Publishing Info: October 6, 2015 by Macmillan
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: August 2, 2015
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 neighboring 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’ve been so excited for DREAMSTRIDER since I first heard about the book and the concept so this was a book I didn’t want to wait too long to read. I was in a particularly picky mood and wanted something totally different when I started it and I will say that I think DREAMSTRIDER fit that bill for the most part but overall, it was a bit of a choppy read for me.
The book is a sort of mash-up between science-fiction and fantasy to me. Livia is a dreamstrider — a person who can inhabit someone’s body by delving into the depths of their subconscious — and the concept of dreamstriding felt very sci-fi to me. I suppose it could be more fantasy since it’s not an actual science and more of an ability, but it was reminiscent of what the characters could to in Inception (although it is quite different) so it felt more like a mash-up of genres rather than just fantasy. The book also takes place in a fantasy world which actually sort of reminded me of the worlds in The Lies of Locke Lamora and Six of Crows so the overall feel for me was mostly fantasy-based, but I do think I had a hard time separating myself from that science-fiction feel or rather, I don’t think I really felt grounded in either science-fiction or fantasy and I had a hard time blending the two when it should have felt like a natural part of the world and totally seamless.
The concept and the world were both incredibly interesting but overall, I really wished both of them had been a bit more developed. I loved the idea of dreamstriding but I wish there had been more of an introductory phase or an earlier explanation — and same for the world-building as well. This was another book where I wish I had more explanation earlier on in the book instead of introducing large concepts rather quickly. It wasn’t really a bad thing but I think getting a better grip on the feel and the setting right of the bat would have helped me fall into the book as a whole much easier. I struggled more with understanding the backstory and the sort of mythology of it all (Mythology? Religion? History? They all kind of seem to be one in the same here) and I really would have benefited from having more knowledge of The Dreamer, Nightmare, and Oneiros much earlier in the book. It was really interesting once hints were dropped, things were learned, and the characters began digging but it sometimes it was hard to understand why things were important without knowing what the foundation of this fantastical world was.
I did really enjoy the dreamworld of Oneiros. It was so visually appealing and incredibly interesting and I liked exploring that world with Livia. I do wish I had understood more about it’s construction but at the same time, it’s a dreamworld so things are not quite so concrete there. I also actually wanted to spend much more time exploring everything about it!
Livia was a hard character for me to connect to for some reason and I seemed to have that issue with most of the characters, actually. She was the main character so of course the reader spends the most time with her and yet I never quite got a grasp on her personality or how I felt about her. I also wanted so much more out of any of the secondary characters because I felt like they were quickly introduced and all of a sudden it was like I was supposed to know them. I kept confusing two girls until I finally got more of their backstories and was able to keep them apart. I did enjoy Brandt but again, wanted to see him have even more interactions with Livia. He kept flitting in and out and I couldn’t get a grip on their relationship. I knew what it was supposed to be but never felt it myself.
Marez was the one stand-out character for me. I do love a scoundrel and he was always sharp-tongued and quick-witted. I actually sort of loved him and maybe he was supposed to be a little bit of a question mark but I enjoyed that. I liked that his presence was questionable but he really pushed Livia to get outside of her shell and drop some of her guard.
Somehow this book was 400 pages and yet I had trouble with the development of everything and really wanted to be so much more grounded in each concept and each character. I’m not sure exactly how since it was already a slightly hefty novel for YA (not too bad but 400 pages starts to toe the line of a longer book) but I couldn’t help but feel like I needed more plot, more explanation, more world-building, and more character development. The pacing started to feel like it was dragging towards the middle and right before the end so I found my mind wandering instead of being sucked into the pages. Maybe it was just a personal issue but I had trouble making those connections and this was a book whose concept should have struck chords with me all around.
“The View from Goodreads” is a featured section in my reviews that I decided to incorporate! I tend to update my Goodreads status a LOT when I read — reactions, feelings, notes — so I thought it would be fun to share the sort of “reading process”! All status updates are spoiler-free (no specific plot points will be revealed) but will contain reactions to certain pages and/or characters!
Livia // Character Obsessions: Security, dreamstriding, being good enough, love.
I think I will always struggle with characters who feel like they aren’t good enough. It’s just a very hard thing for me to read, especially when it’s a situation where they are trying their hardest and can’t do any better than that. It’s no fault of their own but it’s hard to read about a character who is struggling with insecurities and depending on how often they’re mentioned, I get annoyed instead of feel sympathetic. I do appreciate that it’s not like so many other YA heroines who are magically badasses right off the bat but I guess since I was having a hard time connecting with her, it came off as a nuisance rather than something I wanted to feel sympathy about.
Kept Me Hooked On: Dream worlds. I adore books that deal with dream worlds and dream manipulation. It’s always been an interesting concept for me and something I will continue to seek out.
Left Me Wanting More: World-building. When it comes down to it, this book just didn’t have enough world-building for me. It was there and maybe you can say “But does it honestly have to be that spelled out for you???” and no, it doesn’t. It’s doesn’t HAVE to but I think in brand-new worlds with brand-new concepts and new gods and regions and royalty and characters, more information is helpful. I might have been able to understand more of everything if little world-building nuggets had been dropped here and there in the beginning — in conversation, in jest, in description, in action — but I didn’t feel like I had a grip on anything until it was so much further into the book. By then, I was already disconnected and it was too hard to try to make up for all of that.
Get a second opinion
This is SO hard to voice an opinion. I would honestly say check out some reviews and see what your “trusted reviewers” have to say. I read this before there were really any reviews out for it yet so I had no idea what to expect. It was really nice to have that opinion all on my own and not be influenced BUT since I had a hard time with some things, maybe a good idea to check out other reviews. Is it a personal issue? Is it something other people will struggle with? I’m really not sure! I am interested to see what everyone else has to say though!
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