Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Dreamhunter and Dreamquake by Elizabeth Knox

Dreamhunter and Dreamquake by Elizabeth Knox are two volumes, but one complete story, so I am reviewing them together.

Cousins Laura and Rose are about to take the test that will determine if they are dreamhunters -- individuals who can enter The Place and capture dreams to bring home and share with others in the glittering Dream Palaces of the city. Both girls have a famous dreamhunter parent, but while Rose confidently believes that she will be able to cross into The Place, Laura is less certain that she will be able to . . . or that she even wants to. Laura's father, the famous Tziga Hume, was the first-ever dreamhunter, first to enter The Place when it mysteriously appeared twenty years ago, but now Tziga seems haunted, and Laura wonders why. When Tziga disappears after his most recent foray into The Place, Laura is left on her own to figure out her role. There are many mysteries that Laura must unravel: what happened to her father? What had he been doing in The Place that caused him so much mental anguish? What is The Place, and why did it so mysteriously appear?

I am not doing this duet of books justice, because I'd hate to give something away. This is a wonderful, thoughtful fantasy set at the turn of the 20th century in an alternate New Zealand. The setting is fully realized, the characters are complex and morally conflicted in realistic ways, and the plot is intricate and thought-provoking. This isn't a story to race through, but it's what I think of as "chewy" -- you'll want to take time to savor it, to speculate on what's coming up and to work through surprising new twists. I've never read anything quite like this, though I'd recommend it to fans of Jonathan Stroud and Philip Pullman. One word of caution: be sure to have the second book on hand when you start the first, because the first book ends abruptly (frustratingly so, to readers who picked it up when it first came out, I'd imagine) and the second book picks up just where the first leaves off.

(Reviewed from my personally purchased copies.)

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