I haven’t heard much about this book, but I think it will definitely grab the interest of a lot of readers. It is part Inception – dream walkers are used to spy on other nations, but I don’t want to mislead you with that comparison. It has a high fantasy setting with a bit of a dystopian element, and the true focus of the story is the protagonist’s struggle to find her place in a world that she may never fit into. I quite enjoyed the book because it felt wildly original to me, despite the familiar elements. Fans of books like Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha series will definitely want to give it a look, and I think there will be appeal to those who’ve enjoyed Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Boys books as well.
This is an engaging blend of adventure, espionage, mystical dream world, and romance wrapped up in one girl’s struggle to find her place in a world where no one believes she belongs. Livia was born into the lowest level of society, but a chance encounter and a rare talent bring her out of the tunnels and drudgery into the life of the ministry. She is valued for her ability to dreamstride, to infiltrate any enemy of the state through manipulation of the dream world. She also knows she is a disappointment to her betters, someone to be replaced when another stronger, more competent Dreamstrider is found. Her precarious position and doubts about her own abilities leave her feeling lost, but when war looms and betrayal overwhelms her country’s defenses, she might just be the only one who can save them all from a nightmare come to life.
There is just something about an underdog that grabs me, and the protagonist in Dreamstrider is definitely an underdog. Despite her incredible and rare talent, she doesn’t feel welcome even in her own skin. She is one of those girls who sees only the flaws in her performance, and I find that feels very honest for a girl in her position. Those feelings are pretty much what hold her back from everything she wants most out of life, and I think that is a universal truth that almost everyone needs to hear. While it is Livia’s journey towards that truth that drives the main plot, the book still manages to integrate a lot of action. There is a plot that Livia has to help uncover, and that means she is sent on missions that bring a lot of adventure and threat to the table. The characters who populate her world are rarely who they seem, and uncovering the network of allies and enemies encourages engagement. Something about this reminded me of Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone, which I adored. They are not really similar in plot, but the protagonist and even the setting kind of evoked the same feelings for me. While the ending seemed to be a true ending, which is a relief in a world gone crazy with trilogies, I would gladly embark on another journey into the world this author has created. Language and situations are appropriate for grades 7+, but the interest level will appeal to YA readers of all ages.
I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.