Friday, September 28, 2007


By Elizabeth Knox. Book one of The Dreamhunter Duet.

Exciting semi-real-world fantasy, but take careful note of that "part one." The book ends suddenly. This book feels like it wants to be set in the real world, but the author wasn't quite brave enough to put it in the U.S., so she made up a new continent and country called "Southland." Maybe it's supposed to be Australia? Another book set near the turn of the century (hand-cranked movie cameras and gas lights play a role), like The Star of Kazan, but this one has an element of magic. Actually, there are suggestions that it's quite a lot of magic.

Twenty-some years ago, Tziga Hame disappeared from the top of a stage coach and was found back along the road with a broken leg. He had unintentionally discovered "the Place", not on any map, where dreams could be found. Special people, known as dreamhunters, could go to sleep in various areas there and bring the dreams back home to share with others, resulting in a burgeoning industry of dreams for hire. Not everyone can get into the Place, though, and even those who can cannot all bring back dreams.

Now, in the time of the book, Tziga disappears, and his daughter Laura and her cousin Rose's family are left to discover what's going on.

I think the best thing about this book is how distinct the characters are. They are all unique; only Laura and her aunt can cross over into the Place, so it's not like everyone is a wizard here. There are figures mentioned that perhaps only 1 in 500 people is able to do so. Rose and Laura's uncle Chorley are not so gifted, but they have their own talents.

Also good: the prose is clear. There are nice details such as the Fire Watch and the lack of small, portable motors to drive the movie cameras of the time at a regular pace. Every character seems to matter, even if they don't appear for more than a page. (When I get to the end of the second book I may revise this opinion.) The characters don't all believe the same things or act the same way, as I already mentioned. And it's pretty clean. (There are a couple innuendos, but I don't remember anything blatant.)

Lots of fun. You may, however, not appreciate the lack of cool swordfights and dragons, I suppose; a lot of the "action" is verbal fencing or sneaking around or dreaming rather than anything directly confrontational. You'll want to be sure you have easy access to the second book, Dreamquake (in the U.S., anyway), when you finish this one.

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