Published by Penguin Australia on February 24, 2015
Genres: Paranormal, Young Adult
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Joshlyn Weaver has always lived with a big secret. Ordinary kids spend their free time going to the movies, hanging out with friends, and searching on the internet. But for her, an evening at home usually means entering people's dreams. For many generations, her family has been part of a very powerful and very secretive society of dream walkers. Tasked with the responsibility of lowering the world's general anxiety—which only leads to war and strife in the waking world—their job has always been to stop nightmares before they go too far. By stopping nightmares while sleeping, they help to stop nightmares in real life. But when an ancient feud within the dream walker society resurfaces right when a seemingly unconnected series of very strange and very scary events start occurring during her dream walks, Josh finds herself in a race against time. The one true dream walker has never been known. Could she be the one?
So you’re probably wondering what I ended up doing with Dreamfire with it’s slow and draggy pace. I was about halfway through until I started skimming, but I’m glad I didn’t DNF it because the ending was satisfying.
The setting was really interesting. Dream walkers are trained to enter nightmares and to resolve or end their dreams to reduce the dreamers’ anxiety. The dream walkers operate as a secret society with their own rituals, such as inducting people into the society when they turn 17, having extremely long names and having a scroll that can tell their future. Witnessing people’s nightmares was a weird and wonderful experience, featuring albino koalas, trapped souls in a canister, trench coat pursuers and reconstructions of world war II.
It took me a long time to warm to the book though, as it gets bogged down with lengthy and complicated explanations on dream theory. A lot of this detail wasn’t really necessary to the overall plot and made the book crawl at a staggering pace. I struggled to stay interested all the way through and ending up skimming the book partway through. The book does pick up towards the end, especially when it starts exploring the villain’s world and Josh’s past – I just wish it didn’t take so long to get there.
“There are only three ways to deal with a nightmare…One: Resolve it. Two: Convince the dreamer that they’re dreaming. Three: Bail.” – Josh.
Many secondary characters are introduced in quick succession at Josh’s 17th birthday, and it was hard for me to pick up their names, especially since most of them are related to her in some way. Even the character names were hard to grasp with interchanging male/female names – Josh as the female main character and Haley as a male character.
Once I warmed up to the characters though, I started to appreciate them. Josh is a reserved, cold and damaged character who is incredibly talented with dream walking. She’ll constantly put herself down throughout the book and prevent herself from getting close to others, because she blames herself for her boyfriend’s death. Seeing her dedication to saving people from their nightmares, her family and friends care for her, and hearing about her past trauma, added depth to her character. She was cold and difficult to connect to for a reason, and seeing her from Will’s point of view helped.
“You’d rather believe you’re a screwup who always gets let off the hook than admit how amazing you are and take responsibility for being so strong. If we die tonight, I’ll know the truth – that we died because you were afraid of being special. That’s your dreamfire, Josh, admitting how strong and smart and great you are.” – Will
As Josh’s apprentice, Will really helped Josh to open up and overcome her PTSD. He’s warm, friendly and emotionally aware, thanks to all the self help books he’s read. It was interesting to see how he picked up on the emotional side of things, in contrast with Josh’s talent, by counselling people in their nightmares. Where Josh contributed with her strength, training and ability, Will also had something to offer with his emotional awareness and ability to calm others.
The other secondary characters were also interesting, particularly Haley, the identical twin of Josh’s ex-boyfriend. It looked like he was coping with his twin’s death by pretending to be him which was really creepy.
I was this close to DNFing Dreamfire, but I’m glad I didn’t. I got a satisfying resolution and ended up appreciating the characters and the plot once I reached the final page. The pacing was slow and draggy, with lengthy scientific explanations that went over my head. But it is so much more than just a paranormal book, as the main character deals with trauma from her past, the responsibility of dream walking and some pretty interesting dilemmas.
Rating: 3 out of 5
Thank you to Penguin Random House for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review!
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