There seems to be a current fashion for respected authors to change their habits and start writing books for younger readers. Where the novel in question has an element of ‘rite of passage’ with the lead characters discovering either or both independence and sexuality, there is a relevance since this is what the just out of adolescence wants to experiment with. To apply this label to something which merely has a younger protagonist and who has mislaid all the adults in their sphere is misleading. C.S. Friedman’s ‘Dreamwalker Chronicles’ of which ‘Dreamweaver’ is the third volume, may be a rite of passage series but it doesn’t have all the elements that make it truly YA. The narrative is told in first person by teenager Jessica Drake and, although her travelling companion, Isaac, is male, there is no suggestion that they are more than just friends.
The set-up for this fantasy scenario was explained in earlier books, ‘Dreamwalker’ and ‘Dreamseeker’. Jessica has discovered that there are parallel worlds and she lives in the one known as Terra Colonna. It is our world with all the history and technology we are familiar with. Terra Prime has very little technology but is controlled by Guilds who have magic-like Gifts. In earlier volumes, Jessica discovered that she was actually born on Terra Prime but was smuggled into Terra Colonna because she had the potential to become a Dreamwalker. On Terra Prime, Dreamwalkers have been blamed for all the evils of the world and must be sought out and killed. Reapers are shadowy creatures that can enter the dreams of such a person and destroy them. Jessica is a target for them.
Trying to build a live as an ordinary teenager, Jessica thinks she is safe. Then at the start of ‘Dreamseeker’, her mother is attacked in her dreams by a reaper. That is the point when she decides that she has to find a way to destroy the reapers. She uses her skills to find a spirit in the dreamworld that can give her clues. With Isaac, who has been excommunicated from his guild, and Sebastian, an older man, she travels to the Badlands of Terra Prime just one step ahead of the Shadow Guild who is hunting her.
While there are always problems with coming to the third book in a trilogy cold, Friedman has managed to convey most of the necessary information to prevent utter confusion by the reader. This is not the issue I have with this book. There are many aspects that have originality but, in order for the reader to know what is going on, several chapters are told from the point of view of adults engaged in political manoeuvrings and thus has privileged information that Jessica doesn’t. Although this might explain some of the reasoning behind the plot, it doesn’t have much bearing on the actions Jessica takes. In fact, these people are surprised by what she achieves. A true YA novel would have excluded devices such as this since it distracts the focus from the protagonist. Both Jessica and Isaac are inexperienced in their skills, yet they are able to overcome impossible odds to produce a result others have tried for over centuries and failed.
While a teenage fantasy reader might well enjoy this story, it doesn’t have the depth of emotion that an older reader would look for.
(pub: DAW, New York, 2016. 342 page hardcover. Price: $24.00 (US), $32.00 (Can). ISBN: 978-0-7564-0908-1)
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