDreamstriders by Lindsay Smith
Published by Roaring Book Press on October 6, 2015
Genres: Action, Fantasy, YA
Source: Roaring Brook Press
Buy on Amazon

A high-concept, fantastical espionage novel set in a world where dreams are the ultimate form of political intelligence.

Livia is a dreamstrider. She can inhabit a subject's body while they are sleeping and, for a short time, move around in their skin. She uses her talent to work as a spy for the Barstadt Empire. But her partner, Brandt, has lately become distant, and when Marez comes to join their team from a neighborhing kingdom, he offers Livia the option of a life she had never dared to imagine. Livia knows of no other dreamstriders who have survived the pull of Nightmare. So only she understands the stakes when a plot against the Empire emerges that threatens to consume both the dreaming world and the waking one with misery and rage.

A richly conceived world full of political intrigue and fantastical dream sequences, at its heart Dreamstrider is about a girl who is struggling to live up to the potential before her.

I think I read this book in a span of two days. TWO DAYS! In a book nerd’s dictionary, that’s pretty much a synonym for “SO KICK-ASS I FLEW THROUGH THE PAGES”, and no, it’s not just because of the cover, which I agree is absolutely mesmerizing. To be honest, this is my first book by this author (I had wanted to read SEKRET before, but I haven’t gotten the chance to buy it yet… a travesty, I know, don’t remind me), so I didn’t know what quite to expect. Would it be purple-prose-y? Would it be underwhelming? Would it have a main character who would make me want to put them into sandwiches so I can eat them to oblivion? Okay, that probably didn’t make sense. I’m so not funny.

The opposite actually happened.

I wanted to hug and love the heroine because she was so flawed, and thus, perfect.

Are you tired of special snowflakes? Are you tired of reading about heroes and heroines who are chosen by someone (or something?!?!) to wield a special power, and then be exceptionally good at it despite lacking the necessary training and experience? Are you just exhausted of these individuals who seem to solve problems left and right without seemingly lifting a finger? Are you weary of these characters who are so flawless and loved by everyone, and you’re like, “THIS IS INSANITY!”

Meet Livia, a girl who grew up as a Tunneler – a person from the poorer, more dangerous side of the Kingdom. Her childhood consisted of a mother who was too high on a dreamless-inducing drug to care for her, of years crawling and struggling to survive, of dreaming of a better life. One day, she met Professor Hesse, who introduced her to the world of dreams, Oneiros, who she could be whoever she wanted to be, where she could go wherever she wanted to go. However, it turned out the Professor had other plans for her… in exchange for giving her the chance to buy her freedom, she would be doing something for the Ministry: dreamstriding, the ability to enter the body of another person through the dreamland, the ultimate form of espionage.

First of all, Livia is such an amazing heroine to read. Usually, when you have a premise that’s pretty much about government conspiracies and political espionage, the hero or the heroine is the star of the team and has swag and confidence and pretty much everything. Clumsy spies are oftentimes skipped in lieu of these individuals who can charm the reader with their smiles and swagger, but Livia has none of that. She is clumsy, error-prone, and insecure; there are people who hate the very sight of her because of her mistakes, and the people who hired her in the first place are not always confident of her abilities, but are forced to use her anyway because there is no one else with the same abilities.

And I just love reading about her narration and her ways of coping with her frustrations. Her POV is definitely vivid and personal and real – when she is the dreamworld, and when she is in the real world. I love how she felt at ease in Oneiros – her love for flying over places, of being able to enter a whole new world, and being closer to the Dreamer. I also felt scared for her when she was in the Nightmare Wastes, a place in the dreamworld where a lost soul can find itself getting lost in, forever trapped in the hellish abyss. Just the descriptions of what she felt by being in the vicinity of the being that kept making her demotivated and sending her malicious thoughts… I get the chills, dude. I also love how even though she wasn’t the brightest or the most confident person around, she didn’t let other people push her around. They were her demons to face, but she’d try to get the job done… scrapes and bruises and hurt egos and all.

I also love how this book wasn’t romance-centric at all. Yes, we do get the “I love yous” here and the kind of kisses that would make you go, “YAAAASSS!” but it never took center stage. Livia never pushed her feelings to someone else, never forced them at all. I love that at the end of the day, we got a more personal and intimate look into her character development first – how from someone who felt so small and useless, she transformed into someone who became a stronger and confident person, driven by her need to protect those who are dear to her, even if it meant putting her life on the line. Plus, the fact that there are queer girls? YAHOO!

I do wish that there’s more world-building, though. I do agree that the writing sets up the atmosphere really, really nicely. The writing has this surreal aura that really makes you feel that you are in the dream. The descriptions are amazing, and the feelings of the main character are well-written – the kind that would pull your heartstrings because you just feel what she is feeling. But I wish we got a better picture of the Kingdom’s society and their norms and their culture. Like, there are supposedly High Priests, but information about them is really scarce, and I wanted to know more about their roles in the grander scheme of things… the Emperor, too, and even the neighboring countries. That’s just me, though – because I always want my fantasies to be very, very immersive. I also wish that Livia’s backstory is more shown… we never really get to see more intimately how she coped when she was younger. I know that she pretty much crawled through mud in order to survive and her mother was next to useless, but other than that, her past feels quite detached.

Other than those complaints, though, this book is très fantastique! I love the details of character’s observations of her surroundings and her internal feelings, her believable journey to become a better and stronger person, and how dreams were used in order to achieve higher agendas and goals. Everything feels so real and vibrant and bright and terrifying, here. Plus, did I mention the very non-special snowflake character? 😉


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