Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Dreamlander

KM Weiland's newest fantasy novel, Dreamlander, captures a punch that most fantasy books in today's market don't have. Personally I don't read a lot of fantasy; Lord of the Rings is about my limit. But before Dreamlander released I had an opportunity to watch Weiland through her writing website. Her clear, concise writing advice struck a balance between encouragement and correction that really is rare. Indeed, most writing blogs cause you to walk away feeling discouraged; but Weiland's website, without fail, gives me a sense of being better equipped every time I come. It was this high quality without snarkiness that built my respect for her as a writer; so when I saw Dreamlander release, it kept sizzling at the back of my mind. I couldn't let it go. A writing mentor this unique, who combined quality with kindness, surely had a work worth giving attention to.
And then I finally had a chance to read Dreamlander.  I was beyond impressed.

Synopsis:
Chris Redston is a down-and-out freelance journalist with an alcoholic father and a bad case of nightmares. Living with his accommodating friend Mike until he can get back on his feet, he's nightly haunted by the vision of a dark-haired woman on a horse, pleading with him to "stay away" and finishing their interview by raising her gun to shoot him. 

Dreams aren't real of course. But when Chris finds out that his actually are--that he has a parallel identity in the dream land of Lale, and that he is the Gifted, a chosen rescuer, the only one in the entire land--his existence turns upside down.
The land of Lale has already had enough of the Gifted. Allara, a Searcher, (one who takes care of the Gifted) has already had one bad experience with another man who held Chris's position; which turned to treachery, tragedy, and more than one execution. Now that she's seen Chris coming she has tried to warn him away by firing at his reflection. Not only is his life in danger, but if he comes she may very well be accused of witchcraft, for few Searchers take care of more than one Gifted in their lifetime.

But she cannot keep Chris away, and when he comes to Lale bringing the arch-enemy of her people with him, she is afraid of what this means--for she failed to keep her last Gifted safe, and now she has to face the possible elimination of her people all over again.
When Chris brings Lale's biggest enemy from America back to the dream land the weather turns sour, and he realizes that the end of the world is coming. But to his shock, the real Earth is beginning to destruct as well. If he cannot save Lale in time, then he will have been the cause of destroying two worlds by his actions.

 Cons: (contains spoilers)
Chris sometimes brought things over from America to the world of Lale. (Whenever he touches the orimere, anything that touches him comes with him.) Bringing the revolver worked; bringing the flowers for Allara worked. Bringing the Jeep did not. During that incident, it felt like a Disney film, complete with the squealing tires and speeding drivers. That really threw me out of the moment, and I would have preferred Weiland taking that out; it damaged the credibility of the plot. Fortunately it didn't have much bearing on the climax. The hard thing with that is, the scenes with Chris in America while he's trying to get the Jeep work really well. The tension with him and Brooke over whether or not he should enter a mental hospital is very necessary. But transporting the Jeep to Lale takes the tension before the battle out. Fortunately, though it did provide an escape during one of the climax points it wasn't the main climax, and that saved the story.

I didn't like the amount of crudeBritish slang and borderline swearing.  One especially crude instance almost caused me to close the book altogether, and it is this that would give me a measure of caution in who I recommend it to. I think her characters could have found different words to use with just as much effect.
The only other thing that comes to mind would be one of Chris's final actions during the climax. He's preparing to blow the castle up in which Allara is imprisoned, and goes through great mental anguish at the thought that he might kill her. But after the explosion the tension fizzles, and I was left wondering why Weiland made such a big deal of his pain only to have nothing happen to justify it. I didn't want anything to happen to Allara, but I think the tension could have been held up just a little more there.

But altogether these points, while they could be improved upon, did not make the story unreadable or unenjoyable. By far, the pros outweighed the cons.
Pros: (no spoilers)
I think one of the most enjoyable things about Weiland's work was the extent to which she knew her world. The culture is there, and it's huge. It's not a hastily put together thing made simply for the plot's sake. From the geography (which is the most impressive) to the architecture, to the food, to the history, we enter this place just as Chris does: a newcomer looking at a world with huge foundations of ages past. One of the main problems of modern literature is how very little back-story it has. But Weiland's book is well thought out. You can tell that she's put a lot of thought and work and re-writing into Dreamlander to increase its depth. Also, the flipping back and forth between Lale and America wasn't confusing in the least; whenever Chris fell asleep in one world, he woke up in the other.

I also appreciate the quality of Weiland's writing; story plot aside, her phraseology is high-quality, and I come away having learned something about how to better improve my own writing rather than dubiously wondering if my latest read would weaken my own vocabulary. She teaches writing even while providing enjoyment for the reader, and I appreciate that.

The deepest plot was Orias's. Whether to betray his people or the Gifted, whom his people have sworn to protect. A tough decision and one that most people honestly couldn't blame him for making. His fierce battle sprit and the blue blood of the Cherazii, as well as his heroic sacrifices to make right his wrongs make him one man that I am the better for having met. Pitch and Raz, the comedic relief, reminded me rather of Hobbits, though they were called Riviers and didn't have the same physical characteristics. Altogether those two were very much a Merry and Pippin pairing, but I didn't mind the similarity.
And I will say that the romance between Chris (the Gifted) and Allara (the Searcher) was very well done; not overpowering, though they did share a kiss or two in intense moments. They worked together. Their love was based on mutual service, and went deeper than physical attraction.

Ultimate Conclusion
The ending wrenched me. I cried a lot; I think I've only cried more over Return of the King. But I would not have it any different, and I was pleased with it. It was neither happily-ever-after, nor hopeless tragedy, but a nice balance between the two.

Dreamlander is high quality fantasy; much higher than I was expecting. It isn't a genre or a story plot I would normally pick up, but I am glad that I made an exception. This book restored some of my faith in modern-day writers. It's worthy of your attention, and laudable for its quality. I am the better for having read it, and it's a worthwhile story that any Christian bibliophile who loves solid fantasy will enjoy.
I received a Kindle version of this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

Blessings,
Lady Bibliophile

6 comments:

  1. Did you really post this at 1:30 this morning?!!!

    S.H.

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    1. Haha, no! The advantages of PST. Didn't want to post it in the morning BC time because that would be really late. :)

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  2. Dear Lady B,
    Nice post! It sounds very interesting. Fantasy especially needs a lot of thought so the reader can feel that land is real.
    Love,
    Sister

    P.S. We've been acclimating very well to PST, haven't we?

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    1. Dear Sister,
      Dreamlander was very interesting, though I fear it sounds a little more odd describing it than the book actually was. I quite enjoyed it, and look forward to reading it again. :)

      Ah, yes, we quite enjoyed PST, though I am glad to be back in EST now. :) That was some travelling, wasn't it?

      Love and cuddles,
      Sister

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  3. Hi Lady Bibliophile,

    Thanks for reviewing books. When my children want to read certain books, I usually check on the internet for reviews by Christian reviewers and I've used your blog a couple of times. Well, the kids (ok, teenagers!) want to read the "River of Time" series by Lisa T. Bergren. I've read only glowing reviews of this series but I thought maybe you could review these books? Hope I'm not bothering! :)

    Greetings,
    Busy Mom

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    1. Hi! I'm so thrilled those blog has been a helpful resource. You're not bothering at all. I love requests for reviews. :D I am getting ready for a conference, so it might be a month before I could take a look at them, but after that's over I'll see if I can find a copy in our library system!

      Thanks for stopping by. :)

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